Bad Confessions Can DAmn Us
learn the many ways the devil deceives us in confession
God’s Healing Love — Lost for So Many
“Bad confessions damn the majority of Christians.”
— St. Teresa of Avila, Doctor of the Church
Confession is a marvel of God’s healing love for us. God doesn’t just forgive us in this wonderful sacrament. He sends us much help–actual grace–to assist us in our lives as well.
Some of the many ways confession helps us:
- forgives us of our sins
- restores us to a state of grace
- helps us remove sin (stop habitual sin)
- promotes growth in sorrow/hatred for sin
- increases our knowledge of our sins
- humbles us
- heals our troubled conscience
- brings us to The Way of Peace
- make us saints
- helps us to grow in love and to more perfectly love God
These are only some of the wonderful effects of Confession. But horribly most never benefit from such great gifts from this sacrament, because we confess so poorly.
Some of us partake in this sacrament so dreadfully, it is actually sacrilegious, meriting us punishment, not grace. Yet, confession was designed to bring us towards Life, not death.
God’s helping and forgiving mercy only pours into souls, who are properly disposed to receive His grace, in this most merciful sacrament. The saints flocked to the sacrament of reconciliation, as it is the quickest/easiest way to eradicate sin and grow in holiness,.we need to too.
“My children, we cannot comprehend the goodness of God towards us in instituting this great Sacrament of Penance…it is a beautiful thought, my children, that we have a Sacrament which heals the wounds of our soul! But we must receive it with good dispositions. Otherwise [from our poor confessions] we make new wounds upon the old ones.”
–St. John Vianney
In this article, I discuss these nine distinct ways our confessions fail:
- Don’t believe God can or will forgive such a horrible sin
- Sorry for the wrong reason
- Confess wanting to remove our feeling of guilt
- Not having an actual resolve to stop the sin
- Lack love
- Covering our sins
- Embarrassed to confess
- Presume forgiveness
- Don’t understand the faith
Below I go into great detail about how most easily commit these and what we can do avoid these deadly traps, so our confessions can obtain the fantastic grace God has waiting for us.
We don’t want to reject forgiving mercy or any of the grace (help) that is given to us through this magnificent sacrament, since it is meant to save us. Therefore, let’s learn how to receive great blessings from confession and allow God to send us grace so we can grow into a saving faith and even perfection.
Two Ways The Devil Deceives Us in Confession
All nine ways that the devil ruins our confessions build off of each other and are really part of two main categories:
- Disbelief in God’s Forgiveness
- Presumption of Forgiveness (the most common form of destruction)
Disbelief in God’s Forgiveness: Sometimes the evil one convinces us our sins are too great for God to forgive, which is an utter rejection of mercy. The whole reason Christ died was to bring us forgiveness of our sins. We are all miserable sinners needing forgiveness. Sure some sins are greater than others, but if we have a truly humble contrite (sorrowful) heart, God doesn’t look at the sin, but at the sorrow we have–our hatred of sin/fear of the Lord/love for Him–and forgives us because of our sorrow for offending Him.
Doubting God’s forgiveness–doubting Jesus’ unfathomable mercy–for those with a truly “contrite, humbled heart“ (Psalm 51:19), is tragic, but this occurs only for a few people today. This problem was mostly only an issue for those during the beginning of Christianity, when people were horrified to sin against God, as we should be, but they didn’t fully understand mercy.
But we should know, not all of us, who doubt in God’s forgiveness, even have true contrition (true sorrow) for our sins, since we might have a hidden liking for our offence or we are sorry for sinning but it is for the wrong reasons (like personal guilt, not for offending God). So even though we might seem very remorseful, a lot of times, as I explain later, that remorse is not a sorrow which can obtain forgiving or helping mercy.
Presumption of Forgiveness: Today, people might have a hard time forgiving us and from our pride, we might have a hard time forgiving ourselves for our sins, but few think God won’t forgive us.
Disbelief in God’s mercy isn’t what destroys most confessions today. Most die (go to Hell) from presumption of salvation, because we think God forgives us unconditionally if we just participate in the sacrament of reconciliation or if we “say” we are sorry. But that just isn’t true.
We are forgiven based on the contrition (sorrow) in our hearts for our sins. If our sorrow is little or false, we might not even receive helping grace from the sacrament, never mind forgiveness.
But if we are presuming we are forgiven just because we show up in confession or “say” sorry or even if we cry tears, then we presume we are in the state of grace when we leave, which is a very deadly notion…which keeps us from seeking Mercy to grow into a saving faith.
We can’t read our souls. Therefore, we can’t tell if our contrition is in fact TRUE. Only God can do that.
We don’t know if our contrition is slight, great, real or a lie–we don’t know if our contrition is enough to accept God’s mercy (help or forgiveness) or if we are still rejecting it.
Therefore, we can’t presume we have been forgiven; we can only hope for it, since it is only if we have a truly humble contrite heart for every sin we have ever committed that we can accept saving forgiveness (move us into a state of grace). A heart that would rather suffer anything, even death than offend God by the slightest sin is what we need to obtain. For most, this kind of sorrow takes a very long time to mature into. But unitl we do, we are still rejecting forgiving mercy from having a liking for our sins. To learn more please read, “What is True Sorrow.”
“[Only] those who have grown to maturity [into a saving faith] in the grace of God will find the joy of adopted children in the kingdom of heaven; those who have not grown to maturity [haven’t reached a saving faith] will become God’s enemies and, even though they were once his children [from baptism], they will be punished according to their deeds for all eternity.”
–St. Andrew Kim Taegon
But wonderfully, God is waiting to forgive us in the sacrament of reconciliation, we just need to grow in faith to obtain a truly humble contrite heart to receive it, since “a contrite spirit; a contrite, humbled heart, O God, you will not scorn” (Psalm 51:19) and this wonderful sacrament will give us the grace we need to obtain a mature faith, if we humbly approach it. To learn more please read, “How Can I Make a Good Confession” and “How to Pray Humbly.”
But if we presume on God’s forgiveness, most of the time, what happens is we wind up confessing with all sorts of proof of our great lack of hatred for our sins, as described in the eight ways our confessions damn us which are addressed below.
“A person who holds the sword of confession and hopes in God’s mercy for the remittance and cleansing of sin must beware not to let it fall by presuming on God’s forgiveness [we can’t read our souls].”
–Jesus to St. Bridget of Sweden
How Do We Receive Forgiveness and Grace?
To receive some grace (help) from God in confession, we must have some kind sorrow for offending God as explained in the article “What is True Sorrow.” But to be forgiven of one sin, we need true imperfect or perfect contrition during confession for that sins. And if we want to be forgiven of every sins, that sorrow must grow and extend to every sin we have ever committed, which is quite hard to obtain–since we reject so much grace (help) from God that we never grow in contrition to obtain that kind of faith. This is because we have such a great inclination towards sin and little desire to amend. To learn more please read, “Can I Be Forgiven of Some Sins but Not All Sins.”
Actually, few have any kind of sorrow at all when we go to confession. Tragic!…which is what makes our confessions sacrilegious.
“Very many approach confession who show little or no contrition.”
–St. Robert Bellarmine, Doctor of the Church
Yes, if we attend confession have no real sorrow, our confessions send us punishment…not helping grace or forgiving mercy. Therefore, to begin to receive some grace (help or forgiveness) from confession, we need to grow in faith to where we have some fear of the Lord: some amount of imperfect or perfect contrition–some fear of sinning, which is what is needed for our sorrow to be real (able to receive grace). To learn more please read, “What is Fear of the Lord.”
Of course, we won’t be forgiven if that fear of the Lord, isn’t true imperfect (fear of punishment) or perfect contrition (losing God’s love and not loving Him). Please understand we might have some sorry for sinning because we offended God, whom we desire to love and because we fear God punishments for our unrepented sin, but that doesn’t mean our sorrow is great enough for it to accept forgiveness.
