Forgiveness and Floating

Hey everyone!  So I am just a day away from flying to Orlando, FL to spend a week on vacation with my beloved family in Disney World!  I can’t even begin to tell you how excited I am for this opportunity!  We’ll be taking up late tomorrow morning, so please keep us in your prayers.  Before leaving however, I just wanted to leave you with a little thought.  This reflection on Reconciliation will also be featured on another website, http://www.youcatholic.com/, next week.  I have been invited to become a blogger for this site, which is dedicated to bringing the catechism to young people in a manner which they will be able to understand and will embrace.  I’ll be posting once every four weeks, but once the blog is up and running on the website (which will happen next week), you can visit the website everyday for catechism lessons and reflections on the various tenants of our faith.  I hope you enjoy!  And now, for my departing word…

I want you to think back to your first Reconciliation for a minute.  Do you remember how you felt the moment just before you went into the confessional for the first time?  Do you remember how you felt after it was over?  If you haven’t received this sacrament, or if you don’t remember your first time because it’s been a while, I’ll tell you a little bit about my own first experience.  I was eight years old, and I had spent the past few months preparing for this momentous occasion with the rest of my second-grade class.  We had gone over the rudimentary theology behind the sacrament of Reconciliation in our religion class, and we had reviewed the logistics of going to confession during our preparatory retreat.  I remember feeling excited, but also a little anxious.  I don’t recall precisely what I confessed that evening, but I wasn’t confessing anything life-altering or unique for someone my age.  My first Reconciliation probably went something a little like this: “Bless me, Father, for I have sinned. I hit my brother, argued with my sister, and I didn’t set the table like my mom asked me last week.”  My life back then was simple, uncomplicated, and largely devoid of temptation.  And yet even at the age of eight, I understood what it meant to sin and to be in need of forgiveness.  Yes, I was nervous to tell my sins to the priest, but that particular feeling was overshadowed by an overwhelming desire for a clean slate, a fresh start, a do-over, so to speak.  I had been told that Reconciliation would be like washing dirty clothing, except for with my soul, and I really wanted my soul to be as white as wool.  But more than anything from that night, I remember how I felt after I left the confessional.  It was like I was floating, like my soul was as light as air.  I was giddy with joy, and I easily could have broken into laughter at the slightest provocation.  It was an incredible feeling that I had never experienced before, and I can’t say I’ve experienced anything comparable since.  I’ve had plenty of reasons to be happy throughout my life, but there is nothing quite like the sensation of spiritual weightlessness and pure joy that comes with a well-made confession.

That was my first experience of Reconciliation, and over the years, things have certainly changed.  I’ve grown older and (presumably) wiser, I’ve become more deeply immersed in the world, with all of its temptations, and I, like many other men and women my age, have moved past the days when the worst sin that I had to confess was not setting the table for dinner.  I also have to admit that it’s rare that I feel as though I am walking on air after receiving Reconciliation.  That giddiness seems like a dream, a memory of a past that I no longer can reach.  In recent years, I come out of the confessional feeling much the same as when I walked in, which leaves me wondering, what happened?

Granted, the sacraments are not ultimately about how we feel.  The graces are flowing regardless of whether or not I feel like I’m floating because of my current sinless state of existence.  But it’s still a worthwhile question to consider.  What has changed?  I think that there are numerous dimensions to this dilemma: teens tend to be more worried about what other people, including their confessors, might think of them, and our confessions are generally not a matter of telling the priest how many times we yelled at our sister (though that still might be part of our confessions).  Those factors definitely make going to confession harder than it might have once been, but I think the problem runs deeper than that.  I think it’s more fundamentally about our relationship with God.  Children believe.  They don’t doubt that God can forgive everything.  It doesn’t occur to them that there might be a sin that is just too awful to be forgiven.  Teens and adults tend to doubt.  We believe that God is forgiving, but that we are beyond the range of even His forgiveness.  We cannot forgive ourselves, and so it seems impossible that God should forgive us either.  When we were children, our world was small, and God was big.  When we began to get older, God stayed the same, but the world seemed to get larger.  Our sins became larger, and at some point, they ceased to be forgivable in our minds.  It was simply too much to ask, even of God.  We need to return to that childlike state of mind that we all once had, where the fount of mercy and forgiveness is endless.  Where the world can be big because we know that God is bigger.  Where our sins can be many because God’s graces are innumerable.  We need to recover a childlike faith if we ever want to recover that spiritual weightlessness and joy that so many of us remember so fondly.  If we can bring ourselves to really let go of our sins, we can take hold of God’s hand and learn to not just float, but fly.

Mary Help of Christians, pray for us!

To get a soul as white as freshly fallen snow, you can go to confession!

To get a soul as white as freshly fallen snow, you can go to confession!

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