Why Do I Have To Go Confession?

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Do I have to go to confession? Why does the Church make you go to a priest? Why can’t I go directly to God? Sometimes confession is a hard thing to get motivated to do. We begin to search for reasons why we don’t need to go. Whereas if we truly understood the merciful love that was waiting for us, we would want to go all the time!

Put simply, the sacrament of reconciliation is for when we sin and break away from following Jesus. In the confessional, what he merited in his cross and resurrection is made real, and Jesus brings us back to himself. Confession does more than simply forgive us, however; it also heals our wounds. In Matthew 9:2-6 we see that Jesus both forgives sins and he heals wounds. It says:

And behold, they brought to him a paralytic, lying on his bed; and when Jesus saw their faith he said to the paralytic, “Take heart, my son; your sins are forgiven.” And behold, some of the scribes said to themselves, “This man is blaspheming.” But Jesus, knowing their thoughts, said, “Why do you think evil in your hearts? For which is easier, to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Rise and walk’? But that you may know that the Son of man has authority on earth to forgive sins”—he then said to the paralytic—“Rise, take up your bed and go home.”

angsty-teen

This passage and its parallel found in Mark 2 provide a basis for the Catholic sacrament of reconciliation. Jesus heals the wounded paralytic which becomes a visible sign of the invisible healing of the wounds caused by the damage of sin. The visible healing attests to the fact that, as Jesus says, “the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins.” This is a potentially blasphemous statement as, for the Jews, only God could forgive sins. This is true for Christians as well. Jesus forgiving sins is simply one of the many ways that Jesus claims his divinity in the Synoptic Gospels. It is most proper still today to say that Jesus forgives sins, not priests. While he was still on earth, Jesus conferred the authority to bind and loose sins on the Apostles in the upper room. The terms bind and loose come from rabbinic language of the time that had to with moral obligations and liberties. Simply put, Jesus gave the apostles authority to hold people to their sins or free them from them (absolve them). For the Catholic rite of confession, it is more proper to say that the priest gives absolution, but still it is Jesus that forgives.

As I said from the beginning, like Jesus’ forgiveness, confession also heals our wounds, even our sometimes hidden wounds. Sometimes as we go about our lives, we don’t exactly feel guilty because of this or that sin, but sometimes we begin to feel anxious, lonely, angry, sad, emotionally drained, in a bad mood, or so on. These can be good indicators that we should go to confession because we need healing. It can be the case that we are less aware of our sinfulness and so therefore we don’t feel overwhelmingly guilty, but the things we may only view as “little” sins are wearing us down. The fact of our anxiety or other negative feelings are often indicators that we are experiencing a moment (or perhaps more than a moment) of brokenness in our relationship with God. At the heart of these wounds of anxiety, sadness, anger, loneliness, etc. is our lack of trust in the God’s love for us. Though lack of trust in God doesn’t often make us feel guilty, in reality it is nonetheless a grave sin. God is the creator of all that exists. To not trust in God is a highly irrational reaction, but going to confession is a great way to be healed and to renew our trust in his love.

Much of our lives we can walk around with hidden wounds and scars from decisions we’ve made. The Church offers beautiful practice called General Confession where someone recounts as best they can all of the sins throughout his or her entire life. This is a beautiful practice which in consequence will teach us a habit of letting God know and love all of who we are—even our weaknesses. Jesus came in weakness, as a baby, and Jesus died in weakness. Likewise, when Jesus comes into our lives now, he comes to our weakness. When he saves us, he starts with our weaknesses.
women-at-the-well

More than that, confession, though it is supernatural, reflects the natural reality of forgiveness. When you hurt another person, it is only right for you go back to them and ask for forgiveness. The same is true for the sacrament of reconciliation. When we have hurt or broken our relationship with God, it is only right for us to go back to him and ask him for forgiveness. Jesus is truly made present to us in the sacraments, and to ask for his forgiveness, we must go to the sacrament of reconciliation. Why? It is because while Jesus was on earth he passed the authority to forgive sins, not to everyone, but to a select few of his more committed disciples. So it was not the Church’s idea first, but Jesus’ idea that only certain people can forgive sins, namely, those who have descended from the apostles in virtue of their ordination. So, we don’t “go straight to God” because it was God’s idea to have a real live person on earth absolve us from our sins. By having to go to confession, we’re just following the system Jesus set up; doing it God’s way, ya know? As an added bonus we can be supremely confident that when we hear the ordained minister of the sacrament absolve us, we are truly and unequivocally forgiven.