For our sins to be forgiven in the sacrament of reconciliation our imperfect or perfect contrition can’t be slight. It needs to come from a sorrow so great we would rather “suffer death than sin” as the Baltimore Catechism and the saints teach.
Fear of the Lord: FEAR OF SINNING AGAINST GOD whom we should be loving with our whole hearts because we can't bear offending Him (perfect contrition) or fear of sinning against God from having a fear of receiving God's punishment from our unrepentant, unchanged sins (imperfect contrition).
Also, this hatred for our sins, can’t be only for mortal sins, that would be an abomination of love. We can’t be complacent to offend God with even the smallest of sin if our contrition is going to ever become true.
“It is not enough, my soul, to have a firm resolve to suffer death [have true sorrow/true love for God] rather than consent to any grave sin. It is necessary to have a like [same] resolution to venial sin.”
–St. Anthony Mary Claret
We must love God above ALL of our sins and not want to offend Him at all if we want to be forgiven. And most of us are far from having this kind of contrition. This is why we need the sacrament of reconciliation…to help us grow in sorrow for the forgiveness of our sins.
Yes, from a lack of fear of the Lord, most think lightly of sinning–since we lack a horror for sin–but yet, we presume we are being forgiven as long as we go to confession. This must change if we wish to be saved. Please don’t be deceived!
From believing the lie–that only by going to confession we are forgiven–we think forgiveness is easy to obtain. Then from not fearing that we can lose salvation, we neglected our souls and don’t run to God throughout our life for grace to grow in faith and contrition so to gain a truly humble contrite of heart–a heart that can accept God’s forgiveness so to Live.
Now, we live lukewarm lives.
“A lukewarm soul [one who deceives himself that he is faithful] will [perhaps] go to Confession regularly, and even quite frequently… But what kind of Confessions are they? …no desire to correct faults, or, at the least, a desire so feeble and so small that the slightest difficulty will put a stop to it altogether.
The Confessions of such a person are merely repetitions of old ones…How many seem to be good Christians in the eyes of the world who are really tepid [lukewarm] souls in the eyes of God [and on their way to eternal doom]?”
–St. John Vianney, The Sermons of the Cure’d Ars, The Dreadful State of the Lukewarm Soul
Please understand, the priest can say we are forgiven and we can want forgiveness, but if our souls unknowingly refuses mercy, from lacking true contrition (sorrow), we reject it. To learn more please read, “What is True Sorrow.”
The Sacrament of Reconciliation is Supposed to Help Us Grow In Contrition
Like I said, it is the lack of sorrow that reduces our ability to receive mercy (forgiving or helping grace) from confession, since the greater sorrow we have the greater grace we can receive.
We aren’t born with this kind of true sorrow either; it is a gift of grace given to us from God, that most grow into over time.
To acquire this kind of sorrow, we are supposed to spend our lives converting in our faith, using the sacrament of reconciliation to come to truly hate our sinful-self so to embrace God’s saving love. But for most, we don’t even know our sorrow is quite insincere and needs much mercy to repair. From being deceived, many will swear our contrition is true, but God knows it is far from it.
“Your sorrow, after your falls…is it really sorrow or [from your pride] is it the frustration of seeing yourself so small and weak [when from your pride you want to be strong]? How far you are from Jesus if you are not humble.”
–St. Josemaria Escriva
The sacrament of reconciliation is supposed to help us crush our pride so we can grow in humility and contrition for the salvation of our souls. But oh, how hard it is to truly admit one’s guilt when we are supposed to be such good people. Oh, how hard is it to accept our weakness and be actually sorry for offending God, instead of consumed with self-love from being embarrassed over our sinfulness.
But God want to, turn to Him and leave all that causes our confessions to be bad because “all should come to [true] repentance” (2 Peter 3:9) and to do that, we need GREAT GRACE. Therefore, we should seek God through prayer and the sacraments–especially confession–to grow in our sorrow, since this sacrament was designed by God to send much grace (help) increase our hatred for sin so it can become true: so great we would rather suffer, even to the point of shedding blood, rather than offend Our Lord.
“In your struggle against [stopping] sin you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding blood.” (Hebrews 12:4)
Why Our Confessions Fail
The following are the main reasons our Confessions are failing (bad):
- Don’t believe God can or will forgive such a horrible sin – How can we not know God desires to forgive us of all of our sins? God has shown us His unfathomable love and mercy for us great sinners–how He yearns to have us in Heaven so greatly–that even though we are horrible sinners constantly offending Him, He came to earth, showed us The Way that we must travel to obtain Heaven and Died for our sins so if we accept His saving grace our sins can be forgiven.
Yes, He did this all to forgiveness of our sins, show us The Way (what we need to do to obtain Heaven) and if we obey and grow in faith, from His grace gives us true contrition for our sins, so that forgiveness we received from baptism with be restored and/or remain in our souls, so we can embrace His saving forgiving mercy upon our death and Live.
Not believing that God will forgive us of any sin, if we are truly sorry for it, rejects the mercy He died to give us and is a sacrilege.
- Sorry for the wrong reason – Much of the time we are sorry for sinning, but it isn’t “godly sorrow [which] produces a salutary repentance without regret, but [rather it is] worldly sorrow [which] produces death.” (2 Corinthians 7:10). To the surprise of many, we say we are sorry, but our sorrow isn’t for having offended God but rather for some other reason. Sometimes we are sorrow for hurting someone else, or for getting caught, or for being embarrassed, or for not liking how broken we are, etc..it’s from personal guilt; but not from guilt for OFFENDING GOD.
God is who we offend the most with every sin and much of the time we forget all together we are offending Him.
Also, some seem to have a dislike for our sin, but it isn’t contrition for offending God. This dislike for our sin is from not liking how weak we are, which is from our pride, as we seek self-pity from our tears. Those with this condition want to stop sinning, not to stop offending God, but to become a better person, since from our low-self esteem (pride) we can’t stand seeing ourselves as having faults (not being good). Some with this problem can’t forgive ourselves for what we have done, not because we are horrified we have offended (and forgot about His mercy), but because we can’t believe we have done what we did…it is from our pride (not accepting who we are–a sinner) why we can’t forgive ourselves.
Oh, if we only knew how many sins we commit, the prideful soul would not be able to stand themselves. To learn how to change and accept reality please read, “How to Can I Find Happiness.” Yes, we are wrethced sinners beyond our understanding; we must humbly accept this. But admitting we are great sinners is too crushing for those of much pride as we suffer from covering our sins too…Then to improve how we feel about ourselves, we seek to confess our sins thinking it is good to do. Oh, when we suffer this condition, we greatly lack humility and can’t accept our nothingness (unfathomable sinfulness). Such prideful souls can never obtain true contrition, unless we change, since we are focused on ourselves and not God and we are mostly sorry we have sinned because it has hurt our pride.
Yes, sadly much of the time, we have forgotten it is God, who we have offend the most, who we should be greatly sorry for offending.
- Confess wanting to remove our feeling of guilt — some of us use confession as a tool to remove our feeling of guilt, since by nature we feel better after we confess what we have done wrong. But that isn’t the purpose of confessing our sins.
Does confession remove what we have done to God and others? No. We still have sinned. Does confession remove our temporal consequences for our sins? No. We still must atone for our sins. What confession does is provide us with grace–help and forgiveness–(if we can receive it) so we can come to truly love God and so we won’t suffer death from our sins.
When we feel guilty for sinning, that is a blessing to help move us to repent and never want to commit the sin again.
But some of us, from not wanting that guilt, seek out a confessor that will excuse us of our sins–make light of them or tell us of our goodness or perhaps tell us how “we are forgiven…stop crying, all is good” or “don’t be so hard on yourself…God doesn’t want you perfect”–all to try to make ourselves feel better. If we do this, we are like the those I spoke about above, who, from our pride, hate reality and just want to feel like we aren’t a wretched sinner.
