Yesterday at Mass I heard an interesting parallel between the story of the man possessed by multiple demons and the story of Gulliver’s Travels. The priest said he imagined that this possesion might have felt like Gulliver being bound up hundreds of the lilliputians. That because of this possession that he felt he couldn’t move.
I think there might be another interesting parallel to draw out of this story in regard to venial sins. Many times when I hear someone talking about venial sins it is almost always prefaced by the words “only a.” You would believe that there are two types a sins: “Mortal Sins” and “Only a Venial Sin.” While we should rightly see the vast difference between what constitutes a mortals sin and what does not; to totally downplay venial sins is also a problem. If we make excuses for our faults by classifying them in a manner that doesn’t require change is a distortion of truth. Just as one lilliputian soldier trying to bind us down will not cause us loss in our mobility and will, when they start to multiply and are ignored eventually they will cause us problems and can even open us up toward mortal sins. While many of the wounds inflicted on Christ were not in and of themselves mortal, they were quite painful to our savior. For us to ignore our sins and to not work toward perfection is like saying, oops sorry but it was only a thorn I added to your crown.
If I was an outside observer at a parish and I knew nothing about the Catholic Church and everything I would learn about it came from my observations, what might I come to know. In many parishes I might think that coffee and donuts is one of the sacraments. It is almost always mentioned at the end of Mass and it is always in the bulletin. Obviously coffee and donuts must be one of the more important things that the church promotes. If I look at the bulletin I will see that something called reconciliation is offered for an hour on Saturdays, but it is never mentioned during the homily or at the end of mass, so it must rank below coffee and donuts in importance.
I keep hearing about all the reforms required in the Church in regards to liturgy and other matters, but I rarely read about the lack of promotion of confession or it not being readily available. Many pundits have commented on the fact that there are large amounts of people going to communion, but not confession. When it comes to confession, I am a firm believer in that if you have it readily available they will come. One Church I go to has confession prior to every mass. So there is an opportunity twice on weekdays and four times on Sundays to go. The lines are very constant in size and I notice that many people that come there are from outside this parish. I think it is a very positive thing to see people in a line before Mass going to confession instead of it only being available at a time not in context with the Mass. This example must surely inspire others to go to confession and people see that confession isn’t something pre-Vatican II.
For myself having the availability of frequent confession and then seeing the lack of that emphasis in other parishes angers me. That we have such a beautiful sacrament given us by Jesus through the Church and not to have it promoted is like withholding medicine from those in need of it. I remember my first confession toward the end of R.C.I.A and coming into the Church. By the time it was over tears were streaming down my cheeks in both contrition for my many sins but also the unbelievable joy of hearing the words of absolution. I am far from perfection and have so many faults that the U.S. Geological Survey has placed sensors in my many fault lines, but I also know my faults are not quite as many as before coming into the Church. So for the Sacrament of Reconciliation and for making us confess before one of your priests, Thank You Jesus!!!