Daily Thought For July 11, 2014

One Reason People May Not Go To Confession

The vision of the Christian life set forth in these images corresponds better with experience. To present the Christian life primarily as a matter of duty and obligation leaves little room for understanding how the Holy Spirit acts. Ordinarily, Catholics do not stop practicing their faith in a grinding halt. They may still identify with "being Catholic," but their commitment wanes due to a few factors. Frustration is high on the list. The secular culture has conditioned us to look for returns on our investment. The perfect storm, laid out in the first chapter, leads us to count and measure our buying and spending. If we practice faith, we think, then God should deliver. This is often the culprit behind the decline in receiving the sacrament of Penance. People still believe in sin and that God forgives sin. They can see little reason for confessing their sins to receive this forgiveness. Why? Because early on, they discovered that when they do confess their sins, they still sin. We think confession should be like disinfectant spray that not only kills germs, but also keeps them away. We often think that going to confession should not only bring forgiveness of our sins, but also keep any further sinful inclination completely away. We reason that if we take the trouble to confess our sins and take responsibility for them, then we should get a measurable return. But the bad moods, cursing, unruly appetites, and myriad other faults all come knocking soon after we receive absolution, stand up, and leave the confessional. 

The perfect storm of industry, pleasure, and technology, when absorbed by our psyches, translates into high expectations and a utilitarian standard: If we can't see immediate returns, then we abandon the effort and move on. God's sacramental actions are reduced to being automatic moments one step removed from magic. God rarely chooses to act in automatic ways, however, because love, while often immediate, is rarely automatic. The Christian life includes living within the tension that while we may be forgiven and live justly, the "lingering effects" of the "old self" still leave disordered appetites. The gifts of the Holy Spirit strengthen believers to cling steadfastly in faith to Christ so that virtue may preserve them from giving in to disordered passions.
The tradition demonstrates that God works in the way of love. The ordinary way of love is by way of the gift. God's gift to man is the Holy Spirit, who is often referred to as the Person-Gift: 

In his intimate life, God "is love," the essential love shared by the three divine Persons: personal love is the Holy Spirit as the Spirit of the Father and Son. Therefore he "searches even the depths of God," as uncreated Love-Gift. It can be said that in the Holy Spirit the intimate life of the Triune God becomes totally gift, an exchange of mutual love between the divine Persons, and that through the Holy Spirit God exists in the mode of gift. It is the Holy Spirit who is the personal expression of this self-giving, of this being-love. He is Person-Love. He is Person-Gift.

Moral theology must recapture and convey the manner in which the Holy Spirit, who is Person-Gift, works through his seven gifts in the life of the believer. God does not simply set out a series of laws that we must obey, and then measure us with a stopwatch and chart from the sidelines. The Holy Spirit has often been too easily forgotten. Saint Gregory the Great, in his teaching on moral theology, repeatedly emphasizes that God acts in the world through the Holy Spirit. In turn, the Holy Spirit acts only in seven distinct ways: the seven gifts.  

from The Human Person: According to John Paul II by J. Brian Bransfield pp. 208-209

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