Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Confession: Insight from the Radio

God's ways of breaking through into everyday life and permeating my being with insight is always amazing.  It can be either in a formal Bible study, watching a movie scene, a great story on the news, or, as with the other day, listening to the radio.

Here is a nice example of corporal confession (i.e. recited with others, such as during a church service), written by theologian, educator and ambassador Henry Van Dyke:
Most holy and merciful Father; We acknowledge and confess in Thy Presence: Our sinful nature prone to evil and slothful in good; And all our shortcomings and offenses against Thee. Thou alone knowest how often we have sinned: In wandering from Thy ways; In wasting Thy gifts; In forgetting Thy love. But Thou, O Lord, have pity upon us; Who are ashamed and sorry for all wherein we have displeased Thee. Teach us to hate our errors; Cleanse us from our secret faults; And forgive our sins; For the sake of Thy dear Son our Saviour. And O most holy and loving Father; Send Thy purifying grace into our hearts, we beseech Thee; That we may henceforth live in Thy light and walk in Thy ways; According to the commandments of Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.  [source]

There is a local radio talk show I frequently listen to in the afternoons during my drive home.  It can be at times quite crude  in a middle-school playground, dirty joke way.  Other times, as the host reminisces about his childhood, I get laughing so hard, because I was that goofy and/or remember someone doing similar crazy things.  Occasionally, the host has on local theologians who take listeners' calls and address their questions, concerns, and doubts.

One of the questions was about confession.  I'm sure you can instantly harken back to confirmation class or a study you once did on this Christian tenet.  There are many jokes we've all heard or movie scenes we've seen surrounding the confession booth.  On the other hand, confession is also a hot button with many people, evoking feelings of shame and guilt.  There exist many misunderstandings of confession.

But, the radio conversation brought forth an aspect of confession I had never considered.  Like the caller, I associate confession with asking for forgiveness, but facing then the struggle of not committing the sin again.  We all lament our weakness and how quickly we "fall" again.  But the theologian, a local Catholic priest, offered a response that made a light bulb go off:
"Confession is not so that I will sin less, but that I will love more."
That one statement totally turned confession, or at least how I conceived of it, totally on its head!  'Confession is to help me love more!'   Confession is not some magical incantation I recite individually or corporally in the hopes that I won't commit the sin again.  It is to offer release from the sin ("grace"), but then to give me a greater understanding and compassion for others.  It reminds me of Rick Warren's classic opening line to his book "The Purpose-Driven Life": "It's not about you."

Yes, confession IS for me, offering grace and forgiveness and a fresh hope.  But, then I am to take it with me to others -- to love more.  To love others more and offer them compassion and hope in God's Grace  ... and to not be so judgmental of their "sins."

Another "beam of light" from an everyday source: this time, the radio.

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