photo by Bridget Touhey
Simon, Simon, behold Satan has demanded to sift all of you like wheat Luke 22:31
As Catholics we know we are sanctified by Jesus Christ, but we are justified by our works and not faith alone.
See how a person is justified by works and not by faith alone. James 2:24
Today I want to talk to you about how one of these works is to admit our wrong doing. We often try to justify why we committed a sin. When we do this we actually block the salvific work God wants to grace upon us. Our justification of our sin actually blocks Jesus from saving us. I want to tell you a personal story in this regard to help demonstrate the point.
Probably about 4 or 5 years ago I went to confession to my Spiritual Director. I was listing my sins and I told him, “I told a white lie”. You see, I wanted him to know the lie that I told was venial because my intent was good. I told the lie because I didn’t want to hurt someone’s feelings. He just looked at me and said, “don’t do that.” I said, “don’t do what?” He answered, “sugar coat your sin.” I left a little stunned and had to ponder what he said.
A few weeks later while visiting a church on vacation I went to confession to a Priest who was known to be particularly harsh. Remembering what my Spiritual Director told me, and having told another lie with “good” intent, I simply said to this Priest, “I lied.” This Priest bellowed at me, “nobody likes a liar.” Indeed. I actually started laughing. And I knew he was right. I know a lot of people would be wounded at the harshness of these statements to me in confession, but I was not. I was grateful, super grateful, because I left that day intent on never lying again. Because of these Priests I became a woman of my word and I learned how to operate in life without incorporating this sin as part of it which made my life more peaceful and joyful.
It is the job of our Priests and Bishops to help purge us of sin. When we look for justification for what we are doing we never get better. We circle the drain of temptation and sin, never elevating beyond to be uplifted to Sainthood. What I had been doing was justifying my sin. When I justify my sin I am trying to save myself and God cannot step in and save me. When I admit my sin, I disarm the devil, who is trying to accuse me and keep me stuck in guilt and shame. “You’re a liar”, he says, but I can now respond, yes I did that and I handed it to My Lord. This is when the Lord can step in and stomp on the head of the accuser. His power made perfect in my weakness, but only when I humble myself enough to allow him to.
Throughout these past several years with all of the sex scandal that has surrounded the church, I have looked for the Bishop who simply says, “We were wrong. We covered up. This is our sin. Please forgive us.” If this happened we would see the saving power of God come down like He saved Ninevah who repented in sack cloth and ashes. We would see sin purged. Instead, generally what I see is the cover up, the lack of transparency, not releasing investigative work, the circling of lawyers and the pointing of fingers;
The man said, ‘The woman you put here with me–she gave me some fruit from the tree, and I ate it. Genesis 3:12
Did you ever wonder if Adam and Eve had just said I did it and I am sorry I was wrong, what would have happened? Would God have kept them in the garden? Even in their hiding and justification of their sin, God was still merciful to them. What if they had just admitted it?
Blessed are those who wash their robes, so that they may have the right to the tree of life and may enter the city by its gates. Revelation 22:14
God will make everything transparent so it is just better for your soul if you recognize this and are transparent yourself. That’s when grace can pour into you. The church institution would do well to understand this because if they don’t God will make them understand.
Whoever conceals his transgressions will not prosper, but he who confesses and forsakes them will obtain mercy. Proverbs 28:13
On an individual level you can only purge yourself of sin. The more of us that do this the more God will raise up Saints. Stop being offended by Priests who try to better you and instead listen to them. Do not try to justify your sin. Instead admit your wrongdoing in the name of justice, and let God pour salvific grace and mercy into your soul.