In the end, no matter if you are aware of being in serious sin or not, head to confession soon. This is especially true if you are simply feeling a little off and you don’t seem to be yourself fully. Confession is designed to help us leave behind our failures and faults and live to our full potential. Additionally, there’s no sure way to decipher and be aware if we’re living in a state of grace or mortal sin. Thus, it’s always best simply to go to confession and let Jesus love us through his re-presentative (his idea, not just the Church’s). He comes to heal us and save us in our wounds. Keep his love in sight in all you do today, but let him love you in his very special way frequently through the sacrament of confession.

Men and Women, According to Science…

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One of the most inspiring passages to me since my teenage years has been Proverbs 31:10-31. In this day and age, this is a somewhat awkward thing to admit since these verses comprise the classic virtues of a good wife passage in the Bible. That sounds like a fun topic, right?! Meditating on the passage as a whole in our current cultural climate is an endeavor of unmitigated risky business. So I am holding off on a meditation on the passage itself for now. Instead, I’d like to talk about something that stirs my thoughts when I read the passage, namely, that men and women are different. But at times some radical forms of feminism seep into our way of thinking and being. No longer is it safe to differentiate between male and female roles. In an obvious kind of way, this is very strange to many of us.

Gender Differences

So are we trying to say that men and women are no longer (or have never been) different from one another? Are we trying to say that men and women are not wired differently (in some ways, very differently!)?  Is there not another way to look at this perchance?  It would be unsafe for those who value truth much at all to assume that, on a general level, men and women are precisely the same. This is not to take away from the fact of our commonly shared nature which is endowed with exactly the same dignity. If I may, I would like to assume men and women have the same incredible worth. It is simply a fact that, while we share an equality of dignity, we are not put together the same way.

Case in point: I have a dog. It is a Yorkshire Terrier AKA a “purse dog.” To compensate, I have named him Hercules. In defense of why I own such a creature I will simply say that he was a stray that was going to be taken to the pound, and I thought I might be able to muster just enough of a nurturing spirit to care for his basic needs. Needless to say, to this end, the struggle is real. Now, you can point fingers at me all you want and say that I just don’t care enough when I let his hair grow too long (and go ungroomed), when I don’t  brush his teeth frequently (Yorkies have notoriously bad teeth), and when I don’t bathe him as often as a good mama should. But I guess this is all to my point: nurturing is really hard for me. Sorry. I have to choose it very deliberately; I have to think about it in advance and collect my will power very consciously. I have had the dog for three years with no major health problems (so I guess I’m doing something right), but, in all honesty, Hercules could probably use a more commanding force of nurture in his life.

 

Science

So, to point out some of these differences in a way that will elucidate the meaning passage a bit, shall we look to other passages in the Bible? Nope. Let’s try science. So this is the claim: men and women are wired differently and therefore, on a general level, we can expect them to go about things differently. Try these articles (if you’re crunched for time, the first one will suffice):

http://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/the-hardwired-difference-between-male-and-female-brains-could-explain-why-men-are-better-at-map-reading-8978248.html

http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/hope-relationships/201402/brain-differences-between-genders

http://science.howstuffworks.com/life/men-women-different-brains.htm

http://www.webmd.com/balance/features/how-male-female-brains-differ

So science points to some major differences in how men’s and women’s brains work. And I, for the sake of argument, think that’s pretty important. If you didn’t actually read the articles, I will summarize briefly:

mens-and-womens-brainsAccording to science, men’s brains tend to send signals unilaterally up and down each separate lobe. Why does this matter? Welp…“scientists say” this is why men are better at focusing on things like reading maps, spatial tasks, and muscle memory. On the other hand, women’s brains send a whole complex network of signals between the hemispheres of the brain (how am I not surprised?). Scientists attribute female superior relational, verbal, memory, and intuition to this interactive brain pattern.  Here’s an interesting (and important) point about women’s brain from the first article listed above: “‘Intuition is thinking without thinking. It’s what people call gut feelings. Women tend to be better than men at these kinds of skill which are linked with being good mothers,’ Professor Verma said. Autism, which makes a person focus on purely logical patterns with little to no ability to show empathy toward others, is 5 times more likely to develop in men than women.” Perhaps men are not as easily disposed to being empathetic as women are? I haven’t noticed that!

To conclude with the science part, it is interesting to note that when the brains are seen together, the entirety of the human brain is pretty much accounted for. This fact led to this scientist quote: “‘It’s quite striking how complementary the brains of women and men really are,’ said Rubin Gur of Pennsylvania University, a co-author of the study.” I suppose science will say next that men and women are complementary in another way?! I can’t think of anything right now, but I will certainly wait for science.