Aren’t we supposed to have a horror for sin, great regret for offending God and want to stop? If we have some actual contrition for offending God, can’t be hard enough on ourselves (of course not to have despair since Mercy loves/died for the truly contrite heart) but we must cry out in hatred for offending God the Almighty! We should want to increase our horror for transgressing against God. Confession is supposed to help us gain true contrition, not strip us of it…make light of our sinfulness, making us feel like it is OK that we have offend Our Creator; when it isn’t. Oh, these poor deceived souls (confessors), who do this, are actually stripping us of our contrition. Beware!
How many times has God told us to become “perfect holy” (1 Thessalonians 5:23)? He doesn’t call us to remain as sinners but to stop offending Him–and strive to become perfect saints. Confession is where we are supposed to ACCUSE ourselves of our misery, not be gentle to ourselves (to try to make ourselves sound not so bad), but state our miserable offences against God; this is how we gain humility…confession isn’t a pep talk–to try to boost our blinding pride to bring us false peace, but to bring us the humility we need to be saved.
We are miserable sinners, who need forgiveness. If we suffer from low self-esteem or depression over knowing our sinfulness, then please read, “How Can I Find Happiness” Being in peace with who we are isn’t found by covering our sins or having people tell us we are still good; it is found by admitting them, having great sorrow for them…and accepting who we are (sinners in need of a Savior). It is our pride that shatters our peace.
When someone tries to remove our sadness over our sins, that isn’t bringing us peace but death (Hell). Having a fear of sinning/sadness over our sins isn’t bad scruples either but a gift from God. To learn more please read, “How Can I Overcome My Scruples.” For most people there is nothing to overcome…we just need to learn how to use God’s gift–fear of sin–correctly to become the saints God has called us to be.
“The gift of fear of the Lord is definitely the basis [from the Holy Spirit]. It is fear of sin.”–Pope St. John Paul II
But most of us can’t get there since, from misguided love, the deceived actually try to remove our Fear of the Lord (fear of sin)–contrition–thinking having a fear of sinning or sadness over our sins, is bad or a lack of peace, but that isn’t true. Such fear is needed to have Eternal Life. Please don’t be deceived. To learn more please read, “What is Misguided Love.”
- Not having an actual resolve to stop the sin – Many approach confession stating we are sorry for sinning but our declaration of sorry is with our words alone. We have either very little or no desire to amend our sins…our resolve to stop sinning is so little or not existent at all; we just confess, leave the sacrament and put forth little or no thought or effort into changing our life to see we don’t recommit the sin…as our constant habitual sins prove.
We must “produce good fruit [gain virtues/lose sin] as evidence of your repentance” (Matthew 3:8). If we go to confession with no honest working desire/effort to stop sinning, our confessions are lies and sacrilegious. That makes us resolved to sins, which is deadly…and proves we have no contrition at all. Which is sadly where most of our confessions are today. Please read the home page article to learn more, “Why Very Few Christians Are Saved” as St. Augustine teaches.
- Covering our sins – Confession is supposed to teach us of our sinfulness when we humbly examine our conscience. But if we look into our souls not really wanting to see–justifying any sin as not so bad, blame others for our sins or not even admitting they are sins, our confessions are made from hearts that love sin so greatly, we won’t even admit them to ourselves, never mind to God who already knows them.
We must humbly/properly examining our conscience, and go to God to soften our hearts through prayer, reading the Catechism and the Word, alone with books by the saints, etc. to learn God’s Law (which is already in our hearts even if we don’t have the blessing of owning a Bible or Catechism)…so our eyes can see and we can change. To learn more please read, “How Can I See My Sins.”
“Those who conceal their sins do not prosper, but those who confess and forsake them obtain mercy” (Proverbs 28:13)
- Lack Love — We can’t be forgiven of a single sin if we lack love for God. Basically all of these reasons our confession fail which are listed are the ways we prove we lack love for God and have a love for ourselves or our sin. If we seek to be forgiven of all of our sins, so to be moved into a state of grace, we must have grown in our faith to have gained true love for God and true hatred for each and every sin. If we lack true hatred for any sin, that sin sin’t forgiven. To learn more please read, “Can I Be Forgiven of One Sin But Not All of Them.”
- Embarrassed to confess — Many of us know the need to confess our sins if we want to be forgiven, but many aren’t willing to state our sin truly as it is. We want so much to be good and to be seen as good, that we won’t humbly allow ourselves to tell another our sins and admit our misery. Yet God tells us to “confess your sins to one another…that you may be healed” (James 5:16).
Oh, we don’t want to accuse ourselves of our sins to be healed; we might sorta say our sins to where we don’t sound so bad….perhaps we make a sin appear less severe or less frequent than it is or we seek to confess to a different priest, so he won’t know our real sinfulness or even omit the sin altogether. We do all of this to protect our pride (this is very common-beware) since we can’t bear to be known as the sinner we are. But it is our pride that kills and leaves us blind. Follow the saints if we want to obtain Heaven…never hide our guilt, clearly admit it especially if it is humiliating.
- Presume forgiveness – If we really understood that WE CAN’T READ OUR SOULS, we would never presume we have been forgiven simply for showing up in confession; we would leave that judgement to God, since we don’t know if the contrition in our hearts is true (can accept forgiveness) or not.
“If you ask me what [true] repentance is, I tell you that it is an anguish of the soul, and a detestation for past sin, and a firm resolve never to sin again…No my friends, you must not rely on tears alone. They are often deceiving, and many persons weep in the confessional and fall back into the same sin at the first opportunity…Christians who has sinned and wishes to obtain pardon, must be so minded that he would rather suffer the most cruel tortures than fall back into the sin which he has just confessed.”
–St. John Vianney
Sadly, many are partaking in the sacrament, presuming we are forgiven, but we are far from having the degree of sorrow needed to not reject God. But since we have been deceived, we never seek God to help us increase our faith/hatred for sin–to grow in love for God, maturity in the faith, so our sorrow can one day be true. This sacrament that is meant to lead us to Life, is leading us to death as we willfully walk into confession presuming we are forgiven for just showing up, and then we commit the bounds of aforementioned problems with the confessing of our sins and reject God’s grace leading us to death, not Life. Tragic!
If we truly believed we needed a sincere humble contrite heart–a heart that is willing to be tortured rather than offend God again–in order to be forgiven, we would never pridefully relent to the poisoning of our confessions the way we do. To learn more please read, “How to Make a Good Confession.”
- Don’t understand the faith – As we can see, since we live in the time of great darkness, the reason our confessions are failing boils down to us NOT UNDERSTANDING THE FAITH. We need to re-learn it and re-teach it so those God wants to save through this sacrament can have a fighting chance.
“One day her [St. Margaret of Cortona’s] [confused] confessor said to her, ‘Margaret, cease to weep; for God has pardoned thee.’ But hear what the penitent sinner answered: ‘Ah, Father, how can I think of no longer bewailing my sins, while I remember that they afflicted my dear Redeemer during the whole of his life?’” [St. Alphonsus goes on to say,] “My beloved Jesus, I also must have afflicted Thee during thy life by my sins. St. Margret knew how to bewail her sins and to love Thee; but when shall I begin really to bewail mine, when shall I begin really to love Thee?”
When the priest says, “Go in peace, your sins have been forgiven” that means: don’t worry about your sins damning you, God has forgiven you, (if you are truly sorry) and God will help you obtain true contrition if you are not and assist you to never commit the sin again, if we seek His mercy in this sacrament. Believe! That is the peace God is offering us…not complacency with offending God…trying to convince ourselves our sins are nothing to fear. They offend God and can kill us. Fear sin!
“I tell you seriously that ignorance of priests is more greatly to be feared than sin, because ignorance dishonors and degrades the entire priesthood [and kills many souls]”
–St. Francis de Sales
Oh, we must be careful who we follow and pray for those who misguide us.
