I go to confession about once every three weeks. Lately, though, I’m thinking that even tri-weekly isn’t enough. Maybe I should go every week.
Why? Am I a REALLY BIG sinner? No; I suspect I’m pretty typical. Father probably has to struggle to stay awake when I list my transgressions. Am I overwhelmed with guilt? No, I’m pretty typical there too. I know that I commit sins, but I don’t dwell on them. Am I some sort of holy-roller? Not that either. Then why?
Simple; the act of going to confession keeps me from getting into really big trouble, or at least it has so far. Rather than being medicine that cures sins, I have found that the sacrament of Reconciliation is a vaccine that prevents me from sinning in the first place.
I haven’t always gone this often. There was a long period of time that I didn’t go at all. Maybe I’d attend a token communal penance service now and again, but that was about it. I had figured out that Reconciliation really wasn’t all that important. I knew better than 2,000 years of Catholic teaching. Impressed? Don’t be.
About a year or so ago, I started exploring Catholicism. It started with some audio CD’s that the church had put on display in the back. Then it progressed to reading a few of the books that are available to check out. The more I read, the more interested I became.
The books and the audio presentations frequently talked about Reconciliation. One of my favorites by Matthew Kelly described the critical role that Reconciliation plays. Every journey toward something, he repeated, begins as a journey away from something. You can’t turn to God until you’ve turned away from the sins of the world.
So, fine, I decided. I’ll go one more time. I did. Father and I talked a long time (okay, it was a LOOONNNNG time). Afterward, I felt good. Not great, the heavens didn’t open up or anything, but I felt a little better about myself.
A few weeks later, I went again. This time our conversation was a little shorter. Same feeling afterward; no “Hallelujah Chorus,” just a little bit of satisfaction. A week or so after that second time (it may have been after the third or fourth, I can’t really remember), a curious thing happened. I was tempted by one of my favorite sins. This time, instead of indulging, a very inconvenient little thought popped into my head. “Aren’t you going to feel stupid,” said the little thought, “explaining to Father why you did this again?”
The sin wasn’t a biggie; it wasn’t illegal and it probably wouldn’t disqualify me for the Presidency or anything. There was a time (most of my life, in fact), where I wouldn’t have given a second thought to committing it. But not this time. That little voice didn’t nag, shout, or pound on a lectern. It just pointed out how silly I would feel the next time we walked into the Confessional to talk to Father. So, I didn’t commit that sin that day. Or the next day. In fact, it’s been a long time since I’ve committed that particular boo-boo (and I really don’t miss it).
Over time a lot of other sins (well, okay, maybe not a LOT) have started to disappear from my tri-weekly list. I still commit sins, and there are a couple regular ones that so far have resisted the little voice’s influence. But the little voice has won more battles than it’s lost.
Maybe that’s part of God’s plan. I know that I need to be in a state of Grace in order to get to Heaven, and I know that means I have to be forgiven for my sins. But maybe God has a sneaky ulterior motive, at least with Reconciliation. Maybe he knows that, if we are obligated to confess our sins to another human, we’ll be less likely to commit the sin in the first place.
I asked the little voice. He just giggled.