Healing the Soul
Fr. Ed Benioff - Added on Wednesday, July 02, 2014

Healing the Soul: Confession and Reconciliation


The Bible begins with a story, and it’s really the story of our lives. It’s not that we’ve ever spent our days wandering naked in a garden. But we’ve all known moments of peace and joy. And we’ve all known the sad experience of having those moments shattered by someone’s mistake — someone’s thoughtlessness — someone’s sin.


If we’re honest with ourselves, we’ll admit that, in many cases, we’ve been that sinner. We’ve been that thoughtless someone, and the mistakes have been our own.


Once we do that, we’re well on the way to healing the soul, and the remedy is as close to us as the nearest confessional.


It’s hard to be that honest, though, so we usually look around for someone to blame. Adam, the original sinner, tried to pin the blame on his wife and even on God (Genesis 3:12).


Still, God loved him and wanted to heal him. How do we know this? God asked him a series of leading questions, beginning with “Where are you?” (Genesis 3:9) and ending with “What is this you have done?” (Genesis 3:13).


God’s questions show his tender love. Let’s face it: The Almighty wasn’t looking for information. Adam and Eve could not have told him anything he didn’t already know.


God was leading them, gently, to make a confession and make things right. But they wouldn’t give him a straight answer. They responded instead with evasions and finger-pointing. What a tragedy! They gained nothing for their trouble. They could have regained everything with a simple confession.


We can be the same way. We, too, can refuse to take responsibility for our failings. We can blame our troubles entirely on others and portray ourselves as victims. We can even put the blame on God, as Adam did, for shuffling so many troublesome people into our lives.


But the blame game gets us nowhere and leaves us still wounded in our souls. The truth is that our own sins have made us unhappy. They have estranged us from God and from others. They’ve taken away our joy


God respects our freedom, and he will not save us from our sins unless we give him permission. Saint Augustine put the matter in stark terms: “God who created you without you, will not save you without you.”


How simple Jesus made it for us to seek healing. On the day he rose from the dead, he went to his Apostles, his first priests, and he said: “Receive the holy Spirit. Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them, and whose sins you retain are retained” (John 20:22-23; see also Matthew 18:18).


Our sins can make us feel helpless. They can overwhelm our decisions and drive our actions. They can seem to wield a mighty power. That is why Jesus gave his clergy divine power to overcome the sins of Christians. He gave them the “ministry of reconciliation” (2 Corinthians 5:18).


The priest who hears your confession will give you many good things. He will give you his attention while you unburden your soul. He may also give you some good advice for avoiding temptations in the future.


But the greatest gift he can give you is the greatest gift that can be given. It is the restoration to God’s good graces. It is the renewal of God’s life in your soul. That is the greatest healing we can know this side of heaven. In fact, it’s how heavenly life begins right now.


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