Yes, even though confessing our sins can cause us to feel better…hopefully it’s from knowing how much God loves us, despite our sinfulness…how He is still willing to help and forgive us, regardless of our offences, if we sincerely seek His mercy. We should never look for someone to placate us. We should be seeking confession to apologize to God (repent) for offending Him and seeking His help to heal us so we won’t offend Him again. We are guilty…we offended GOD!
How many people have been deceived into thinking we shouldn’t still feel guilty for sinning after confession? Oh, how we have been deceived!
“He who says that he has repented of a sin ought not only to be pricked with compunction [not only have guilt] for his sin, but also to bring forth fruits worthy of repentance [modify his life to become more like Christ]”
–St. Basil the Great
The saints didn’t remove feeling guilty from their conscience; they know they offended their Lord and are horribly sorry for it. They use that guilt to grow into even greater guilt so to move them to truly hate their sins/truly love for God so they can have true contrition for their sins. We need to find a confessor that can help do this for us.
Please remember: Guilt = Contrition. No guilt, no contrition. When we say, “God removes our guilt through confession.” That means we are no longer guilty of death because of that sin. Confession shouldn’t remove our feeling of guilt. We have offended God. If we don’t still feel horribly sorry for our offences against God after confession, then there is something to be very concerned about. Feeling guilty is good; let it move us to never committing our sin again and a life of penance, so we can truly love God. To learn more please read, “What is Penance.”
Therefore, we must humbly accept reality, not try to run from it. But praise God for forgiving us despite our misery and may we use His grace to never sin again.
“After Confession, we must plant a thorn in our heart, and never lose sight of our sins [so we may keep contrition and never commit it again].”
–St. John Vianney
“[Failing penitents] are ashamed to confess their sins plainly, lest their confessor should think less of them.”
–St. John of the Cross
All of the above are the ways we lack true sorrow for our sins and reject the most magnificent gift of Eternal Life Jesus died to give us. They are how our PRIDE kills our confessions.
“A soul does not benefit as it should from the sacrament of confession if it is not humble. Pride keeps it in darkness. The soul neither knows how, nor is it willing, to probe with precision the depths of its own misery. It puts on a mask and avoids everything that might bring it recovery.”
What Do the Saints Say?
To help us understand how bad confessions damn us, St. Alphonsus gives this example of how a very religious, pious child was damned, which was part of his sermon told to children in catechism, as even children have the right to know the truth so they can seek a saving faith.
Please understand as we read this, we might have a hard believing this but that it is just because we lack the grace to understand. But St. Alphonsus isn’t lying. Hopefully, after we read the commentary God will allow us to understand how this is most certainly true, fair and just:
“Death is certain. Whoever is born into this world is born condemned to death. Sooner or later, young or old each one must die.
My dear children, it is certain that you all must die. We know not whether you will be rich or poor, whether you will die in bed or elsewhere, whether you will die old or young; it may be that you will die before having reached the age of fifteen or twenty;…[Yet, you will go forth] into eternity, into paradise or into hell, to rejoice forever with God… or to burn forever [with the damned]…
Listen to this example: A boy used often to go to confession; and every one took him to be a saint. One night he had a hemorrhage, and he was found dead. His parents went at once to his confessor, and crying begged him to recommend him to God; and he said to them: “Rejoice; your son, I know, was a little angel; God wished to take him from this world, and he must now be in heaven; should he, however, be still in purgatory, I will go to say Mass for him.” He put on his vestments to go to the altar; but before leaving the sacristy, he saw himself in the presence of a frightful spectre, whom he asked in the name of God who he was. The phantom answered that he was the soul of him that had just died. Oh! is it you? exclaimed the priest; if you are in need of prayers, I am just going to say Mass for you. Alas! Mass! I am damned, I am in hell! And why? “Hear,” said the soul: “I had never yet committed a mortal sin [to my understanding]; but last night a bad thought came to my mind; I gave consent to it, and God made me die at once, and condemned me to hell as I have deserved to be.”
Now, my dear children, tell me: if you were to die now, what would be your death? Where would you go? Take courage, then! Profit by this mission and make the resolution to sanctify yourselves, never to commit those shameful sins, nevermore to utter curses, blasphemies, bad words, never to take what does not belong to you, never to bear hatred against your neighbor, etc. Reflect well on this: would you like to die as the unfortunate boy died, whose end you have heard was so terrible?
As for the past, for the sins that you have committed, what are you to do not? Should you despair? No; God does not wish you to despair; He wishes that you should ask his pardon [with true sorrow], because he wishes to pardon you. Now kneel down and amid tears and sighs ask pardon of God [and from this day seek to sin no more]…”
After reading this example of that poor soul, who probably he and everyone thought was so holy and surely saved, who was in fact is banished to an eternity in Hell, we might think, “oh, how unjust, how cruel…this can’t be true.”
I tell you, St. Alphonsus isn’t lying….we might not have the grace to understand why this is so, but this is the truth. This is just one of many examples St. Alphonsus provides of souls that are no more because they didn’t live the true faith.
St. Alphonsus tells this story so we can stop living proud, blind lives thinking we are surely holy enough, when we are far from having a faith that can accept God’s saving merciful love.
The reason we think this holy boy was unjustly treated is mostly because we believe we are saved by what we do. We think if we are seemingly holy and do good things, then surely we are saved…this is the notion for many.
However, we aren’t saved by anything we do.
We and others can think we are the best person in the world, help the most people and pray all day and hardly sin, but none of that saves us. If we think it does, we have been deceived. Of course all that is good to do and can help us towards a saving faith, but that most certainly won’t save us.
We are saved by Jesus’ sanctifying grace alone, and we are lost (reject that grace) by just one unrepentant sin (even the smallest) since the smallest of sin is of infinite injury to an infinitely perfect God. We must hate it! Not think it is no big deal…that makes even the smallest sin deadly.
“We are not sufficient to think anything towards our salvation of ourselves as of ourselves [we aren’t saved by anything we do], but our sufficiency is from God…God would never have rejected thee if thou hadst not rejected his love. O all-good God! thou dost not forsake unless forsaken.”
–St. Francis de Sales, Doctor of the Church
So many people are caught thinking all “good” people are saved but this just isn’t so.
There isn’t anything we can do–even giving our entire lives as a sacrifice to God’s service–that can make up for a single offence against Perfect Goodness. The infinite injury we inflict upon God’s infinite love is unrepairable through anything of our own. Truly, we aren’t saved by ourselves…not even the greatest act of love, because we are so defiled. That is why we need a Savior.
We are saved by Jesus’ sacrifice alone. His act of love was of infinite love and satisfied and atoned for the infinite injury our sins inflicted upon Our Eternal Triune God. Just a single drop of His Precious Blood was enough to pay the price because due to our sinful nature, we simply can’t.
However, we absolutely must understand, that perfect free gift of salvation (forgiveness of our sins that allows us into Heaven), that we received at our baptism, we rejected when we lacked true contrition for our first sin, and now we must seek God to help us lose our sinful nature and gain a heart of true love for Him…not sin.
God pours out His mercy to forgive us of our sins, but tragically most refuse it. Yes, the reason so few are saved is that our pride refuses God’s sanctifying grace for various reasons as I mentioned in the list above.
God wants us saved so badly. Look at everything He has and continues to do for us. His love is unfathomable and His mercy is so incredible that despite our constant rejection of Him, He still spends our lives trying and trying to save us.
Horribly, even with His constant outpouring of love, most of us still only accept such a small amount of His love, grow in faith only a little (from our pride, thinking we are wonderfully good people) and spurn the rest REJECTING HIM to the end.
Yet, the devil has us thinking we are saved. How horrible! Our Most Merciful Lord became His own creation to suffer and die for us, to forgive us of our sins and teach us how to keep His saving grace so to be saved, but most just don’t want His love.
