Joy of Confession

After much procrastination and struggle, I have finally finished my second and last reflection paper on St. Benedict’s Rule. I’m one step closer to finishing this course I never thought I’d finish! The joy of confession is what resonated in my life as I read the second half of the rule and reflected on my life. It’s hard to speak of confession without speaking honestly 😉 Here are my thoughts.

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In our current society, the topic of sin is rather unpopular. It is easy to water down our wrongdoings and to create excuses that seem to let us off the hook. Yet St. Benedict speaks of the gravity of sin and the need for continual repentance. Moreover, he speaks of the joy that comes from admitting our own faults and weaknesses and finding God’s utter forgiveness. My reflections on the Rule of St. Benedict have impressed upon me the need to make room in my life for confession and repentance.

            In my reflections of St. Benedict and de Waal’s writings and on my own life, I have been pondering the gravity of sin. St. Benedict “sees sin as deep, structural, and pervasive […] It must not be buried and denied, but exposed and lived within terms of repentance and new life” (de Waal, pg. 105). In an individualistic society, it is easy to see my life as my own and my shortcomings as something that affects only myself. Living in community has helped me to see that sin affects so much more than just myself. In my struggle with depression, I have found comfort in ways of coping that worried my housemates. It has been through community that I have come to see this as a struggle with sin and how sin affects not only my life, but also those who love me. When my struggles became known, I was faced with the gravity and depth of my sin.

            St. Benedict reminds us that “the gaze of God is always upon us” (de Waal, pg. 79). It was a powerful experience recently to be confronted by God Almighty with my sin and to stand before Him, knowing that He knows me as I really am with all my darkness. There is freedom and release in facing God and acknowledging my sin. Esther de Waal writes, “This act of acknowledging my own weakness and failure is not a morbid dwelling on sin but a turning in confidence to the God who sees a humble and contrite heart and is there to rescue me just as he has rescued his people in the past” (pg. 79). I was well aware of my own brokenness and stood before God with a contrite heart, but lacked the confidence in a God who forgives. I was plagued with the question of how God could ever forgive me. I remember sitting in the hospital cafeteria, listening to Steve Bell’s beautiful music and simple lyrics from Scripture: Who condemns you now? Neither them nor I. Go and sin no more, go and sin no more. I had this overwhelming sense of God’s love and forgiveness poured over me in a way that I don’t think I have ever experienced before. After this experience, I was struck not only by God’s grace in my life, but in the command to go and sin no more. I have since realized the powerful experience of having God gaze upon our lives and allowing Him to rescue us from our own brokenness and weakness.

            St. Benedict speaks of the need to let Scripture penetrate our hearts and frame our daily lives. Esther de Waal writes, “Daily reading of Scripture is a reminder of the faithfulness of God in his covenant relationship with his chosen people” (pg. 83). Since my powerful experience of God’s forgiveness, I have had a renewed amazement at how reading through Scripture through the lectionary continues to shape my day and my life. I am continually reminded to set my eyes on Christ, and frequently I am moved to confession as I see how I have wandered in my day from the ways of Christ.

            Regular confession is becoming a continual reminder of the cost of Christ’s work on the cross. St. Benedict writes, “God regards our purity of heart and tears of compunction, not our many words” (20.3). I remember a prayer that one of my street-involved friends prayed: “Lord, I have done many wrong things. Please accept me.” It was simple, but profound. The various forms of confessional prayer we use (from silence to written prayers) tend to highlight ways in which I fall short of the glory of God. As commented on earlier, sin is pervasive. Yet, this confessional time is also a poignant reminder of God’s grace and love as I reflect on how Christ took the penalty for my deep and pervasive sin.

            Confession is incomplete without repentance. de Waal writes, “truth demands amputation, the cutting out of the diseased part” (pg. 113). When we are faced with our own sin and acknowledge its gravity, we are faced with the need to change our behaviour and attitudes. Using de Waal’s analogy, sin will continue to spread and wreak havoc if not dealt with seriously. While I am not sure that I agree with some of Benedict’s seemingly harsh reprocussions for brothers who commit grave sins, I have been moved by his writings to take sin seriously and to allow God’s grace in my life to motivate me to changing so that I might live life to the fullest.

            In conclusion, regular confession is a vital component of the Christian life and is a gift to those who partake in it. Regular confession allows one to be face God as she really is and to be surrounded by His love and grace. True confession also moves one to change by the help of God so that they may live life to the fullest.

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