St John's Q&A

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Like taking a really good shower

First day of school!! We welcome all of our students and teachers back to school today. At today’s 8:30 Mass, I told the junior high students (6, 7, and 8th graders) that I was excited to have them back. I (somewhat reluctantly) asked them if they were excited to be back, and a strong undercurrent of ‘no’ was heard throughout the Church. We’re not exactly sure if this came from the students or teachers…! We prayed that they would all have a fruitful year together.
An anonymous blogger asked a great question about Confession with regards to his / her children: “I have a question I'd really like answered. I do not want to raise my children to believe that confession is a punishment, but when they have done something that they are old enough to understand goes against the church's teaching and is serious in nature, should I reinforce (I guess really require) that they go to confession?”

In all of the times I’ve spoken about Confession, I don’t think I’ve ever used the word ‘punishment’ to describe it. This is for two reasons: 1) I’ve never seen the Church describe this sacrament as a punishment, and 2) I don’t believe that it is a punishment. So, theologically at least, it would not be accurate to view or describe Confession as a punishment. Practically, though, many people –especially kids – might see it as an experience of being punished for what they did.

As a spiritual father, I try to “reinforce” frequently to God’s children “that they go to confession”. I guess my primary motivation is so that they will be freed of any sin, especially if there is mortal sin present in their souls. So, I often use the words “freedom” and “healing” to describe the Confession experience. But, on a more personal level, I talk so regularly about Confession because of the tremendous value it has played in my life. I have found Confession to be not a punishment, but an incredible gift! It’s like the “buried treasure” of which Jesus speaks in the Gospel. To have Jesus take all of my junk - all of the stuff that weighs heavily on my mind and soul – and separate it from me “as far as the east is from the west” (Ps 103) is an incredibly freeing experience. It’s like taking a really good shower; and this cleansing goes so much deeper because is wipes clean our soul.

So, as the first teachers of the faith to our children, parents should talk often to their kids about Confession, explaining the great role it can play in their lives. The real hope is that parents could teach their kids mainly by their own example of going to Confession regularly. Then, they could describe the positive impact it has played in their own lives (in general terms, at least). While parents’ examples will teach kids of all ages, it might be best for parents to wait until their children “are old enough to understand (that what they’ve done) goes against the church's teaching and is serious in nature” before they discuss in general terms their own experience about going to Confession.

Another Anon has provided some good insights about the positive nature of Confession that might be of some help to parents: “A lot of confession anxiety can go away if we remember that what we are really ‘confessing’ is that Jesus is who he said he was. He WILL forgive our sins. All we have to do is get to the absolution and realize that we can be perfected even though we are not now perfect. We can do this if an only if we let Jesus do it to us. He will give us the heart to love God and others with His Love and thus avoid sinning or missing the mark by hurting others and ourselves instead of loving God enough to do his will.

One of the psalms begs the Lord to teach us to delight in his commands. If we delight in his commands then we have learned to delight in Love -- true deep and divine love -- love that comes Jesus himself. When we live in that love we see the demand to be perfect not as a failure but as an opportunity - -an opportunity to grow in love and love as Jesus loved.”


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