Thursday, February 9, 2012

Preparing to make a Confession

A purple stole is used for confessions.
Purple is both the color of  royalty
and the color of repentance, for repentance
is the royal road back to God.

Below are some common questions for use in preparing for the service of The Reconciliation of a Penitent, commonly called “confession.”

The point of these questions is not to “check off boxes” of sins committed or not committed. This, by itself, is an exercise in futile legalism. The point is open our spiritual eyes to the truth of our life, the direction of our existence—and then to receive grace in this sacramental rite to reclaim the life we have been given in Holy Baptism, when the Holy Spirit came to dwell in us. It is this precious gift we recover in making a confession.

As one ponders these specific examples of sin or error in life, be alert not only for “yes” or “no” responses, but ask of God such things as: “why, Lord, do I choose this?” and “what has this action done to others?” and “how has this cost me fullness of life in you, distancing myself from you and from my full, potential self?” No matter how many times you come back to these sins, do not hesitate to confess them. Perseverance is central to the Christian life: it is our response to the endless gift of grace.

When God formed us, he gave us the capacity to choose fullness of Life with him, or a diminished life pointed towards death apart from him. Sin is the choice for that diminished, death-bound life. Let us raise these choices to consciousness before the Holy Trinity, then confess them and receive the spiritual grace and healing of Holy Absolution. In so doing, we turn from the grave to Life in communion with God, our sisters and brothers, and the New Creation God is bringing forth even now.

When you finish with this (or any other) examination of conscience, you may desire to write down the fruit of your reflections to share with you confessor. You may choose to journal on these matters, as well. Above all, see that you are the judge, not the patron, of your sins. Bring them before God and offer them up in loving contrition—sure of his redeeming love for us all individually and corporately.

Some questions for reflection before making a confession

Have I been angry or irritated? Have I abused anyone? Used foul language? Viewed carnal images or consented to carnal imaginations? Struck someone? Offended someone in an argument? Have I raised my voice in anger?

Have I joked or made fun of the disabled, unfortunate, elderly, or those different from me? Am I truly at peace with everyone? Have I asked forgiveness of those I may have offended? Have I withheld forgiveness to another out of spite or selfishness?

Have I failed to give aid to someone in need, especially when asked? Have I donated to the needs of the Church? Have I sought God when making decisions?

Have I been cruel to animals? Do I treat God’s holy creation with contempt? Have I taken something without asking? Have I failed to return a book or other thing that I have borrowed?

Have I been stubborn, insistent on pressing my point of view? Have I plotted or taken revenge on one who has offended me? Have I broken my baptismal, marriage, or ordination vows? Have I told falsehoods, distorted the truth, cheated, judged others or gossiped?

Have I joked of the faults of others, or exposed the faults of another to make myself the better? Have I been vain? Sought glory or praise for myself? Does my inner peace disappear when others are unfair to me or judge me?

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