When it comes to the honest desires of our hearts, we want to live in sin and live so deceived believing we are receiving His mercy, when we are rejecting it.
He forgave us of everything at our baptism but from our inclination to sin, from the consequences of Adam and Eve’s sin, we refused that magnificent gift the very first time we weren’t truly sorry we have sinned. Because a lack of true sorrow for any sin is such a horrible crime against God that rejects sanctifying grace. Even if we have only sinned venially, any venial sin turns mortal when we lack true contrition for it (still delight in that sin) by lacking an honest desire to seek His grace to stop and/or never commit that sin against God again from lacking a true hatred for the sin.
Horribly, we scorned God’s perfect love, from our sinful nature, at a very young age–as soon as we gained full knowledge of right from wrong (when we began to be accountable for our sins), since we sadly preferred sin (our will) instead of God’s and His Way to Heaven with so much of our life. We just want to sin; we want things our way and refuse to listen nor honestly seek His help to repent and change. That is why we need to “seek a saving faith.” We don’t have it instantly when we first decided to believe Christ as Lord. It takes much time, grace and effort to lose our desire for all of those sins we have grown to love. We must “grow into salvation” ( ). And that is done by following Christ properly. And sadly, most will only follow Christ so much…not truly all the way to Heaven–through carrying our crosses–and horribly loose it all.
Perhaps, our eyes are only fixed on the “big” sins, not really understanding the gravity of injury all sin causes, not really caring about the affliction we caused upon His crucifixion and to His Sacred Heart by our little sins, as we walk around priding ourselves on our “goodness” from our prayers and works, when there is truly nothing “good” about ourselves. We are a misery in need of a Savior. Everything we do is all done through some amount of sin, unless we have grown into perfect love and can no longer choose to sin. As long as we sin, horribly everything we do is corrupted by the devil (some kind of self-love)–we just can’t see it.
We don’t have humility–we have pride, thinking and bragging about our “good” things we do and talents we have believing that is the way to a happy life, but we are oh, so wrong. From this great pride, we can’t see our blinding faults. And in today’s day and age, almost everyone thinks self-esteem is gained from boosting our deadly pride, not coming to know our misery and true need for mercy, but learning how to cover it. Oh, sadly we don’t know the Way. This beautiful love from God, wonderful life of joy that we should be delighting in, tragically we reject from our pride.
Oh, if we only truly believed, the smallest crime is a most grievous offence against Eternal Perfect Love, and if we only had fear of the Lord and really knew our lack of sorry for any sin against our All Good God forsakes Him, surely we would honestly seek to sin no more. But we lack much faith as our actions prove. Honestly, would we rather die a 1000 torturous deaths than commit a single smallest offence against God? If not, we still lack true sorrow for all of our sins. The magnitude of God’s love for us and the injury we cause our relationship with Him from our rejection of that love, from just a slight sin, is unfathomable. We must pray to God for wisdom to understand the gravity of a single sin to begin to comprehend this truth so we can grow towards true contrition and into a saving faith so we can benefit from the sacrament of reconciliation. See Lifting Our Values book “How to Obtain Perfect Contrition and its meditations,” St. Alphonosus’ “The Way of Salvation and Perfection”, St. Anthony Mary Claret “The Golden Key to Heaven” and meditate on the passion of Christ for help. Sure some sins are venial and some are mortal but the lack of sorrow for offending God in the slightest way makes every sin–no matter if it is venial–a mortal offence. We must hate all sin and be resolved to stop.
As St. Alphonosus has proven, even people who were considered saints because how how “good” they were reject Eternal Life. Because forgiveness is accepted by our contrition not our acts of piety. Only true contrition for our great vast horrific offences saves. Truly, no amount of prayers or good works can make up for even the smallest crime against Eternal Love. Nothing we do saves us. “All have sinned [and continue to sin] and are deprived of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23).
We need God’s mercy to be saved. Unless we reach perfection, all are deserving of the horrific fires of Hell for what we do to Our Creator of perfect love; only by accepting God’s “mercy [which] triumphs over judgment” (James 2:13) can any of us escape eternal death, and the only reason anyone made it to perfection is from God’s mercy; therefore, ONLY MERCY SAVES. And horribly, from our pride, we refuse God’s the most merciful forgiveness of our sins that we so desperately need when we lack true contrition for just one slight sin.
Therefore, as horrible as this is, this young man we read about, was most certainly justly treated with an eternity in Hell as He didn’t hate all of His offences against Perfect Goodness–He lacked a truly humble contrite heart.
Teach the Truth
Now many people from fear or disbelief refrain from teaching anyone the truth about death or sin, especially to children. The devil convinces us children can’t process these realities. Well, I can speak from personal experience, I have clearly spoken these truths about sin and its consequences, life and death to children of different ages from 7 – 19. I have never had a child become overwhelmed in despair over a single age appropriate–but not watered down–clear truth that was spoken. We all can do this. If God has called us to teach, we simply must guide others to the light.
To help us do this, Lifting Our Values also has a short YouTube video and a hand out, of the most basic requirements of salvation geared towards very young children (especially first communion age) but this can be used for anyone to help enlighten us to the truth for the salvation of our souls.
Children are much easier to speak with than adults since children don’t have much pride..and the younger the child the better as with older teens–from the serious sins many of them are now choosing–they tend to not want to hear anything except that what they are doing is just fine and that there are no consequences for their wrong choices. However, even with young children, who are outside of much pride, sadly, most still don’t seem to hear much. Wonderfully though, some–the blessed–will hear a little and have many questions. It can be very exciting to see the Spirit enlighten little minds. That spark can most certainly ignite a real desire (outside of a thought for a moment) for them to want to seek sanctity. Oh, who knows what God could do if only that spark–desire–was kindled by further instruction in the truth, then perhaps these words of Everlasting Life would really take effect toward helping someone grow into a true saving faith.
Lack of Self-Knowledge
I can’t tell you how many faithful people have scummed to the devil’s temptation thinking that they are saved because they lack true self-knowledge of their misery. I mentioned this above so I won’t go into too much detail but lack of humility kills. People will say, “I don’t break any of God’s commandments” or “I don’t lie,” or “I’m a good guy,” etc. When I hear statements like these I say, wow…either they have advanced so much in faith to where they are on a par with St. Theresa de Lisieux and have made it to perfection or they are practically blind to what sin really is. As St. John Paul II says, we, as a whole, have “the loss of the sense of sin.” To learn more about what is a sin and how to stop them please read the article “How to Stop Sinning.”
The knowledge of right from wrong–how to truly love God–is a gift ever so present within ALL of our consciences (unless we are mentally handicapped or too young) but because our sins have so greatly darkened our consequence to much of that knowledge the Good Lord has given us, God gave us His Word to help us find the true scene of love that dwells within each of us so we can live a good life loving God and be saved, but tragically most don’t want it. We have allowed the devil to coax us into trying to redefine sin so to continue in our sinful ways without guilt and/or to sin and think it is something of no concern. Just tragic! Horribly, since we have rejected God’s Spirit so much we have little to no enlightenment of our sinfulness and live a life of self-justification for our crimes against God.
So many people have absolutely no idea just how much they offend God and yet think they hardly sin. “Oh, I’m just impatient with my spouse” one might say, and the other “Oh, “I’m only lazy” or “I just lack self esteem”, perhaps, “I only suffer with some lust.” Sadly, those are the only sins they can see. Oh, poor souls are so horribly blind to the countless sins we commit. Most don’t even realize in making such a statement that “I don’t break any commandments” or that “I don’t even lie” or that “I hardly sin,” is stating we are horribly blind. We think we are claiming we are holy, but it is quite the opposite. Tragically, the devil has got us, even God’s faithful who want to correctly love Him. There is just no scene of personal sin, even in those who think they know right from wrong, because we simply can’t gain humility.
