February 23, 2007: Friday after Ash Wednesday

PREPARING FOR CONFESSION

“[C]onfess your sins to one another, and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous man has great power in its effects.” [James 5:16]

We must be honest if we are to be followers of Christ. This isn’t so that we can provide a more honest list of our sins and faults — that’s a side-effect. The real reason to be honest is that we must become honest beings. If we’re dishonest with ourselves or others, even God Himself, then our faith and hope and love will be distorted.

Human beings are hairless apes and are born with a tendency to lie for reasons of survival. “I’ll respect you in the morning” is not a modern invention, nor is it necessarily unique to the human race. Animals often are tender when courting or seducing and indifferent or even hostile as soon as breeding is over. It’s in our genes and in our bodies to lie. But we’re sometimes honest in our offers of love or help and so are wolves and elephants.

More importantly, we human beings are unique in our ability to re-shape ourselves to meet new circumstances. We can even re-shape ourselves into beings who are deeply and purely honest, that is, Christ-like men. We’re not inherently or incurably depraved, but we’re born as hunks of clay which are somewhat misshapen.

We participate in our own shaping processes, though we’re not so much in control as we might wish. As the philosopher Alasdair MacIntyre pointed out:

We’re not just rational animals and not just rational, social animals. We’re rational, dependent animals.

In our early years, we’re dependent upon our parents and other adults in a very strong way. In our last years, we modern people are often fully dependent upon professionals we never met before our brains or hearts began to fail.

Yet, we do participate in our own shaping and to shape ourselves properly, we have to be honest about our current state. We’re sometimes badly misshapen, if only in part of our being. Sometimes we are so badly mis-shapen that it’s hard for us to be honest about our true condition. This is where good confessors come in, using their judgment to perhaps shock us into a greater honesty or perhaps to gently pull us along.

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Explore posts in the same categories: Christian spirituality, Christianity, Lenten meditations, Moral Formation, Peace of Christ, Religion

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