Friday, February 8, 2013
The formation of our conscience is the highest goal for a Christian. At times we all give into thinking that what we want, or what feels right for me, is conscience. But conscience is very complex and develops slowly during our lives. Two major players in the development of our soul are shame and guilt.
Shame begins with an “S,” as does the word Satan. This is a good place to start in understanding shame. Remember in Genesis when God says to Adam & Eve: “who told you that you were naked?” This shaming and blaming did not come from God but from the evil one. Shame can lead us to believe that we are basically bad. When we do that, we have re-created ourselves into something less than the way God made us. When we think that we are badly made, the devil has remade us in shame. Shame, blame, and put downs, are not from God. This is where lots of gossip, little lies, envy, and so on come from.
Guilt on the other hand—starting with a “G”—is from God. Only with guilt will we have a conscience. This is the development of the realization that we are created in goodness and are called to do good. When we are not causing and building good, we’re sinning.
Correcting someone saying they are bad as with shame is much different than correcting someone saying that they made a bad decision. Our identity of holiness will depend on this distinction. Shame comes from Satan. Guilt comes from God.
When we live in shame, we will never feel forgiven. We cannot take criticism because we are always condemning ourselves or someone else.
When we think everything we do is wrong, that is scrupulosity. When we think that we can do no wrong, we are a sociopath. Centered between these two extremes is the healthy place where we are called to live. It is here that we recognize that we truly are each other’s keeper, and are all called to create and build the common good.
The Lenten season is just around the corner calling us home to forgiveness. Saturday Confessions are being extended from 2:30 until 3:45 PM. On Friday evenings during Lent all the churches of the Archdiocese will have the light on to welcome us home. A priest will be available on Friday evenings to hear confessions from 6:30 until 8:00 PM. Lent is a season of preparation for our journey with Jesus to the great Easter feast. What a wonderful way to begin our preparation – one in reconciliation with God.
Friday, February 1, 2013
The late Blessed John Paul II once addressed the avenues available to us for personal holiness. He said we have confession, spiritual direction and therapy. He taught that all three of these are good and we need them at different times on life’s journey. But he went on to say that we should not confuse them.
Confession is the Sacrament of Reconciliation. This is to be used when grave sin is present. It is the teaching of the Church to make a confession at least annually when grave sin is not present.
Spiritual direction involves more time than does confession. Spiritual direction is for sorting out something personal that troubles, confuses, or stalls our trek toward holiness. Spiritual directors can be priests, deacons, or lay people, and many are specially trained for this. Usually when the confession line stops, it is because someone has used confession as spiritual direction. Most spiritual direction sessions are lengthy and, if with a priest, may conclude with confession.
Therapy can be wonderful when faced with life’s bigger challenges. Here at Risen Savior Parish, we have two licensed councilors on staff. Therapy is based on recognizing and changing behaviors that hurt us or our loved ones, or hinder our journey toward holiness. A number of lengthy sessions may be needed to help us work on and through our issues.
In sorting out the distinctions between confession, spiritual direction and therapy, it is also good for us to distinguish how we tick. We often confuse the differences between desire, temptation and sin. Desires are part of being human. Actually to lose our desires, or not have any, would mean we are dead. Desires can usher us right into temptation but, we have to remember that temptation is not a sin. Jesus was tempted and never sinned. Because temptations can be so strong, some interpret them as personal failure. If we are not tempted, chances are the devil probably has us right where he wants us. To be tempted means we are fully engaged in spiritual warfare. Jesus has already won the battle, but we are engaged in our struggles with our earthly distractions and attractions.
The hallmark of the Second Vatican Council is that holiness is not just for a few but for all. We are all called to sainthood and holiness by our baptism. We have many tools at our disposal to assist us on our journey of faith, we just have to remember that we are not alone.
We are taught that sin exists within us and around us. There are many kinds of sin: original sin, mortal sin, venial sin and systemic sin.
Original sin is the inherited human condition of being flawed. We are created by God; we are wonderfully made. Our flawed condition is from us turning from God in our origins.
Mortal sin is a grave, deadly turning from God. Our teachings tell us the Sacrament of Reconciliation is needed as soon as possible when we have gravely sinned. The church defines some grave sins: destruction of human life, willfully not worshiping God on Sunday, dismissing the church’s laws of marriage, etc.
Venial sin is the turning from God in minor ways. These sins are personal and when identified need an act of sorrow to God.
Systemic sin is likely least known by many but the most difficult sin with which we struggle. Systemic sins are sins beyond just one person. These are the sins that keep on giving: addictions, fraud, political systems, ignorance, etc. Systemic sins cause and perpetuate the poor, the marginalized; and those we have been taught to ignore or hate. Flawed systems can be abusive homes which can damage the system of marriage for future generations; they can be political systems.
Sometimes we excuse ourselves from responsible Christian living by identifying a flawed system, but we are called to literally change the face of the earth. Fixing systems that we did not break is our call. Failure to act on God’s grace which perpetuates the sins of our fathers is in itself a sin. Changing systems presumes the conversion and repentance within our self. Systemic sin can easily be the sin of omission.
Though we are surrounded and saturated in sin, the grace of God is all the more powerful. Christ has conquered sin and death. The Mass begins with us calling to mind our sins. It continues to call upon the Word of God to be aware of conversion. The institution narrative over the bread and wine asks for the forgiveness of sins. The Lamb takes away our sins. We as Catholics are not obsessed by sin but rather immersed in God’s extravagant love. We know that we cannot save ourselves.
In this Year of Faith commemorating 50 years since the Second Vatican Council, reconciliation is a huge part of our renewal. There is an invitation to come home. You will see billboards stating that the light is on for you. Each Friday evening from 6:30 to 8:00 in all parishes of the Archdiocese of Santa Fe, confessors are available to welcome folks home. Here at Risen Savior Parish our Saturday confessions will also be heard from 2:30 until 3:45 PM.
There is a bumper sticker that says: God Is Not Through With Me Yet. Our journey of redemption and forgiveness is what we sinners celebrate.