In preparing a high school lesson on Purgatory, I came across a commentary on the topic by the Protestant author C.S. Lewis. He writes, “Would it not break the heart if God said to us, ‘It is true, my son, that your breath smells and your rags drip with mud and slime, but we are charitable here and no one will [scold] you with these things…. Enter into the joy.’? Should we not reply, ‘With submission, sir, [but] if there is no objection, I’d rather be cleaned first.’?”
As we approach the eager season of Advent, we would be remiss if we did not likewise prepare our souls for the One Who we call the King of Kings. People might claim that we don’t need to do any spring (or winter) cleaning of our hearts because Christ accepts us as we are, but what an odd way to show our alleged love for He Who loves us more than can be fathomed. Indeed, the first parable in Matthew 25 tells us that “the kingdom of heaven will be like ten virgins who took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom. Five of them were foolish and five were wise. The foolish ones, when taking their lamps, brought no oil with them, but the wise brought flasks of oil with their lamps.“
As Catholics who believe in the endless mercy of God, we have been blessed with the sacrament of penance (or confession) to prepare our hearts for the coming of the Bridegroom. It is, frankly, a travesty to see the incredibly long line of people who “go up for communion” each week, as the line for confession is not nearly as long. So that we may receive the Lord and His Eucharist with a clean soul, let us accept the gift of penance from our God.
You are not your sin
I recognize that embarrassment is one reason that many feel hesitant to confess, but this is largely because many are conditioned by society to think that they are defined by their actions or inactions. “If”, one may unknowingly think, “I have committed adultery, my identity is now that of an adulterer.” Or “I have skipped Mass to go to my child’s cross country meet, so I’m now someone who skips Mass.” My friends, these properties are only applied to us if we repeat the same sin. Jesus said, in the eighth chapter of John, that “everyone who commits sin is a slave of sin.” The present tense of the Greek here doesn’t imply that “everyone who has committed sin continues to be a slave of sin.”
When we come to Christ with a contrite and repentant heart, we are simply “dropping off” our sins at the foot of the Cross. If we have, desiring to be reconciled to God out of love for Him, separated ourselves from our past sins, then we are not our sin. If we faithfully confess that we have had an abortion, have abandoned a woman who has borne our child, or have treated employees unfairly, we are simply bringing these sins before the Father of mercy to leave at His feet. Reparation and restitution may be required, but at no point are we our sins if we wish to be free of them.
If you’re worried that the priest will judge you or see you only as your sin, fear not. To be quite frank, the priest doesn’t care about your confessed sin. Not because they’re just “doing their job” or don’t have care for you as a person, but because they are there to share the mercy of Jesus Christ with you. We must not waste our time to fret over our sins lest they shift our focus from the grace of God.
Let us prepare
This Advent season, remove the grime and dust from your souls, that they may be illumined by the radiance of the Blessed Infant! Do not let the fear of being defined by your actions be the reason you are left without oil to greet the Bridegroom, as we have all been called to greet Him with hope and thanksgiving.
God love you,