As we come close to Christmas and a new year in Holy Mother Church, I am reminded of a plea that was made to us while in college.
"End the year right, go to confession."
On the heels of that, when we came back from Christmas break, either for J-term or to start the new semester, we hear this plea;
"Start the year right, go to confession."
I know that for the vast, vast majority of Catholics, the idea of going to confession is one of nostalgia. Thoughts like, "Oh, that is nice, but it is what was done years ago..." or "I'll go soon, but just not now...," but those thoughts are wrongheaded. We need confession. We need confession. We need confession. The idea behind it is so simple. Go, confess your sins, make a firm resolution to not do them again and then live your life. Easy peasy.
But it isn't. Sin is hard. It is hard to confess, but it is harder to stop. Why? Because 9 times out of 10, it feels good to sin. It is that guilty pleasure that you don't have to tell anyone about. It is that knowledge that you got away with something and it is just your knowledge. The reasons are infinite. But that is the hard part, they become a habit and that habit becomes something which very hard to break.
Sure, it's easy to talk about porn, or sexual deviancy, or something really salacious, but in reality those aren't the sins that are the hard ones (oh, they can be...), the hard ones are the small sins that nick away at the soul. The disobedience to parent, spouse, friend, boss, etc... The occasional missing of Holy Mass. The white lie that doesn't "hurt anyone." Those are the tough ones. Those are the sins which eat away at Christian dignity and our striving for holiness.
We need confession. Why? Because it is a way to hold ourselves accountable for our actions. We budget our money right? Why? To hold ourselves accountable to our debtors and to save. The concept is exactly the same. When we go to confession we hold ourselves accountable to God and we are saved. The priest hears the confession and the priest gives absolution, but the priest at that time isn't just Fr. Bob or Fr. Whomever, but he is also Christ Jesus. He is persona Christi. The absolution doesn't come from a man, it comes from Christ through a man.
Once one gets in the habit of going to confession, it is easy. It is easier to go to confession than just about any other sacrament. And there is something liberating about it. As an example, I will share my confession habit:
I go to confession either weekly or bi-weekly (It depends on circumstances), but never longer than a month, without going. 99% of the time I don't have a mortal sin to confess, but it doesn't matter because if we are aware of it all sin must be confessed. So, I go in and I confess it. I don't mince words and I don't look for emotional counselling (if Father wants to counsel for more than a few seconds, I'll make an appointment). I NEVER go face to face. The priest doesn't matter. He is there to hear the confession, he is not there to hold my hand or to look empathetic or to be a friend. I don't mind (actually, I do expect) a stern penance and I always make a firm resolution to amend my life. It isn't always easy to fulfill, but I do it.
As a Catholic, I'm going to ask YOU to start going to confession again, if you've stopped. It is the most liberating sacrament and it is a way for you to deepen your friendship with God. It has worked for me and if you look to EVERY SINGLE saint, you'll find that it worked for them too.
Please go to confession.