Until we completely reject the father of all lies (no longer fall for the devil’s temptation) and have enough grace to not sin, sadly most break ALL of God’s commandments–not none of them. We just don’t understand how that is true. We might think we don’t lie, but we are chronic liars. We just don’t know what a lie is. Actually, all sin is a lie. We might think we don’t break any of God’s commandments. But, any sin we commit breaks at least one of God’s commandments since all right from wrong deviates from God’s commandments. Truly, the only reason we commit any sin is because we lie to ourselves thinking something good will come out it for our benefit. Yet, every sin no matter how we try to justify it, harms Our God and leads to our doom. Therefore, even if we can’t see how we are deceptive, manipulate, exaggerate or blatantly lie, we should all know sinning, any sin, makes us all selfish lairs. We must work to gain humility (knowledge of our sinfulness) to accuse ourselves of our sinfulness instead of convincing ourselves we hardly sin pretending we are “good” as we die from our deadly pride. That isn’t the way to true self-esteem. Please read ” ” to learn how to grow in true self-value (link at bottom of page).
Horribly, I have heard statements of people’s declared goodness from people who don’t even attend Sunday Mass to people highly involved in the faith. It is utterly tragic how this stifling blindness–lack of humility–reaches all walks of life. And it is so horrible to see someone who wants to be faithful, feels they are faithful and is highly regarded as faithful among their peers, yet is suffering from such a great lack of faith from having almost no self-knowledge. There are also those who declare themselves to be great wretched sinners, but they too are still suffering from the same blindness. Their declaration of humility is by word alone as they still don’t know what their sins are and live a life of denial of their true misery, not working to sin no more.
The Word gives us the perfect example of a self proclaimed seemingly faithful man suffering from such incredible blindness. “‘Teacher, what good must I do to gain eternal life [a young man said]?’…[Jesus replied] ‘If you wish to enter into life, keep the commandments’…The young man said to him, ‘All of these I have observed [so he thought]. What do I still lack?’ Jesus said to him, ‘If you wish to be perfect [perfectly love God], go, sell what you have and give to [the] poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me’” (Matthew 19:16-20). But this man just realized he knew very little of what truly loving God really was, and was “sad” at what Jesus said was required for Heaven since he didn’t have the strength to obtain it– oh how many things he loved that wasn’t to know, serve of love God and oh, how hard it would be to leave them all for Christ. Oh, love of the world keeps so many from true love of God.
Like the man in the Word we too lie to ourselves about our holiness, and think we are obedient and rightious when we are far from it. But since God doesn’t want us to die in our blinding sinfulness if we look, we will see Him trying to enlighten us to our misery just like Jesus did for the rich man in the Word. To enlighten this man to his sinfulness, God didn’t tell him, “oh, you poor soul, how blind you are to not see your vast sinfulness.” He could have, as God has been very direct to some people. But this time God chose very indirect words to bring about guilt–so he could see his error–not direct enlightenment of His sins.
When we are trying to individually help someone, examine their conscience, especially if they believe themselves to be righteous, some of the time it is best to be just as vague as Jesus. For much of the time, directness only leads to greater blindness from a prideful anger that will arise when one’s sins are brought clearly to the light. But remember, some times great directness is needed, even if it angers them, like God spoke to the Pharisees. To know how to speak well and what to say and when to say it, only Holy Spirit guided wisdom will be able to properly guide us to the correct way to speak with each persons unique needs. Therefore, always be in prayer when seeking to save someone’s soul with our words.
Don’t Turn From Sin
How many, confess and confess the same sins over and over again yet think since they “felt” sorry, they were forgiven. Sorrow is a thought put into action..not just a thought alone.
Turning from sin isn’t easy especially if the sin is a loved habitual sin, especially if the sin has become part of who we are in our every day lives. Depending on how stubborn we are, some sins if we are working daily to remove them, will sadly still take years to remove (let go of our desire for that sin). But please remember God wants to remove every sin instantly, it is only ourselves that prevent Him.
St. Isidore of Seville states, In his works On the Lamentations of a Sinful Soul, “Confession heals, confession justifies, confession grants pardon of sin. All hope consists in confession. In confession is found the place of mercy. Believe, therefore, most certainly, and in no way hesitate, in no way doubt, and by no means despair of the mercy of God [God forgives all no matter how horrible the sin was]. Have hope in confession, have faith in it. Do not despair of this remedy of spiritual health. And do not despair in your healing, so long as you [truly] desire to turn to better things.” This incredible healing that comes from confession is waiting for us to stamp out every sin, but we MUST truly turn to better things. How can we be truly sorry for any sin, if we don’t make a resolution to stop the sin and apply the means necessary to change? Without truly seeking to stop we have no true sorrow and are rejecting God’s magnificent healing forgiveness.
Ashamed to Confess a Sin
A lot of people make the mistake of not confessing a past sin because they have been told, “as long as you are sorry for all of your sin, you are forgiven.” And that statement is true, as long as we are “truly” sorry for them, but unknown to us, we use that statement to cover our sins. When we start converting in our faith, we are unaware of many of our past sins because we have pushed them back into our conscience from losing a scene of sin, but as our conversion furthers and we are brought into the light a little more, then we can more clearly see and feel guilt for those past sins. However, because we “feel” sorry for them or at least guilty for them, we feel we have been forgiven of them because we have been to confession many times after those sins were committed, and we don’t commit them any longer. However, many are deceived into thinking we are just fine and forgiven of our past sins, but that just isn’t the case much of the time.
When God brings the guilt upon us for our past sins, we are NOT supposed to try to convince ourselves that Jesus has forgiven us, if we haven’t actually confessed those specific sins in confession. We must run to Our Lord with true sorrow and confess before God and man in the sacrament of reconciliation. Now, after someone has changed much of their life and grown in holiness, confessing such degrading sins can be extremely hard, especially if they are sexual sins, but if we refuse to confess before God, we lack true humility, lack true sorrow and are more concerned about what man thinks of us than God. God knows our sins, we just need to humble ourselves and confess them. “If we confess our sins [with true sorrow], he who is faithful and just will forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9). If we don’t choose to confess, we are NOT forgiven of those sins and are choosing eternal damnation from a lack of fear of the Lord (fear of sin and its consequences).
“Many there are who have fallen headlong to their deaths, because they cast off the fear of God and were then ashamed to make a confession before men, although they had not been ashamed to sin before God” (Jesus to St. Bridget of Sweden).
Please read this story that St. wrote about a nun that was banished for eternity to the fires of Hell for not confessing a sin from her past. ” “
Also, there are plenty of sins we commit in the present that the devil convinces us are too humiliating to confess or we confess them veiled so as to not really profess our guilt thinking, if we sorta said our sin, we are just fine. But if our intention is to cover our sin, and not profess our guilt with a humble contrite heart, our confession is not valid. If we are hoping to take God’s mercy without being truly humble and sorry for our sin then no forgiveness is received either.
St. John Bosco, writes of one of his enlightening dreams about how the devil places deadly nooses around the necks of those waiting in line to confess so to coax them into confessing poorly. The saint says as he was waiting to hear many confessions of boys in which, “each boy” had this rope around his neck. The devil told St. John Bosco, “I rope these boys into making bad confessions.” The devil goes on saying, “I make the boys conceal their sins in Confession…I make them confess without true sorrow…I keep them from making a firm resolution [to change] and [from] carrying out their confessor’s advice [on how to amend their ways].” The devil works night and day on our souls…we need to constantly fight against the wickedness and snares of the devil if we are to win the battle.
Having guilt of sinning is supposed to move us to never want to commit the sin again, but the devil convinces us we are to have shame of the fact we have sinned to bring about fear of confessing it. Yet, it is in the confessing of our sins that makes us saints, not covering them. How many great sinners were made great saints by the confession of their horrid sins. That is how grace is received. The devil wants us to conceal our sins so we can’t obtain God’s mercy.
