LITURGY MATTERS: Confession – We can’t all be perfect?
By Michael McKenna, Archdiocesan Master of Ceremonies
Judging by the number who present for the sacrament with any regularity, it seems that a good many Catholics today think of Confession as either optional or even unnecessary. Sin is still an area where those of us in the pews can fall short in our understanding.
A priest friend once joked that given the predominant demographic in his parish, he was not at all surprised that few if any presented for Confession, because the elderly didn’t have the energy for mortal sin.
But we shouldn’t go to Confession only when conscious of a mortal sin. Mortal and venial sin both represent “actual sin”. Confession not only restores us to grace from actual sin but strengthens us from falling back into those sinful practices.
As a radical possibility of human freedom there are a great many kinds of sins. Scripture provides several lists of them. The Catechism instructs us that sins can be distinguished according to their objects, or the virtues they oppose, or the commandments they violate. They can also be classed according to whether they concern God, neighbour, or oneself; and they can be divided into spiritual and carnal sins, or sins in thought, word, deed, or omission.
Evaluated according to its gravity, mortal sin destroys charity in our hearts which can only be restored through the sacrament of Confession. By contrast venial sin simply erodes and wounds that charity but its cumulative effect is nevertheless debilitating on our relationship with God and warrants action.
Whether you favour the ten commandments, the golden rule, or Christ’s own command to love one another as we are loved, at its heart there is not a single sin that isn’t also a failure to love. God is love and we were created for love. Sin sets itself against God’s love for us and turns our hearts away from it.
Pope Francis has said from the beginning of his pontificate that God does not weary of forgiving, rather people tire of asking for forgiveness.
Life is messy and we should expect that we’re going to make mistakes. We’re going to sin. So next time, in that moment of road rage when you curse or flip off a fellow driver, get along to Confession and seek God’s forgiveness:
Bless me Father for I have sinned… “I failed to love this stranger who obviously doesn’t know how to drive.”
After all, none of us are perfect!