The hot weather has finally found us. We have been so unbelievable untouched by the vicious summer heat that has plagued so much of the nation. I can't really complain about it now. Even though it's baking during the day, it's still downright chilly at night, so there is no opportunity for days of suffering.
And if there was, we could be reminded of the fires of Hell and redouble our efforts to be harmonious with God. Which brings us to today's question:
How does one make a good confession? Any tips would be appreciated.
We're not seven years old any more, so let's get real about confession, shall we? It's all well and good to examine your conscience and make a list of your sins and show up on Saturday morning with a "Bless me Father, for I have sinned" and recite your little laundry list of how many times you've been uncharitable, or lied or had unclean thoughts. That's the drill. A few Hail Mary's and you're on your merry way.
Not so fast, Bucko.
Confession isn't just an absolution to-do list. All that conscience examining is so that you can dig up how and where you are not living in harmony with God and feel sorry about it. Sorry enough to try and do better. "Go now and sin no more."--Jesus
Contrition is the key word here. You need to be sorry for your sins. This isn't just another round of Catholic Guilt that is so valued by the old nuns. Let's think this through.
Let's take a simple sin. Let's say you've gone out of your way to do something nice for your neighbor. (This isn't the sin part, yet.) You've made her a batch of her favorite cookies and used the expensive kind of chocolate to make them really special. (Not yet.) You wrap them is colored Saran Wrap with a pretty bow and take them over with a big smile. (Not yet.) She takes the cookies and says a lame, not very convincing sounding "Thanks" and retreats back into her lair.
You feel a little disappointed, maybe even hurt. (No, not yet.) You went through all that trouble and even a little expense and she didn't seem to appreciate it at all. Harrumph. (Here we go.) You start thinking of all the times you've helped her out, listened to her boring problems that are barely problems for most people, people with any brains, stuff you've lent her, watching her bratty kids when she had an emergency broken nail that needed immediate salon treatment and your resentment grows. (Now we're cooking.)
Now you're being downright uncharitable, harboring resentment and anger. You're sinning away. All day.
Are you sorry? Probably not. You're so wrapped up in your self righteous anger that you've completely forgotten the actual situation. You made a gift for someone to brightened their special day. It doesn't seem to have worked. That's all that happened. Her lack of enthusiasm doesn't make her a bad person. You've spent the day judging someone who you were trying to please.
So now, back to the issue of preparing for confession, we ask ourselves, "have I been uncharitable? Have I harbored anger?" The answer is yes and yes. So this sin is on the list.
But....are you really sorry? Or are you still a little wrapped up in your self righteous, 'where's my thank you note" thinking? That's the most important part.
The list is important. What would you be examining without the list? But reciting the list to the priest in the box with no actual feeling of remorse gets us nowhere in our spiritual growth.
Here's a little known fact: you don't have to go in there with your list and walk out with your absolution. You can actually say, "Father, I think this is a sin, but I just don't really feel very sorry about it." You'd be surprised what he might have to say. He might explain what you have to feel sorry about, how your actions keep you from God.
He might even say, "You know...that's not really a sin....yet."