Sacraments 101: Confession, Part I
Life is often thought of as a kind of journey. Far from being something static or stagnant, our lives are constantly subject to change, growth, decay, and all other kinds of movement. For us as Catholics, one of the most common images used to describe life here on Earth is that of pilgrimage. In other words, our lives consist of traveling “on the way” to our destination.
Just as Moses led the Israelites out of Egypt and through the desert for 40 years, so too, our lives on earth can be likened to a journey toward the Promised Land of Heaven.
If you have ever been on a long journey before, (whether it be a backpacking trip, a long hike, or a religious pilgrimage), you’ve probably discovered that one of the most difficult parts of these long journeys is staying clean.
Walking for many hours over long distances each day tends to make a person sweaty and dirty, not to mention the unpleasant odor that clings to a traveler.
This is also true in our spiritual lives. As we travel through life, our days are often filled with many long hours of labor, messy situations, and even difficult or tragic circumstances.
And in the midst of this difficult journey of life, it can be hard to remain spiritually “clean.” Perhaps we lash out at somebody while we’re driving. Perhaps our family members know just exactly how to get on our nerves. Or maybe we just get consumed by the problems of the world and lose sight of what God is doing in our own life.
Whatever the case, the pilgrimage of life is messy and because of this, we sometimes fall short of the standards that God has set for us -- the standards of a good, beautiful and holy life.
This is where the Sacrament of Confession comes in for us. God left us the Sacrament of Confession to serve as a kind of spiritual “bathing station” for us pilgrims. Confession allows us to be washed clean again from the sins and failings that can cling to us along the way.
Confession cleanses us from the odor of sin in our lives and renews us with the odor of the Lord’s Divine mercy -- the odor of newness -- the odor of God’s own Divine life given to us at Baptism.
In Confession, the Lord wants to cleanse and forgive us of our sins. All we have to do is bring them to Him with (1) sorrow for having sinned and (2) the intention to not sin again (which, of course, does not necessarily mean that we won’t).
Life on Earth is a journey. It is filled with many beautiful sights, but it is also filled with hazards and difficulties. To be a pilgrim on Earth is to be someone who gets covered at times with “dust and dirt” along the way. The Lord has given us the Sacrament of Confession so that we can be cleaned up whenever we need to be, and get back on the road so that we can continue our journey to the Promised Land.
Father Michael Bovino