Friday, January 31, 2014

The Shocking Penance

A few days ago I had an opportunity for the sacrament of confession in a venue that isn't typical for me. It was one of those situations where a specific prompting and a specific opportunity coincided and then along came a specific priest to whom I confessed.

Grace is just so cool, ya know?

I don't know about you, but I often meet a lot of internal resistance when I set out to go to confession. Because who really likes it? I don't. My most tempting tangle is to start telling myself I don't need to go. I can get legalistic and figure since I haven't killed anyone in the last month, it isn't strictly necessary for me.

But love doesn't operate that way. Love sees all sorts of things that have stood in the way of being totally with the one who is loved.

There have been so many times that I've driven to confession and felt like I was driving to my own execution. Because it is a death.

Well, anyway. This kind of rumination probably gives a good backdrop for what I wanted to say about this particular recent exchange.

The priest actually did a mock "Oh my! That is so shocking!" to me, just to get me to lighten up and laugh at myself a little bit. He stopped me dead in my verbal tracks from drilling down deeper into a certain issue. He made me see that confessing can be a very simple matter. I confess, I'm sorry, that's it.

And then came this shocking penance that actually made me burst into tears: He told me that for a whole week I was to be nice to me. I suppose that could be misunderstood, but when you consider that I can be morbidly serious and carry the weight of many on myself without it necessarily being God's way of doing things -- this penance has really struck me. Especially because it has been a time-release one, causing me to pray daily that I can see how to do it.

The marvel is that I realize when I show myself more mercy, I am suddenly far more merciful to those around me. Far less stressed, far less intense, and with more openness to the joys life brings. More openness to heaven. I remember that it doesn't all depend on me -- at all. In the midst of all of my very adult responsibilities, I can be a little child.

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