I was visiting my dentist, Dr Payne the other day, and while sitting in the chair with my mouth full of machinery and his fingers I was musing about dentistry and the devil.
This is not to compare Dr Payne to the devil. He, you will see, is much more like Jesus. But I am ahead of myself.
I have been meaning to point out to some people close to me that not going to Mass on Sunday is rather like not bothering to brush your teeth. If you don’t brush your teeth and floss, then the food particles remain in your mouth and they start to rot. The detritus of mealtime accumulates and goes rotten. Before long you start to have bad breath and then the rotten food starts to rot your teeth. You get a cavity, and then you get a toothache, and then you get an abscess and they you get a dentist appointment, more pain and when it’s all over the bill to pay.
Likewise for the soul. Stop going to Mass and nothing seems wrong to start with, but you’re lacking what we might call spiritual hygiene. The sins accumulate from the quotidian adventure, and maybe you’ve yielded to temptation and have been enjoying too much of the devil’s candy. You know what I mean.
So you start to lose a certain focus and attention to life. You get off track. Little unhappinesses become big deals. You get spiritual bad breath and you’re not so nice to be around. Then God starts to take not only a back seat, but you put him in the trunk. You get on with your life without him and it doesn’t seem to make a difference. The problem is, like tooth decay, it is all going on without any pain or discomfort. Life seems to be the same.
But then eventually some sort of disaster happens. Something goes wrong and you can’t cope and God isn’t there to help. You’re on your own. The spiritual decay has set in and you don’t know what to do about it. Well you should have brushed and flossed your soul by going to Mass on Sundays. It’s common sense for the soul, and now you’re paying for it. That’s what the devil wanted all along. He doesn’t need you to collapse into some horrible crime and some heinous and shameful sin. The little separation from God will do. Just missing Mass on Sunday is enough to take you his way. Remember, when two roads start to diverge they are still very close, but as the journey goes on those two divergent roads become ever further apart. So with the soul and God. The little break from his love eventually takes us far, far away.
So off we go to the Dr Payne to get that tooth fixed, and this is where the sacrament of confession comes in. Confession is where we let Dr Jesus drill and fill. He examines the tooth decay and tut tuts and then gets to work. He drills out all the bad stuff and fills us with some good stuff. This process might be painful but he’s a good dentist and he makes it as painless as possible because he likes you.
We have this attitude to confession that it is a dark, secret place where the priest is going to be mad at us and make us ashamed. Does the dentist say to you when you come in, “Now look at you! You’ve been eating too much candy! You’re a terrible person! I’m going to make sure you really learn your lesson this time!!” Probably not, or if he does he’s a lousy dentist. Likewise the priest receives you with a professional and compassionate heart. He’s only there to make it better. He works with Dr Jesus to get you back where you ought to be.