Some stories are better left untold. I am about to say was filed under that category for the past sixteen months. But I have come to a point where I no longer believe in accidents or coincidences. Everything happens for a reason and there is Somebody behind everything that occurs or doesn\’t occur. This I know not because of what I am about to say had happened, but because of what has happened since.
In 2011, a few weeks before Christmas, God gave me the grace to confess my sins to a priest. I have been a Catholic all my life and confessions were nothing new in my life. What made this confession different had to do with what compelled me to do it. In the past, my confessions had to do with the Church\’s command of confessing the sins at least once a year. Then strayed away from the Church mentally, I no longer felt the need for satisfying the annual obligation and quit going to a priest for confessions.
Then I used to do a Protestant confession whenever the fear of eternal damnation threatened. I knew I was leading a life far away from God and, from time to time, used to wonder about my hypocrisy of believing that I am so close to God to have a direct link with him. It was like dialing an old friend I never cared much for and expecting him to answer the phone every time I called. But when you allow pride to be the motivation behind everything that you do, it is rather easy to rationalize – to close your eyes to enter the unknown depths of the dark abyss of deception, leaving behind the light filled plains of life.
When God\’s love finally entered my heart, it opened my eyes to see the darkness that surrounded me. I could no longer close my eyes and pretend. No matter how hard and heavy a human heart is, God\’s love has the ability to pierce through to bring to light the horror and ugliness of sin. When that happens, looking up to the One whom my sins have pierced is a painful experience. So I finally confessed from a love by which God is loved above all else.
I was concerned about his punishment, but I was even more concerned about ignoring Someone who is all-loving, Someone who deserved all my love. An examination of conscience made in the light of God\’s Spirit left me horrified. To add to the terror, I also knew that I just poked only through the tip of the iceberg, there was much more underneath left to uncover.
So when a priest who happened to be a friend of the family offered a private session to guide me through a thorough confession, I felt elevated first and distressed later. I began worrying about the response from the priest. Again, with the grace of God, I withstood the temptation of avoiding the confession and went ahead with it. Upon hearing my sins, the priest acted as if he heard nothing unusual or abnormal and proceeded with advice followed by a light penance. I can\’t explain the relief I felt and over the next several days I experienced happiness returning to my life.
As the days went by, a disturbing thought began to develop in my mind, I felt as if I was living a lie. This thought then began to accuse me of being a fool for falling into the feel good trap set up by the Church. It kept assuring me that there was nothing wrong with the life I was living, and even more importantly, if there was something wrong with my way of life, then a confession and a few Hail Mary wasn\’t going to do the job – it was absurd for me to think that an all-powerful God can be that merciful. It kept reminding me that what\’s going to get me into trouble was not what I did, but my regrets and sorrow over my actions was my true enemy. I felt darkness engulfing me as I watched with utter disbelief the light in me fading.
As part of my conversion I attended daily Mass by watching the daily Mass televised on EWTN every morning. As my spiritual struggles escalated everyday, it also affected my prayer life. I began to pray less and less. Whenever I prayed, I kept asking God to give me something to believe that He is for real, to give me something to convince myself that His forgiveness wasn\’t some kind of a hoax. It was disheartening to see that no help came, so gradually I quit attending the daily Mass.
Then I woke up one day and felt a strong urge to attend the Mass. I resisted the urge and the let the 8 o\’clock hour pass without turning on the TV. But as the day went by, I began to experience a sort of struggle within me. It felt like somebody was fighting the darkness that was trying to take me over. I knew that EWTN re-televised the morning Mass again at noon, so I watched it on my computer. After the Bible reading the priest began his homily. Then God spoke to me.
The priest began by talking about confession by saying that God takes our sins and throws it over his shoulder to his back and never looks back to see what\’s lying behind. He went onto say that our God is a merciful and gracious God. Immediately negative thoughts began to emerge in my mind, I felt hatred against a priest I hardly even knew, I was angry that he was using the homily to deceive people like me who are foolish enough to listen to him.
Then came the miracle. The priest stopped his homily, he looked a bit confused, then said that he had no idea why he was talking about confession then. He said that he wasn\’t planning on talking about the Sacrament of Confession and wasn\’t prepared for it at all, but felt the urge to start the homily by saying a few words about God\’s forgiveness and how He gives it to us freely when we confess our sins. The priest then recollected his thoughts and went ahead with his prepared homily. I, on the other hand, was in awe. I realized what had happened – God just spoke to me in an easy to understand language over the internet. I felt lighter, the darkness was vanishing, the light was back within me and all around me.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches us that confession is the acknowledgement and praise of the holiness of God and of his mercy toward sinful man (CCC 1424). What I came to experience since the event is the healing power of confession. Through confession, God not only does forgive us our sins, but He also gives us the grace to get rid of those habits that leads us to sin. It is a great way to allow God\’s light to enter our hearts, making us witnesses of our own sins, exposing the chain of actions that has led us to commit a sin, then show us a way away from it. With my limited knowledge, I can\’t think of any other sacrament where God\’s love and mercy is more evident than confession and reconciliation.
\”I have brushed away your offenses like a cloud, your sins like a mist; return to me, for I have redeemed you. Raise a glad cry, you heavens—the LORD has acted! Shout, you depths of the earth. Break forth, mountains, into song, forest, with all your trees. For the LORD has redeemed Jacob, shows his glory through Israel.\” (Isaiah 44:22,23)
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