I went to confession the other day. I try to go once a month and for the most part I make that commitment. For some reason, it was a about 8 weeks since I darkened the confessional. I was leaving that afternoon for my hermitage day (spoken of in another blog post below) and Lent was fast approaching. Going to confession was awkward, lonely, fearful BUT intensely gratifying, freeing, and loving. Facing one’s sinful nature is NEVER easy; it is NEVER anything but a hassle, it is NEVER anything but embarassing but it is the only way I know how to be honest with myself in front of God. As an Opus Dei priest tells me when I see him occasionally for confession: you’ve got sin, I’ve got the grace for you to live … by the ministry of the Church. Of course, this priest is echoing the notion that I am not confessing my sinful self to him personally (I really don’t think he cares one-way-or-another truely in the best sense) but ipse Christus –to Christ Himself. I read the passage noted below from a rather famous spiritual treatise today and the last line from sacred Scripture struck me: If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself. Do you have a clear understanding of mortal sin? Have you gone to confession? How is your struggle with sin going in the face of grace?
Only mortal sin is completely opposed to God; this opposition is so great that it separates the soul from God. However, every sin, even venial sin, and every fault and imperfection, is in opposition to God’s infinite holiness. Therefore Jesus offers the perfection of his heavenly Father as a norm for our Christian life, and engages us in an intense struggle against sin in order to destroy in us its deepest roots and even its slightest traces.
This is what Jesus teaches in these few short words: deny yourself. We must deny self with all its imperfect habits and inclinations; and we must do so continually. Such a task is fatiguing and painful, but it is indispensable if we wish to attain sanctity. Jesus says: The gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few (Mt. ).
In echo of Jesus, all the masters of the spiritual life insist strongly on detachment and self-renunciation as the indispensable foundation of the spiritual life.
But first and foremost, it is Jesus, the divine Teacher, who has pointed out to us the absolute necessity of passing through this way: If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself (Mt. ).
Father Gabriel of St. Mary Magdalen, OCD