As we near the new liturgical year which begins with Advent, the mass readings focus on heaven, hell, sin and the final coming of the Lord. We also give our hearts and prayers to the Holy Souls in Purgatory to ease their suffering. In this period preceding God’s formation of the Holy Family, we feel a particular closeness to our deceased family members. It is a time to take a sobering look at our life both past and present.
In prayer with God, that ‘look’ into ourselves can stir up a desire that is difficult to articulate. You cannot put your finger on it, but you sense the need to work through incidents, attitudes, and behaviors in your past life. Someone mentions a general or life confession, and your heart stirs even though you feel clueless as to what it entails.
A life confession is a review of your relationship with God throughout your life, finding patterns of brokenness and sin, and its impact upon the relational dynamic with God and with other people. Because of this, there is no straight path, road map, or instruction book. It is not a listing of all sins ever committed. Rather, it is an unveiling of the deep roots those sins have grown. In the beginning, it may feel as if you are standing at the beginning of a path overcome by fog and can only see a few steps ahead.
Preparing in prayer with God not only uncovers patterns of known sin but also brings you to see your life from His perspective. God’s perspective of sin then becomes your understanding of it. From this, a major discovery occurs: the fog is not that sin of which we were already aware. It is the behavior that we did not know was sin, the suppressed wounds, the self-protective and self-reliant behaviors that fog up the eyes of the soul.
The Life Confession: A Discovery of God’s Mercy and Love gives a common example:
A mother receives the sacrament of reconciliation regularly with the same priest. This gives him some knowledge of her circumstances and spiritual growth. Through his wise guidance in the confessional, she has come to realize she is possessive over her children and in some ways even makes an idol out of them. In this, she begins to have a taste of the freedom experienced from true liberation.
She now decides to make a general confession of her life as the Holy Spirit has grown in her a desire for God. She spends two weeks praying daily in silence. God opens her eyes to several patterns of sin, including a tendency to be possessive about other relationships beyond just her children. In her general confession, the priest (guided by the Holy Spirit) is able to help her identify the fear at the root of this possessive behavior, its source and some of the other ways it manifests in her life. Through this, she now sees both the patterns of sin as well as specific sins she would never have known to confess without this preparation and general confession. She also knows she needs to develop her trust in God. She leaves this confession with the eyes of her soul wide open to the hope of mercy that will come as she prays on that which God has revealed to her. In her daily prayer, she can talk to God on a more personal, intimate level. He will continue to reveal to her knowledge of herself and of Him so she can grow in trust in Him. That growth begins to bring new vitality to all other relationships in her life, and love spreads.
Confession does more than heal the soul by absolution of sin. It is a personal experience of God’s profound desire for us. In spite of those sins, He has upheld and sustained us in love through every breath of our life. Now like the Father of the Prodigal Son, He embraces us in our conversion and our confession of these sins. Any relationship is a dynamic of exchange in love, and our sincere compunction is our return of His love to Him.
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