Monday, January 08, 2007
The Mercy and Grace of Jesus Christ
I am constantly amazed by Jesus' abundant and overwhelming mercy. Tonight I had to go to Confession, and as usual, when I HAVE to go, I get butterflies in the pit of my stomach. I couldn't eat my dinner, and I couldn't focus. As I let my dogs out before I left, I considered not going, really dreading the event. Initially not intending to go to Mass, I fled my house, having to cut through the spiritual oppression.
The song on the radio as I left my house was all about God's mercy. I embraced that, knowing that this was what I was seeking; mercy.
I arrived at Mass and gratefully listened to that part of the Gospel I had not missed, and knelt in wonder during the Eucharistic prayers, tortured at not being able to recieve Jesus. Yet I realized it was part of my penance; to bow in humility and refrain from that which I love most, that is complete unity with our Lord. And yet the message I heard over and over was "Mercy". Throughout the Mass, a litany of Mercy.
So after Mass I got into line, barely even able to pray, berating myself for getting worked up. But I am always fearful; how much is he going to ask me to clarify (he never does, apparently I'm specific enough and brief enough), and that little irrational thought that he's going to yell at me still creeps in. I was beginning to shake and begged the Lord to help me, once again, to come to him with my sins and heal me of the damage they had caused myself and others.
Finally it was my turn and I walked in, knelt down, and made my confession, quickly and briefly.
Silently I bowed my head, waiting....
Father gave me some advice about walking in holiness, remaining on that path, and asked me to recognize the gift of Faith for what it is...a Divine Gift, and to TRUST in that gift. Then he gave me my penance.
I am constantly shocked at the penances I have been given, for they never seem to equate to the sins I have just confessed; and it is here that we see the Mercy of Jesus. It is here that we see the true heart of Jesus, for we are kneeling before him, our hands in his, our heads bowed, and he wipes our tears. Jesus does not wish to punish or condemn; no, he wishes to forgive, to heal our wounds, and to encourage us to continue trying. He is love, he is justice, he is mercy, he is peace.
And each and every time I leave that confessional, I realize that I've gotten another glimpse at the Lord; have taken another step to understanding the depths of his mercy. And even if I have been able to hold back the tears long enough to make my Confession, when it is complete and I am back kneeling before the Lord in the Blessed Sacrament, the tears come, complete with joy and thanksgiving.
And this is what brings me back, over and over again, because it is awareness of my sin and willingness to acknowledge it that brings me first to Confession. And it is that big step that brings us all into the fold of the Lord's grace. He does not turn the penitents away, but rather dries our tears and admonishes us only to "Go, and sin no more." It is this that gives us the strength to continue on, striving to walk in holiness, striving to overcome those things that seperate us from the love of God.
It is not God that puts up the barriers, it is us. He always awaits, arms open, but we must be the ones to come to Him.
I don't love going to Confession for it's not fun to stand in line, in a public acknowledgment that I have done something wrong, maybe even gravely wrong. (Although the seal will never be broken and none of us will ever know the Confession of another). And it's not fun to have sweaty hands holding tangled rosary beads, to realize that we are committing the same sins over and over again. But none of that matters, for we aren't there to be comfortable; we are there because we love God and we strive to become closer to Him, to become more like Him. If we are to become more like Jesus, we must first recognize those ways in which we are NOT like him, and seek to change. None of us can do this alone; it requires grace, it requires effort, and it requires wise counsel.
And because we know we have done wrong and we feel badly about it, we can't fix it ourselves, and we know we need to go to our beloved and ask for forgiveness.
There is nothing better than hearing the gentle sound of the priest speaking with the authority of Jesus Christ himself, imparting the blessing of forgiveness, telling us to "Go in peace, your sins are forgiven."
Thank you, Jesus, I love you Jesus, Thank you, Jesus.