 

Conclusion

In the end, women becoming men is not feminine (thus not feminism). Women being women is true feminism (and femininity is beautiful and awesome!). Men being men (hopefully honorable men of goodwill and virtue) is fine too. Okay, actually, it’s awesome. We need to accept that as well. Men and women are awesome. YOU are awesome. In general, men and women go about things differently. We think about things differently. We are different. We should generally have different expectations for each other, including being open to the idea that there are certain roles that are a better fit for the make-up of a woman or a man. I really don’t mean to offend anyone; I just think there’s a reality to our differences. At the very least maybe we can change our expectations for how a woman or man will go about a particular role because it will most likely be different based on their being male or female.

Culture of Indifference vs. A Culture of Adventure: The Love InSight Manifesto

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In my 100-level psychology class in college the professor and an older student were discussing the experience of satisfaction in adults. What age group experienced the most satisfaction: 18-34, 35-49, 50-69, 70+? The next class the professor brought in a study which showed that satisfaction is pretty similar among each age group. The claim that there is no preferred age for satisfaction is highly intriguing, but it also leads me to many thoughts about happiness. If satisfaction levels never peak, when can I expect to achieve the level of happiness that I deeply desire? And what is the level of happiness that I truly desire? When I’m honest with myself, I want to be happy. But not just a little bit. I want to be happy in a complete way. I want to get to a point where nothing can steal my joy. I want an impervious kind of happiness that never goes away and can never be undone or outdone. But where can I get it? What kinds of things should I do to achieve it? What do I need to experience, attain, or accomplish in order to fill my desire and longing for maximal, permanent happiness and satisfaction? Is it even something life really offers us? Is our culture leading us to this kind happiness or something else? As C.S. Lewis famously pointed out, “If I find in myself desires which nothing in this world can satisfy, the only logical explanation is that I was made for another world” (Mere Christianity).

As much as we endeavor to be completely happy, this life is brimming with disappointment. There are many great things, but they are intermingled with discontent. Other people use us, frustratingly deceive or mislead us, they don’t follow through on their commitments to us, they cheat us, steal from us, let us down and we all do the same back to them. Countries lie to each other, obfuscate the truth, set up a wily network of agreements with other countries, eventually we go to war, kill each other, and destroy the trust and love that cause the peace and joy we all truly desire. The world is broken, and insofar as it’s broken, it leaves us unsatisfied. So what is our response to broken things? In my driveway, I had a vehicle I wanted to sell, but it had problems that needed to be fixed before it was worth anything. I had a broken thing, and I just kept ignoring it. One response to our broken world is to ignore it. The other response to the broken vehicle requires a more laborious answer (but when I’m honest with myself, I enjoy the struggle of fixing broken vehicles more than being lazy). The other response to our broken world is to engage in the struggle of fixing it. As with fixing the vehicle, fixing the world and the culture is much more inconvenient than ignoring its problems. But as G.K. Chesterton once pointed out, “An adventure is only an inconvenience rightly considered. An inconvenience is only an adventure wrongly considered.”

So that leaves us with two very different approaches to the world we live in. Largely due to the initial experience of satisfaction, I believe we live in a world that has decided indifference is the best approach to these questions. We’ve seen war in every age of human history and in the last century we’ve seen war kill more people than all other centuries combined. It is frankly depressing to think about important questions that carry heavy weight or claim something significant about human existence. The idea of progress is reduced to technology and conversations about individual rights where the great ideal of progress was once about the nature and purpose of human existence. In fact, these more important questions were the ideals that Enlightenment was founded on. It led to significant questions about reality, the moral good, and the greatness of the human spirit. But, as history shows, Enlightenment easily led from questions of the purpose of human nature to the unmitigated oppression of anyone who disagreed. These eighteenth century ideals soured throughout the nineteenth century and climaxed with the Great Wars of the twentieth century.

