Bless Me Father, Again and Again and Again...

I received an email from a good friend today that prompt-ed me to challenge myself to respond on this blog regarding the Sacrament of Reconciliation and forgiveness. It is my intent over the next several blog posts to answer her wonderful questions and hopefully get a better handle of these topics as we will shortly enter the Lenten season (Ash Wednesday, February 6).

Q: Have I truly forgiven someone, if a week later I am at the same place I was before Reconciliation?

A: First, your question tells us that you are a sincere and dedicated Catholic (which I already know). The kind of sin you mention here falls under the title "habitual sins". Some habits are formed over a lifetime and in most cases won't be broken with overnight. This problem even confounded Saint Paul who cried, "Why do I do the things I hate?" He developed this in the Letter to the Romans. This writing is a great comfort to us sinners.

If Satan, who knows where we are weakest, considers us worth his time to relentlessly tempt where we are weakest, isn't it also worth our while to confess them as often as necessary? You might recall that with every good sacramental confession comes the great sacramental grace. The penitent can then avail themselves to this gift and be strengthened by it.

I believe it was Saint Thomas Aquinas who said something to the effect that God often allows us to fall in a lesser sin, to strengthen us against a greater sin. Confessing the same stupid sins over and over can be humiliating, but that is exactly why it is good for us, apart from the penance and graces of the sacrament. As I get older, I find myself confessing the same sins. While it seems like I am not getting anywhere, I really am because the desire to change is still there and growing with each confession -- someday, hopefully gone completely.

Regarding true forgiveness, this can be a reality or a desire. All those pet peeves we have that cause anger to build up in our every day life are hard to ignore. However, they need to be addressed and our conscience aware of them because they breed more disharmony. We can also allow our emotions to be fed by other outside negative influences. I have always tried to advise those struggling with this that confrontational skills and fraternal correction are a necessary ingredient to growth and forgiveness. Holding something in only hurts that person.

Let us pray that we will all be able to overcome this issue. Next post will deal with grudges.