The devil told St. Antonine, “I now restore to these penitents [people confessing their sins] what I before took away from them; I took away from them shame [of sinning] while they were committing sin; I now restore it, that they may have a horror of confession.” Reject the devil’s temptation, confess to God by humbling ourselves before man–admit our guilt.
“What can the sacrament of penance be to those who conceal their sins, but a deadly poison, which adds to their guilt the malice of sacrilege?” (St. Alphonsus).
Makes Light of Venial Sins
“I [Jesus] shall refuse to absolve the sin of a person who has not cared enough to ask my pardon for a small sin” (Jesus to St. Bridget of Sweden).
“Do not grow overconfident and presumptuous, if I call anyone my friend or servant as I once called this man…I also called Judas a friend” (Jesus to St. Bridget of Sweden).
Any sin, mortal or venial, that we aren’t horrified that we have committed against Our Beloved Creator (think lightly of it) is now a mortal offence, as I said, that rejects God’s saving mercy, from our lack of contrition for that sin. We must be resolved to stop all sin to accept God’s forgiveness. Just like that boy, who probably though nothing of a “bad thought” as so many of us have been caught thinking, “a bad thought…what is that…is that even a sin?” Honestly, we think very little of what we consider little sins. And that lack of love for God kills. All sins are horrible offences against Perfect Love. “I detest the slightest sin” Jesus said to St. Faustina, and we need to too.
Even if we are resolved to stop all sins, those venial sins add up and if we don’t successfully amend them quickly enough, they can move us to commit a mortal sin. It is true any venial sin we aren’t resolve is mortal but they are the least of the mortal sins but those venial sins weaken us by rejecting grace can take away our defenses to fight against temptations for mortal sin. Unless we have been working like a saint and removing our desire for sin, we will have many sins we still lack true contrition for. Even if we “say” we hate all our sins, our actions–lack of removal–proves we most certainly don’t. Obtaining a saving faith takes much spiritual growth. If someone isn’t even aiming and working hard for the goal of true (perfect) contrition for each and every sin, seeking persistently God’s grace, then how will they obtain it?
Having the desire to sin, any sin, against Our Lord makes us deserving of Hell. Only by God’s Merciful Heart are we forgiven of all of our sins, that is if we want His mercy from being truly sorry for sinning every last sin. Truly, this is the truth…we must believe in the infinite injury to Infinite Perfect Goodness that just one small sin causes to even begin to understand how to correctly approach confession.
“The souls in hell having been found at the moment of death with a will [desire] to sin, have with them an infinite degree of guilt; and the punishment they suffer, though less than they deserve, is yet, so far as it exists, endless” (St. Catherine of Genoa, Treatise on Purgatory, ch. 4).
The people that boast to themselves of how they never commit mortal sins, thinking they are righteous, are loosing what really matters in the faith LOVE FOR JESUS. Tragically they don’t know what true love is. Oh, they have love for themselves and wear their pride of self-righteous well, but that isn’t what saves us because most of us are sadly clueless as to what sins really reject God’s saving mercy (what are all mortal sins).
How can we boast of anything if we are still sinning–offending Our Beloved? We are causing affliction to Our Creator. All sins are absolutely horrible offences against Our Lord, and deserve infinite punishment. And if we sin in the slightest way before our death, without having true contrition for it, we reject His saving sanctifying grace, since we lack true love for God and choose an eternity in damnation. If by the time of our death, we still aren’t honestly wanting to stop sinning all sins (honestly seeking to become a saint) and are still complacent–thinking small sins aren’t a big deal or just don’t want to stop any sin or that our prayers and devotions will save us, they we still don’t understand. We can pray bounds of prayers to the Blessed Mother, but if our prayers were prayed with our hearts full of pride, we will receive no merit. Oh, how many souls pray and pray with hearts of contempt, with no real love (love only in word and false actions), heart that want to take mercy, hearts that want to be the religious authority–with a smile of love and help from their mask–when their hearts are dead and can’t receive any grace at all. They aren’t saved by their bounds of prayers, devotions or works…no they are only heaping greater condemnation upon themselves. It is simply horrible…words can’t express the horror of a blind soul.
“That praise [from my “faithful”] wounds My Heart, because love has been banished…Souls without love and without [true] devotion, souls full of egoism and self-love, souls full of pride and arrogance, souls full of deceit and hypocrisy, lukewarm souls who have just enough warmth to keep them alive” My Heart cannot bear this. All the graces that I pour out upon them flow off them as off a face of a rock” (Jesus to St. Faustina, Diary #1702).
This sorrow that saves only comes from TRUE HUMILITY (true knowledge of our great misery) which only comes from FEAR OF THE LORD (fear of sin and its consequences). This is the only way to benefit from the sacrament of reconciliation. This is what is needed to embrace God’s saving mercy. We need to learn how to LOVE GOD, not ourselves…stop thinking we are so holy and righteous presuming we are saved by our prayers and works, when we are dammed from a lack of contrition, a lack of true love. Oh, this is a horrible state so many faithful have been tricked into believing. Truly, one small offense against God is so grievous and deserving of the greatest punishments for an eternity in Hell. This we must believe if we can even begin to understand how much we need God’s mercy to save us so we don’t reject His gift of saving grace.
“And therefore we ought all to have very many such ejaculatory [short] prayers [hoping for saving mercy], made in the sense of a loving repentance and of sighs which seek our reconciliation with God, so that by these laying our tribulation before Our Saviour, we may pour out our souls before and within his pitiful heart, which will receive them to mercy” (St. Francis de Sales, Doctor of the Church).
Truly, the only way confession does us any good is by having real CONTRITION FOR OUR SINS (perfect or imperfect sorrow)…for all of our sins–even the least of sins. The only way we accept God’s saving mercy, at the moment of death–since at that instant of our death there won’t be a priest to intervene and help with imperfect contrition–is by having true sorrow–PERFECT CONTRITION–for ALL sin even the most trifle of sins, because there is nothing really trifle about a single sin.
“‘Many are called, but few are chosen.’ This man was called to the episcopate [office of the bishop in heaven] but he was not chosen, for he proved ungrateful to the grace of God. Hence, he is a bishop in name [on earth] but is unworthy of his service and is numbered among those who go down [to hell] but do not come up again” (Jesus to St. Bridge of Sweden).
Without having a truly contrite heart for every sin we have ever committed, from our least to our greatest, we don’t welcome God’s saving forgiveness into our hearts because we are not loving God enough to be truly sorry for our crimes against Him. We do this by having true sorrow for every sin we have committed by refraining from any of those above listed things to cover our guilt. If we want forgiveness, we must humbly admit (confess) our sins with a true desire to amend. Because “those who conceal their sins do not prosper, but those who confess and forsake [stop] them obtain mercy” (Proverbs 28:13).
We simply must learn how to grow in our faith, from some faith in Jesus into a saving faith that has rid all of those issues–of lacking sorrow–from our lives, not just for one sin, but for all of them. Then we can embrace saving mercy and Live.
If we think we don’t have a problem with any of those above listed problems with contrition, but we haven’t been working with God’s grace toiling and toiling–growing in sanctity–as we painstakingly seek God’s grace to remove those problems, then we are simply blinded to these issues being present in our hearts. Truly, very few have made it to a point in their faith to where they have real contrition for all of their sins.
Forgiveness From the Priest
When the priest sees the penitent (the person confessing their sins) with what appears to be enough contrition to be forgiven, the priest now expresses his power given to Him from God and, at the priests command, God sends the grace for the forgiveness of their sins.
“[Jesus] breathed on them [His new priests] and said to them, “Receive the holy Spirit. Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them, and whose sins you retain are retained” (John 20:22-23).
