Monday, March 30, 2015

It's Easier to Just Give In

Blessed is the one whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered.
Blessed is the man against whom the Lord counts no iniquity,
and in whose spirit there is no deceit.

For when I kept silent, my bones wasted away through my groaning all day long.
For day and night your hand was heavy upon me;
my strength was dried up as by the heat of summer.

I acknowledged my sin to you, and I did not cover my iniquity;
I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the Lord,”
and you forgave the iniquity of my sin.

Therefore let everyone who is godly offer prayer to you when you may be found;
surely in the rush of great waters, they shall not reach him.
You are a hiding place for me; you preserve me from trouble;
you surround me with shouts of deliverance.

I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go;
I will counsel you with my eye upon you.
Be not like a horse or a mule, without understanding,
which must be curbed with bit and bridle, or it will not stay near you.

Many are the sorrows of the wicked,
but steadfast love surrounds the one who trusts in the Lord.
Be glad in the Lord, and rejoice, O righteous, and shout for joy, all you upright in heart.
Psalm 32

Reflection – Happy Monday of Holy Week. This is a week rich in themes—so much to ponder, so little time, really. Fortunately we have precisely one Holy Week a year, so if we don’t quite take it all in this year we can try again next year (not to mention that we’re allowed to think about these things in between—encouraged, actually!).

The Monday Psalter has brought us to Psalm 32 which focuses on one of the key themes of this season, namely forgiveness of sin.  In Madonna House we are having our communal penance service this evening; many parishes have had similar services at some point in the Lenten season.

In our community this is always a night of great peace and joy—to communally, individually acknowledge the simple, sad truth that we are sinners, that we have sinned, that we have done what we know to be wrong and have turned our faces from God in doing so—to be able to say this outright, publicly, with great humility, even as we reserve the specific details for the sanctity of the confessional, is great freedom and happiness.

To have to either hide one’s sins away like a terrible secret, a shameful thing one must conceal from God and neighbour, or to be so horrified or incensed at the very notion of sin and being a sinner that we have to deny sin exists, rationalize every choice we have made, wish away every moral law we have broken—all of this is frankly exhausting. Our bones waste away from the effort, our strength is dried up. It is so much easier, really, to just give in, admit one is a sinner, go to confession and forget about the whole thing.

Some of my anti-Catholic readers (why do they read this blog, anyway?) approach the subject of sin and the sacrament of confession as another example of clerical privilege and abuse. They don’t seem to realize that priests go to confession, too, as do bishops and the Pope for that matter. Our MH communal penance service is for all of us, as we all together acknowledge and confess our sins to the Lord, even as the priests are indeed the ministers of God’s mercy in the sacrament itself.

In Holy Week all of this is especially poignant and meaningful. Jesus Christ died for sinners, died to win us the sure forgiveness of our sins by the shedding of his blood. We cannot really appreciate what He did for us unless we fully acknowledge the desperate plight of our sinful humanity. If sin is not real, and is not a very serious problem indeed for us, then Christ’s death is rather pointless, isn’t it?

The truth is, our unforgiven sins will pull us down to Hell and eternal death if we do not bring them ‘under the Blood’, in that fine old fashioned phrase. And this should be no cause for undue distress for us, because as it happens Jesus did die for us, and so mercy and forgiveness have been made available to the whole human race in His death and risen life. We don’t have to be sorrowful, and we don’t have to be stubborn like a mule in finding our own path through the world, and we don’t have to waste away. Life is given us, freely, in Jesus Christ.

Be glad in the Lord, and rejoice, O righteous, and shout for joy, all you upright in heart.

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