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Sunday, December 09, 2007


This morning I was, as usual, distracted during Mass. I am constantly apologizing to God for this imperfection. Yet some of my distraction did indeed stem from the readings and the homily.

I am desperately in need of a good Confession. Yesterday I considered going, but chose not to; I want to make a really good examination of conscience, I want to rid myself of all sorts of stuff. Basically what this means is that I just refused an opportunity for God's mercy.

But there's a reason; because I've found the need to really consider my purpose of amendment. Is it firm? Am I REALLY sorry for my sins? Do I REALLY intend to avoid the occasion of sin? Really? Or has it become rote?

Certainly I've experienced the incredible grace of this sacrament and have done so recently enough, but I sense a need to be more serious, to dig deeper, and to not take God's mercy for granted. Oh, yes...I have presumed upon God's mercy, and now I wonder....have my confessions been valid?

None of you can answer this, so don't even try. This is something between me n' God, and if I have made invalid confessions, well...that is an issue that requires a remedy.

These were my thoughts during Mass today. I was convicted. I need God's mercy, and yet I am back to being terrified to approach. Some of this stems from the paper I'm writing on God's mercy in the Old Testament. To say the least, the topic has opened my eyes. Even so, I know that there is more to the story in the New Testament, but it's not something I am able to address this semester. Suffice to say I desperately needed to be re-introduced to the proper fear of God. And I also recognize that it is through His mercy that I have come to this point; I cannot address my sin unless I am willing to face the fact that my contritions are largely imperfect. And maybe invalid.

That question has to be faced, by each and every one of us. And this is exactly the season for such questions and such revelation.

These were my thoughts during Mass, and during the Consecration, although I remembered particular intentions (especially my Mother), my most frequent prayer was, "Lord have mercy on me, a sinner." Because that's the most fundamentally important prayer one can utter, and so I repeated it with every fiber.

I debated about going to communion; should I go? Should I abstain? In the end, I went, begging for the grace of self-knowledge, begging for mercy, receiving Jesus out of desperation because I don't know what to do without His guidance. And if I have brought condemnation upon myself, it is condemnation I have already earned and which I want to reconcile, if I could only definitively recognize it. I shouldn't have gone.

Or is this just scrupulosity?

I've had great difficulty in prayer lately, and today was similar, but different. Somehow, I did fall into a particular meditation, one that surprised me. I won't call it a "vision" or any such pretentious thing, for it was not that. Instead, I experienced a sense of the closeness of Jesus, His infinite mercy, and his enduring love. I "sensed" Jesus placing His hands on either side of my face and drawing me to him; I could feel the ragged wounds in his hands - and I was the one who placed them there. I am forever nailing holes in his hands and feet. And all he offers me in return is his perfect love.

It was a struggle to maintain my composure, so my meditation "ended" with a desperate prayer to make me stop crying. Yet the tears fell. Somehow, I got them to stop, but the memory of Jesus' hands did not leave me. It was a powerful image.

When I left Mass, I was fine. I was in control of myself. My pressing questions regarded my paper, and so I approached the priest who had presided today as he has often been helpful with various things. This particular priest is like a brother; he is a joker and never fails to get a jab into the mix. Guaranteed, we can fly at each other with the zingers, but it's all in good fun as the respect is forever present. He was a reference both for grad school and my current job, and let me just say...he's an incredible priest. We are blessed to have him among us.

So after Mass I approached him and my intention was just to ask him a fairly simple question and be on my way. Instead, I found myself telling him about my Mom; he didn't know she was in the hospital. So I gave him a quick summary and told him that she now thinks that she "wrecked Christmas." As we conversed, I burst out, "How can she wreck Christmas? A week ago I didn't even think I was going to HAVE a Mom anymore! We have all we need for Christmas!" And of course, I was crying by then.

Mind you, I HATE crying in public. Sure, it happens sometimes in Adoration or during Mass, but typically before I have to talk to anyone, the emotions are under control. Not today. I coudldn't stop the tears, and of course I was embarassed. But God bless him, Father didn't even bat an eye. He just continued in his conversation with me as though it wasn't happening. Although he did soften his tone; normally he's prone to interjecting humor, but not this time; he was all business. And I'm so thankful for that!

I HATE it when people become complete solicitous in the face of emotion, especially tears. It's not helpful. An even tone and continued conversation is the best remedy. Especially for those of us not prone to being emotional in public. It's one thing to emote all over a blog post; it's a completely different thing in person.

But just the same, I think I needed that today. I needed the lesson in humility in that I have no control, I needed to speak what has been haunting me, and I needed to speak it, in person, to someone I can trust and who could respond appropriately. And so I'm grateful for this unexpected gift.

Indeed, I need to make a good Confession, but first I have to get out of the way, and I have to sort out the stuff that's outside of me over which I have no control. And I have to be open to God's mercy, because it's all around me, He's inviting me, and the only barrier between myself and God is my own stubborn heart.


Adrienne said...

It is times of doubt and worry when God is most at work in your life.

smk said...

Beautiful reflections. Thank you for your honesty. I have struggled OFTEN with "do I approach communion or not?" when I've been in a similar spiritual state. My confessor has made me see that unless I'm 100% convicted of deliberate mortal sin, I MUST recieve communion. After all, HE is the divine physician, and HE is medicine for the soul. Medicine does you no good unless it's taken.

Examine your conscience, but then get to confession ... don't wait until you're 100% ready. That will NEVER happen. In the meantime, recieve HIM daily. HE IS WAITING FOR YOU.

Cathy_of_Alex said...

Adoro: Questions we all ask. I'm glad Father was there for you and THE FATHER was there for you too.

angelmeg said...

As a wise person I know used to always say "anything worth doing is worth doing poorly." (means don't put off something worth doing until you think you are "ready to do it well"

here is a great quote from the only philosopher I can stomach after all my philosophy studies:

When a sinner despairs of the forgiveness of sins, it is almost as if he walked right up to God and said, 'No, there is no forgiveness of sins, it is impossible,' and it looks like close combat. S. Kierkegaard.

A good confession is one you get done. A bad confession is one you put off until you are "ready".

I am off in a few minutes to go get clean for the company that is coming in a few weeks (on Christmas Day, don't-cha know). The kids and I are going to the Penance service at Church.

I am sure that my examination of conscience will be incomplete, but I will remember to add for all the sins I cannot remember. (I always add that one). God is good, all the time. Usually when I am preparing He makes sure that the big hairy ones are right there in front so I don't forget to confess those.

Adoro said...

I actually went to Confession on Monday morning before work. Which, by the way, saved me from either being involved in a terrible wreck or from being stuck on a shut-down highway.

Thank God I have never despaired of my sins...I've always known God's mercy was there. A trap I often fall into is wanting to do things "perfectly" even though I never live up to this. Such is life. Thus I've made a lot of imperfect confessions! I also add in the prayer about the sins I've forgotten...because I nearly ALWAYS forget!

angelmeg said...

Adoro, we often sound like spiritual sisters.

WE want to be perfectionists, only we just aren't good enough.

I hope that made you laugh, because that was its intention. I say that all the time to pop the baloon of self-importance I make of being perfect.
If I keep reminding myself that I will never be perfect this side of the beatific vision maybe, just maybe I will be able to accept humility as the way to grace.