Have you found yourself still feeling a sense of remorse even after you have been to confession and completed your penance? It’s frustrating when your mind wages a war within yourself for committing a particular sin. Some of the questions that you have in your mind may sound familiar.
Is it possible that my confession wasn’t sincere enough? Or maybe I can’t stop replaying in my mind a sin that I’m still have feelings of guilt harboring in my soul. Maybe it’s a specific sin that I’ve committed before like a habitual sin and I can’t stop the frustration it causes me that I continue to make the same mistakes. Perhaps I didn’t do the best job with my penance.
You are aware your sins are forgiven and the priest is acting in persona Christi. Even though you accept this, you’ve talked yourself into thinking that the penance seems pale by comparison to the sacrifice Jesus made. Jesus paid the ultimate price for our sins. So is this doubt here in Jesus’ ability to forgive our terrible sins? I think what happens in this instance is that we are making assumptions that God is in agreement with our feelings of anguish. If these thoughts are what is causing you grief, please stop right now.
What you have to realize is that much of this distress is about your own personal feelings and not about the commitment made to us by Jesus. We may know we don’t deserve forgiveness based on our own merits; but the reality is, Jesus’ merits are more than sufficient to get us closer to Him and gain his forgiveness. (Saint Josemaria)
Taking sins to Jesus requires us to repent and to make a commitment to sin no more. (John 8: 11)
The answer to this dilemma is not a difficult one. We need to focus each day in spite of it being a struggle to be free from sin, and make a commitment to being as holy as we can be. Think of it almost like you are in a race to grow in holiness. It takes perseverance and commitment and prayer. When and if you fail, you have reach inside yourself and just keep trying.
If we acknowledge our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from every wrongdoing and unrighteousness. (John 1:9-10)
If we say “we have not sinned” we make him a liar and his word is not in us.
Forgiveness and deliverance from sin through Christ are assured through acknowledgement of them and penance. This is God’s promise of truth.
Saint Josemaria Escrivá was a Catholic priest from Spain who initiated Opus Dei, an organization of lay people and priests dedicated to teaching that everyone is called to holiness from God and that ordinary life can result in sanctity. In his book entitled The Way he states,
“Stop going over past sins in your mind. It’s easy to replay the sins and look at them with astonishment. Besides overwhelming you and crushing you with the weight; this recollection may be an occasion for temptation and sin in the future.”
Life is a day-to-day struggle. We know that grace is the kindness that God shows people because He loves them. It is the grace we are given at Baptism which will help prepare us for future Sacraments especially the Sacrament of Reconciliation where we acknowledge our sins and seek repentance and then be prepared to move on and be free of condemnation.
In the words of St. Josemaria Escrivá, “when we fail and sin again, remember today’s defeat is training us for the final victory!”
Copyright 2017 Catherine Mendenhall-Baugh