“If you forgive anyone’s sins, they are forgiven; if you retain anyone’s sins, they are retained.” John 20:23
“Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me.” Psalm 51:10
An absolutely lovely benefit of going back to work is that our family agreed we need to get some cleaning help. We haven’t had a cleaning service or person in 10 years. I always felt like I should do it on my own since I wasn’t working outside the home. Even when I was working as an interior decorator I could still get most of the house work done. It was not really quality cleaning, but it was passable.
So, the new cleaning folks came this week (they are fantastic) and I now know that I am probably the worst house cleaner ever. Apparently I either don’t see the dirt or I choose not to see it. When I walked in the door to my clean house, I was surprised at how sparkling and shiny and new everything felt. “Oh, this is what a clean house feels like.” I feel like I am living in a hotel. The toilet paper even has that nice triangle fold at the bottom. And there is no dust. NO DUST! My children are giddy with the cleanliness of their rooms and bathrooms. I have always had my kids clean their own bathrooms (so they know how to do it), but apparently teens are not very good bathroom cleaners – who is surprised at this revelation?
Ok, so we were living a little dirty, and I didn’t even know it until I saw what clean could be. Isn’t that the way it is in our lives as well? We get covered up, little by little, with sin, bad habits, and wrong living (and by wrong living I mean not God-centered). It happens slowly so we are not even aware that our halos (we all have them, we are all meant to be saints in God’s plan) have become tarnished and may even have fallen on the floor.
In the Catholic faith the fastest way to a clean heart and mind is go to the sacrament of penance. Confession is the word most people know, but penance is the word most churches use now. In the sacrament we take a thorough inventory or examination of conscience of our sins. We look at what we have done that is out of order with God’s will – as it affects us and those around us. We look at big sins and little sins in our lives. There are many good tools to use to do a thorough examination. Click here and here and here to see them.
I remember my first confession back in 1996 when my husband and I became Catholic. I was terrified – which is not uncommon when it’s either a first confession or has been a long time since confession. But it surprised me since I had done a complete moral inventory and had made amends to those I had harmed back in AA in 1988. The process was familiar to me because of being in a 12 step program, but this felt different.
It is different, because in the Catholic sacrament of penance, we tell our sins to God in the presence of a priest, and our sins are forgiven by God, with the priest acting as mediator. In the confessional we tell God we are sorry, and we will try our best not to do these sins again. We perform an act of penance or satisfaction to make amends for the sins we have committed. Click here for an excellent explanation of why an act of penance is important after confession.
And then we are clean. We have our cleaned our house and we have received grace though the sacrament. That grace will help us have more strength to resist temptation and walk a straighter path. The more often we go to confession the easier it is resist temptation. More grace equals more strength. Then why do I wait so long between confession? Laziness and bad habits I guess. The times in my life as a Catholic when I have gone to confession every one or two months have been times of spiritual growth and renewal. So now that I am working in a church I have no excuse not to clean house on a monthly basis. Just as I felt that amazing feeling of coming home to a clean house this week, I can come home to a clean soul and reconcile with God on a regular basis as well. What a great gift from God we have in the sacrament of penance!