Reflection on the Power and Purification of Penance

“Confession is an act of honesty and courage – an act of entrusting ourselves, beyond sin, to the mercy of a loving and forgiving God.” -St. Pope John Paul II

 

Hello blog readers, writers and everyone in between,

I hope you are doing well and staying warm, especially my fellow East coast friends who are contending with the downward frigid Artic temperature tumble.

If I had to put a song to this entry, I would choose this acoustic version of Matt Maher’s Lord, I Need You with Audrey Assad

 

The focus of this post is to share my reflective realizations after attending my local parishes penance service yesterday which so happened to be on the feast day of St. Lucy, patroness of the blind. I will be the first to say my constantly evolving laundry list of sins are not always the easiest to confront, however, even though I feel undeserving, after receiving absolution, the result is always the same; I never tire of God’s spiritual healing and the amazing gifts of relief, joy and peace through Confession. I am learning my overall health is not simply subject to care of my mental, physical and emotional health, rather when I neglect my spiritual well-being, this has a major ripple effect on all the intertwined facets which comprise overall stability.

Through the holy sacrament of confession, we receive pardon, peace from God’s grace and mercy which is extended to us all. My aim is not to portray myself as pious or preachy, because I am certainly not a canonized saint, but what I believe is with the help of God and the Sacraments, He can work with our frayed edges and frazzled feelings and mend our hearts, minds and souls into magnificent masterpieces better than we ever could with our limited human abilities and understanding.

For me, Reconciliation is one of the many beautiful unique biblical-based Sacraments established by Christ which through a contrite heart offers us cleansing renewal with God and His Church. Confession is always initially a soul-splitting, nerve-inducing, peace provoking sign of God’s unconditional love. While we can always ask for God’s forgiveness, sharing with a priest who is working “in persona Christi”, in a face-to-face format gives us a chance to expose our sins which fracture our relationship with God. Prior to entering the confessional, I am always a bundle of anxiety, but what I always am reminded is this reflective humbling time is an opportunity for healing, and by receiving wise spiritual direction and accountability, God has a way of revealing the resiliency of human interaction.

My experience was a memorable unique one. Despite my overwhelming feelings of guilt and shame, Fr. helped me feel at ease and was comfortable meeting me where I was in my sinfulness and brokenness, (yay social work terminology), however, after conducting a bit of side chatting about my electronic Braille notetaker, this is not where he left me. He did not pacify or condone the justifications I at times receive for sin, instead he encouraged me to rise above my failures, feelings, flaws, hesitancies, lapses and tendencies to strive to become better, to become spiritually stronger. Contrary to the messages put forth by our society, I was gently but ardently reminded I cannot obtain these goals or overcome my sinful human nature on my own accord. I am not the God of my life; I am not the author of this story and just as I entered this world with only God by my side, this is how we all will prayerfully leave our temporary home.

Another realization I came to was during my attempts to quell my feelings of trepidation, as I examined my conscience during the prayers and scripture readings, it was impressed upon me if I am unwilling to forgive those I am called to love, not use my words and actions to glorify God, exhibit resistance to relinquish the feelings of anger, envy, jealousy and resentment, fail to love God with my whole being during and after Mass, and refuse to extend the same to those I am called to love or not love myself through self-care as much as I love or care for others, my spiritual apathy will not miraculously morph into a life lived for Christ. Just as it’s often said in social work we cannot work harder than the client is willing to work, the same is accurate for cultivating an active relationship with God along with continued spiritual maturity.

Although some days I admittedly cannot or other days absolutely do not want to always carry my crosses of recovery/relapse, blindness-related frustrations, or the occasional struggle with singlehood and repeatedly stumble in trusting God’s divine plan, what matters is by the grace and strength of God we keep on picking up the sliced shards of our shattered hopes, dreams, or broken hearts to keep the momentum going.

One sticky sin of mine are the rationalizations and excuses I conjure up to justify not fully living out my faith. It’s one thing to put forth a positive persona for the social media sites in which I have complete say in who has access to my posts or Tweets, however, it is in the difficult personal moments and interactions when emotional tensions are high, known weaknesses are unearthed and unpredictability reigns is when I need the strength of the gifts of the Holy Spirit to help me temper my words and reactions along with providing me the fortitude to actively and with sincere honesty live out my faith and the commandments.

Being able to openly receive the gift of absolution for my sings and God’s mercy is so liberating, however, it also is a call to “repent and sin no more.” It’s a cry to allow God to change and transform our hardened hearts despite our inclination to have control. During this Advent season of waiting and preparation, knowing I along with many other fellow flawed, fumbling works in progress are welcomed back to the Communion table is like receiving a restorative soothing balm to the festered wounds of sin which results in deep seeded pain and hurt. Even though the remnants of the forgiven sins have left profound scars, sometimes sitting with these imperfections provide a chance to see how much we thirst for the truth and knowledge that while we can’t fix our at times topsy-turvy world, we are never walking alone on this prayerful path toward heaven.

From an infrequent Mass goer for different reasons and a self-confessed super sinner, if you’ve been away from the sacraments, before the Christmas celebration begins I invite you to revisit confession because conversion is always possible and spending quiet quality time in Adoration to receive spiritual sustenance with the one who is the reason for the season will help shape what matters most in this me-me, you do you culture.

“The Lord never tires of forgiving. It is we who tire of asking for forgiveness.” Pope Francis

 

“A thousand years of enjoying human glory is not worth even an hour spent sweetly communing with Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament.” Saint Padre Pio

Until next time,

Anjelina

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