Confess Your Sins and Fight the Devil

By Chris Sparks

It’s easy for those of us who are actively practicing Catholics to forget how hard it is to come back to Confession if you’ve been away for a while.

After all, how often are you expected to be completely honest with someone, to lay bare all your deepest, darkest secrets, to frankly confess the worst actions of your life?

Yes, the confessional seal is our great protection and reassurance every time we make a full, honest Confession. Yes, the priest has been trained to prefer death to revealing the secrets of the confessional. Yes, it’s meant to be a safe and secure Sacrament.

Yes … but.

There’s a reason why I prefer to confess from behind a screen. I’ve had well-meaning priests invite me to step around, to sit in a chair across from them, to confess my sins in a more friendly setting. But that’s the last thing I want. I don’t want to have to look another human being in the face as I confess my sins. I’d rather just huddle here behind a screen, my shame covered, able to rest my head on my hands, able to just speak the sins aloud and not have to come face to face with my confessor.

Maybe this is why the Israelites sent Moses up the mountain in their stead; why for so long the face of God was intolerable; why even the merciful face of Christ the Savior seemed to drive so many of the scribes and Pharisees to violence, caused so many outwardly respectable people to turn on Him, to reject Him, to deny Him. Perhaps they saw in Him the perfect purity of His divine and human natures. Perhaps they saw His compassion. They knew that here was One who knew them better than they knew themselves because He had not fallen — and would never fall — as they had fallen and would almost certainly fall again.

And yet for those whose sins and scandals were common knowledge among friends and neighbors, His presence was a relief and a path to salvation. Here was One who was truly pure and perfect, and who yet loved them. Here was the Rabbi, the Teacher, the Lover come to save and redeem His beloved. Here was One who could judge them perfectly, and yet He didn’t judge. He offered mercy instead.

Jesus has given that same gift of discernment to some of His priests over the years, most notably St. Jean Vianney (1786-1859) and St. Padre Pio (1887-1968), two of the greatest confessors in the history of the Church. They welcomed sinners into the confessional for hours at a time, reading souls, suffering on behalf of poor sinners so that they could come quickly, sped by grace, to have their sins forgiven. Here were two men after Jesus’ own Heart. Jesus told St. Faustina Kowalska:

I desire that priests proclaim this great mercy of Mine towards souls of sinners. Let the sinner not be afraid to approach Me. The flames of mercy are burning Me — clamoring to be spent; I want to pour them out upon these souls (Diary, 50).

God does not want your damnation. God does not want to reject you. He wants to save you. That was the whole point of the Incarnation. “For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through him” (Jn 3:17). Jesus wants to pour out the graces of His mercy on poor sinners, especially through the great gifts of Baptism and Confession. He wants to share His eternal life with us through the Eucharist.

This Lent, make a special effort to go to Confession. Make sure you’re faithfully attending Mass on Sundays and Holy Days of Obligation (unless, of course, sickness keeps you home), and then consider attending daily Mass as you are able. The Eucharist — Jesus, fully present, Body and Blood, soul and Divinity — is the source and summit of our faith (see Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1324) because the Incarnate Son of God, the Word made flesh, is the source and summit of our faith.

Come to Confession. Come to Communion. Come home once more to God.

Chris Sparks serves as senior book editor for the Marian Fathers. He is the author of the Marian Press book How Can You Still Be Catholic? 50 Answers to a Good Question.


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