Since that time I believe we’ve frankly been a little sheepish about asking important questions. For many reasons, including many not referenced here, it seems clear that we live in a time that avoids the more important kinds of questions. We have established a culture of indifference. There is no major understanding of the constitution of human nature today. In fact, with the exception of the ivory tower of academia, there are not even any significant competing theories used by the public. As a result of our indifference toward our own nature we ignore questions of our purpose. Because of this, the deepest questions we try to answer are ordered to the lower parts of nature: food, living situations, future survival, sex, in short, our carnal inclinations. “Get paid and get laid” is basically the zenith of our culture of indifference. Today we equate comfort or pleasure with satisfaction. And, most importantly, we’re supposed to stay away from being adhering too tightly to any religious or ethical system. Even the words “coexistence” and “tolerance” have taken new meaning. They don’t mean lovingly living alongside another’s way of life with which you disagree; rather, what people mean by tolerance and coexistence is actively supporting and promoting a position that is in some way foreign to you. I can be tolerant of abortion doctors, but that doesn’t mean I have to promote their cause. The culture of indifference would lead us to believe that all religions are ultimately the same, while ignoring the fact that many of their core beliefs are mutually contradictory. It doesn’t matter though, because the culture of indifference won’t ever get to the point of asking questions of the essential qualities of a thing like that. And that’s really the point of this article.

Our culture of indifference will latch on to the most convenient theory without asking the ultimate questions about where it leads. According to our society, morality, for example, is purely subjective—or at best—relative. Because we are indifferent we say what is right for you is fine and what is right for me is different, but still right for me. This is convenient because our indifference allows us to get rid of having that awkward conversation about someone actually being wrong! But what about murdering children (or murder in general), rape, molesting children, or even if a teacher simply started throwing glass shards at his students for no reason. Or what if a teacher at the end of each semester randomly assigns F’s to four students who would otherwise have good grades. Who would not be in their corner saying, “That’s unfair”? Are these things only bad because I think they are bad or my society thinks they are bad? Or are they bad because they are in fact unfair? What about serving people in need, sacrificing time to become friends with those who are lonely, giving to the poor, helping people get on their feet to be self-sufficient, giving up time to help someone move, doing anything that we would consider generous, kind, or compassionate, and so on? Are these things only good because our particular society accepts them? Or are they in fact good? Or, coming from a completely different angle, when I read Solzhenitsyn about arrests in Soviet Russia I can’t help but think how we shouldn’t merely assume that the secret police are right just because society accepts it. When the NKDV or the MVD or the KGB comes to arrest you, if you’ve done nothing to deserve an arrest, you can legitimately ask the question, “For what?” But it is the case that either you are right or the secret police is right. Both parties cannot be right.

It is clear, that when pushed to any kind of critical examination, there are things that all people find to be morally good or bad because they are simply good or bad in themselves. What people should say about morality is that there are some points that are still worthy of debate, but this does not mean we should throw away legitimate and objective right and wrong. Ultimately, it is about choosing the good and avoiding evil. That is something we definitely don’t want to lose, because choosing good and avoiding evil is the only way to a life of true happiness. In any event, none of what I just said about religion or morality matters in our culture of indifference because those questions don’t have to do with our carnal inclinations, with comfort or pleasure. So you will not find a great many people who get passionate about objective right and wrong or about pointing to real religious differences in the great monotheistic religions. The culture of indifference doesn’t really care about those things; the culture of indifference, as I’ve belabored, cares only about carnal things. In a way, because we’re so indifferent, all that is left to get passionate about is transient, immediate gratifications.

But there has to be a better way! We were made for more than just the boring “get paid and get laid” mentality. When we are courageous enough to ask, the deeper questions lead to a deeper understanding of what a human being is, what it means to do good, and the real existence of a thing called “greatness.” When I’m honest with myself, my heart doesn’t race when someone offers me a fancy hotel room with a buffet (though I like the idea and might take the offer). But I wasn’t meant only for this kind of happiness. I was meant to make a difference. My heart races when I think I’m going to make a meaningful difference. You were meant to make a difference. We let life slip by being indifferent while we’re missing a great adventure! You are the only ‘you’ that exists right now. You are the only ‘you’ who has ever existed and who will ever exist. You bring something to the universe that no one else has or ever will. You adventure is found in finding what you’re supposed to become and then being you the best you can! Your adventure will change the course of the universe in the way only you can and no one else can. Are you ready for an adventure like that?

There is so much good to do in the world right now. Perhaps that’s the only thing that is good about evil; it gives us ample opportunity to do even more good and change the world for the better. The bottom-line for this Love InSight Manifesto is that we want to help people know and choose what is truly good, learn how to love – even in the midst of evil, and use that love to change the world in a unique way that only they can. Good and evil are really out there and we have a role in the drama that is playing out as those two things battle in the world around us. Our faith assures us that good will win. The struggle will not be in vain. The Church constantly reminds us that the battle was won by God himself, the designer and creator of the universe. It will not be an earthly victory, perhaps, but it will be a definitive victory where truth and eternal happiness ultimately win. Indifference is making us sheep when we were meant to love with the intensity of a lion. We only have to look to Him and therein keep love in sight.