Confession is good for the soul, but does absolution of our sins come too easy?
“Bless me Father, for I have sinned” … the beginning of making a good confession; followed by a list (a long list for some) and then an Act of Contrition.
Bam … you’re sins are forgiven!
Seems so simple. Too simple.
That’s what I think Naaman thought when he approached the prophet Elisha for a cure of his leprosy, the story that is recounted in today’s first reading.
Elisha tells Naaman to go and bathe in the river Jordan seven times and you will be clean. Naaman was expecting something a little more dramatic.
“The prophet sent him the message: “Go and wash seven times in the Jordan, and your flesh will heal, and you will be clean.” But Naaman went away angry, saying, “I thought that he would surely come out and stand there to invoke the LORD his God, and would move his hand over the spot, and thus cure the leprosy.”
In other words, where was the magic? The fireworks? The dramatic laying-on of hands? It would be like us if we expect to see crystal balls, light sabers and magic dust when we enter the confessional.
How can this power of forgiveness be so easily given without the bells and whistles of the Great and Mighty Oz? Luckily for Naaman, he learned his lesson, bathed seven times and came away clean.
“So Naaman went down and plunged into the Jordan seven times at the word of the man of God. His flesh became again like the flesh of a little child, and he was clean.”
Turns out, it was that simple.
Just as absolution from a priest is also simple.
Except … it really isn’t.
Like many aspects of the Church and her Sacraments, the actual process of receiving God’s blessings and mercy – like the very act of making a good confession – is never truly simple.
Just the first step can be a major stumbling block. How difficult it can be to actually admit that we sin!
I’m not talking about major sins like robbing, stealing and killing. It’s the little sins that can get us in trouble, partly because they are a slippery slope and partly because we have a tendency to rationalize our behavior.
Let’s review some of our favorite rationalizations:
>> Surely God will understand why I did that.
>> It was just a little white lie.
>> Is it really stealing if I am doing it for a good reason?
>> I know this is technically a sin, but I think the Church should change its teaching.
>> Sure, it’s a sin for YOU, but not ME.
>> My God is a loving God, he would never judge me (despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary).
Whatever it is that we continue to do, the first step toward seeking and obtaining forgiveness is to actually admit that we are sinning. And that is never easy.
We need to examine our hearts. We need to reflect on our actions and consider how wrong they are and how harmful they have become – not just to us and to our loved ones, but to our Church.
We need to constantly pray for each other and pray that everyone – especially ourselves – will make that difficult journey to admission of our sins, followed by true sorrow in our hearts and then the humility to seek that “very simple” act of reconciliation.
The actual words will come easy. But the process to get into that confessional? Not that simple.
But worth the effort.