At the moment when the priest says, “I absolve you of your sins in the Name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit,” yes, at that moment, at the request of the priest, God’s unfathomable forgiving mercy and much helping grace comes pouring out of the priest’s hands to the penitent’s soul.
At this point the penitent can either accept some or all of the grace or refuse some or all of it. If the penitent’s soul is properly disposed to receive that fantastic gift of love–then forgiveness and/or helping grace is received. However, if the soul isn’t with real contrition for all of their sins or at least one sin, or if the penitent doesn’t even truly desire to stop a single sin, then most or all forgiving grace and even helping grace will be rejected.
For many, sadly our confessions are absolutely fruitless since we just show up in confession, with little or no real hatred for sin, confess a few sins, thinking the sorrow we have is enough, when we don’t even have a true intent to stop committing our sins–as we continue with our sins through out our life despite the fact that God’s transforming grace is waiting to change us.
For penitents, who continue in their sins–any sin–without change, from a lack of true resolve to amend-the priest, being given discretion from God to absolve or not, should not absolve, like the saints have done for penitents with unchanged sins…since lacking true resolve to stop sinning is a mortal sin.
“He is a scoffer, not a penitent [not someone sorry for their sins], who commits what he repented of. Nor is he cleansed [forgiven] who weeps for his sins, yet does not forsake [stop] them.”
–St. Isadore of Seville, Doctor of the Church
If the priest doesn’t send God’s forgiving mercy to the soul without real sorrow, but rather prays over the penitent, offering them means to increase their hatred for their sins by:
- Contemplating their sinfulness and Christ’s passion,
- Praying the Rosary and The Precious Blood of Jesus Devotion,
- Reading “How to Obtain Perfect Contrition- Meditations” and/or “The Golden Key to Heaven,” by St. Anthony Mary Claret, and/or “The Way of Salvation and Perfection,” by St. Alphonsus, etc. ,
- Begging God for mercy to grow in faith,
- Encouraging the penitent to make real resolutions and CHANGE or all will be lost…
…this will be of great assistance for their soul.
Denying absolution will surely wake up the penitent. Plus, we don’t want the sacrament of confession to result in them leaving with even less grace than they began with because when someone rejects forgiving and helping grace from reconciliation, they are now accountable for all of that grace–that Precious Blood of Jesus–which was allowed to spill onto the floor, which is a horrible crime to commit against God and causes much grace to leave their soul if they had any to begin with.
“When a sinner comes to confession, the more abandoned [to habitual sin] he is, the more they [the confessors should] labor to assist him…he [the penitent] must be always admonished [told of his great wrong doing] with charity, he must be excited to confidence in the divine mercy [that wants to assist him and eventually forgive him when he becomes truly sorry for sinning], and must be taught the means by which he may amend his life. And though the confessor should be obliged to defer [postpone] absolution, he ought to dismiss the penitent with sweetness; fixing a day for him to return, and pointing out the remedies that he must practice in the mean time, in order to prepare himself for absolution.”
–St. Alphonsus, Doctor of the Church
Be sure to encourage the penitent to attend confession again, if they have any real desire to amend (meaning they made or truly desire to make a real attempt to amend at least one sin)…even if it doesn’t result in much or any change. For much helping grace–not saving grace–but much of God’s assistance to move our souls to Life comes from humbling ourselves before the priest and saying how we failed to love God again, which will result in an increase in grace (increase in desire/strength to amend). This will occur even if absolution isn’t given, which it shouldn’t be given until the penitent (to the best of one’s understanding) would rather suffer even death than commit a sin again (is sorry with perfect or imperfect contrition) for at least one sin (venial in nature and desires such contrition for the rest) and for all mortal sins.
One more thing, if the confessor is unsure if the penitent is properly disposed to accept grace, he should error on the side of absolving, as we never want to deny someone of God’s grace who seeks it and can receive it.
But if no real honest attempt to amend has been made…confessing sorrow is a complete lie and a sacrilege.
First Movement Towards a Saving Faith
If we want to know God and be saved by Him, we need to become greatly humble and confession, if done properly, brings us to a humility that can accept God’s saving mercy.
Jesus told St. Bridget of Sweden “contrition [sorrow] and confession are the first way of conversion to God [towards a saving faith].”
Without the “first” step in the Way to Life, we simply can’t move towards the other steps into gaining true conversion for a true saving faith in Christ.
When we come to believe in Jesus as Lord and want to follow Him, we must gain To move from some belief in Jesus, into gaining enough of God’s grace to have a saving faith that accepts His sanctifying (saving) grace He died to give us, which we received at our baptism but lost through the love of sin, we must first have true sorrow for at least one or some of our sins or at the very least some kind of fear of sin–even if it isn’t true sorrow–move us to seek to change. We must have something to motivate us to continually seek God’s grace so we can come to hate every one of our sins (seek to rid all of them from our life) if we wish to grow in faith to one day be saved by Jesus. (To learn what true sorrow is click the link at the bottom of this article).
“Fear of the Lord” Motivates us to Change
This something (motivator) that we need which causes us to seek God’s mercy is known as “Fear of the Lord.” (To learn what true “Fear of the Lord” is please see the link at the bottom of this article.) When we approach God in confession with some, even a small amount of Fear of the Lord, grace (help) is given. Perhaps we won’t receive forgiving mercy for any of our sins from our still lack of faith–since we still lack of real sorrow (perfect or imperfect contrition) for any of our sins–but the grace to move us to get to that kind of sorrow can be accepted into our souls from our desire to change (some kind of sorrow for our sin).
This confession of our sins to God through the priest, is how God dispenses bounds of grace to move us towards obtaining such a faith that will save–true belief in Christ as the Way to Heaven. But we must confess correctly.
Most Confess Very Poorly
Some are blessed to know of this sacrament of penance and some even try to utilize God’s help through confession. However, if we only knew how poorly most confess our sin, what little grace, if any, we are receiving, we would surly change. We need to learn how to PROPERLY CONFESS our sins if we want to benefit from this sacrament of mercy, because without it we are lost.
Why Many Don’t Obtain Eternal Life
Several saints go into great detail about the horror of poor confessions and its consequences. Horribly, believe it or not, most–even the faithful–have fallen into the devils deceptive trap and are far from understanding this sacrament on so many levels. We need to change much of our thinking and actions from the penitent (person confessing) to the confessor (priest hearing the confession) to be able to benefit fully from this life saving sacrament. How to confession our sins correctly, we simply learn, as the remission (forgiveness) of all of our sins is how we accept God’s saving mercy so we can obtain Heaven.
This sacrament of reconciliation is the sacrament God gave us to assist us in obtaining complete forgiveness of every sin we have ever committed. Yet, most of us aren’t receiving any benefit from this sacrament, mostly from being deceived into thinking we don’t really need this sacrament’s help or that we have contrition (sorrow for our sins) when we really don’t. This is mostly because we “feel” we are being forgiven of our sins, but God, who reads our hearts, knows we don’t yet have enough of His grace to have true contrition for every sin therefore we still reject His sanctifying grace. We sadly live deceived. This is because we don’t truly understand what is required to receive God’s perfect forgiveness or helping grace to get to that point in faith, from confession, nor the various ways we deceive ourselves and reject God’s mercy.
We might be living what we consider a good life. Perhaps we try to be good and kind to all and seek to do the right thing. Maybe, we go to Mass daily, pray our prayers, participate in church and have many works for the Lord. We feel we love God, and to our understanding, we think we have never committed a mortal sin, or if we did we have surely repented of it. We feel we are sorry for our sins, therefore, we believe we are in the state of grace and saved. Yet, from not truly understanding how we accept God’s saving mercy–what all mortal sins really are–and what true sorrow for all of our sins truly is, much of the time our confessions, even from God’s faithful, merit us absolutely nothing…not even the smallest grace from God. Most simply don’t know how to go to confession correctly and as St. Teresa of Avila says are loosing their eternal life because of it.
more coming soon