If we say, “We are without sin,” we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we acknowledge our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive our sins and cleanse us from every wrongdoing. 1 John 1:8-9 (NABRE)
This past Saturday, I confessed my sins to a priest. I think it was my first confession since my actual First Confession approximately thirty years ago. I won’t share the salacious details of my sins. Some of you can guess what they might be. Some of you were there for them. Good luck guessing because I’m not sharing here. That’s between myself, the priest, and God.
At one level, I was excited about confession and reconciliation. An opportunity to start with a clean slate? Especially following an often reckless, wayward, and stupid youth? Sign me up! I looked forward to the prospect laying down the burden of my past transgressions and moving on with my spiritual life. That’s especially true when many of the more egregious sins occurred years ago. I’m not perfect, but I’ve grown up a fair amount since I did many of these things. At one level, it made preparing confession easier. I was in many ways preparing to confess the sins of someone who isn’t really me any more. I almost felt detached.
At another level, I dreaded it. I could rationalize many of my sins as the acts of a foolish, wild youth. I may not do many of those things anymore (or at least I try not to do them). Why would I want to rehash the past if I’m not that person anymore? Also, how does one begin to account for the mistakes of thirty years? Where does one begin? Seriously, do I have to catalog all of it? Stretching back every time I messed up since I was in fourth grade? How many hours will this take? I’d have enough problems with college and law school.
Finally, I feared the judgment of the priest. How would he react? After hearing my confessions, will he think I’m a complete jerk and hold my sins against me from this point forward? The head of my parish reassured my adult confirmation class he didn’t remember anyone’s specific sins confessed to him during confession. He explained if God forgives sins, why would he (or other priests) waste any time holding onto them? Still, priests are humans, and humans don’t necessarily let go of what they hear so easily. I dreaded my confessor’s judgment, even if I believed the Almighty would forgive me.
Saturday was the day. We had an hour to ninety minutes during which to pull the trigger. St. Michael’s brought in priests from the greater Houston area to hear confession. I wasn’t the first person in our group to go. I wasn’t the last one to go either. I went when it was my time. I tried to own my business. The process took minutes, not hours. The priest was kind and wonderful. I said my Act of Contrition. I made my penance. I didn’t have a moment of revelation, but I felt fantastic. And it was over.
Of the various sins/categories of sins I confessed, I had the most problems admitting to one sin in particular. I almost choked on the words. I’m not sure why. Perhaps because it was something of a gateway sin that made it easier for me to transgress in other ways? At any rate, I enjoyed letting go of that one the most.