I love that detail in the third Indiana Jones movies when he has to pass the three trials to find the holy grail. The first one is, “Only the Penitent Man may pass.” To get through the whirling blades that would behead him he has to kneel.
Yep. We have to kneel.
I’ve always been befuddled by those who consider confession to be a gloomy and unhealthy exercise because it seems to me that it is just the opposite.
This is not doom and gloom. It is room to grow.
Admitting our sins and going to confession is actually one of the healthiest and happiest things we can do. Apart from the spiritual graces of the sacrament, here are the practical benefits:
- Penitence makes me realistic about myself. – As soon as I say, “Lord Jesus Christ Have Mercy on me a Sinner” all the self delusions fall away and I can begin to see myself as I really am.
- Penitence makes me realistic about other people. – Not only realistic, but compassionate. If I’m a struggling sinner, then so is everyone else. What’s the saying, “Be kind, everyone is fighting a great battle.”
- Penitence makes me realistic about God – If I’m a sinner and see myself clearly, then I suddenly see God clearly too. I cut through the sentimentality or the fear or whatever false image of God and should be able to see him as the loving and forgiving Father.
- Penitence makes me able to learn. – You can’t learn anything if you think you know it all. You can learn to be righteous is you think you already are. Saying you’re a sinner is the first step to enlightenment.
- Penitence is the first step toward taking responsibility for myself. I can’t keep blaming other folks
- Penitence makes me aware of my need for God – The cry “O Lord make haste to help me!” is the cry of a person in need. We can only be given what we need when we ask for what we need and we can only ask if we first realize we have a need.
- Penitence opens my heart – The hardened heart is a fearful thing, and no one who is truly penitent can have a hardened heart. Immediately we cry out in penitence we make a great soul jump forward. The opened heart is a heart that can sing.
- Penitence takes me to the heart of humanity – When I am penitent I see the whole human condition and therefore the whole of human culture, history and relationships from a new and amazing light. The whole world is crying out to God. Every aspect of human culture and accomplishment and learning is a desire for God, and now I can see it.
- Penitence makes the angels sing – This is in the gospel
- Penitence makes the demons howl – This is in the wider gospel.
- Penitence makes me aware of death – and this is a good thing.
- Penitence makes me humble – humility and humorous and humus are all the same word: they’re linked with the earth. Penitence brings me down to earth. Down where I ought to be.
- Penitence gives me joy – Sorrow first, then joy. When I’ve come down to earth I’ve come down to myself, and that gives me joy and freedom and make me laugh.
- Penitence helps me to be myself. – At last I can be who I was created to be. This is who I am. I am good, but not perfect. I am a sinner but I am forgiven. I am a fallen Son of God, but I’ve been lifted up, put on my feet, brushed down and headed toward home.
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