No More Excuses
On a recent Monday, as I moved a cart of material into the work station I was setting up, I brushed against a package of foam. As I did so, I noticed small holes in the huge plastic bag that contained four rolls of foam standing about six feet high. The holes were a reminder of a day some time ago when a stack of foam like this began to burn. The plastic bag that covered the rolls that caught fire that day did not contain holes. Unable to “breathe,” the combustible foam material inside began to burn.
As I walked away I remembered the homily I had heard just the day before. It was a homily about the importance of receiving the Sacrament of Reconciliation on a regular basis, the necessity to confess and rid myself of the “combustible material” of sin that I hold within. The homily has renewed my awareness of how much I struggle with making the commitment to receive the Sacrament of Reconciliation on a regular basis – a sacrament that we Catholic Christians believe bestows on us God’s abundant grace, like all other sacraments.
The habit I have fallen into is to wait to receive this sacrament until Lent or Advent because for some odd reason I feel more obligated to do so; and not only that, but more people tend to do the same so I do not feel so conspicuous, as if nobody will notice I am a sinner. On those times when I do receive the Sacrament of Reconciliation, I must admit, I no longer feel “closed in and unable to breathe.” Feeling like I can breathe freely again and with the best of intentions at that moment, I again tell myself that I will now commit to receive this particular sacrament on a more regular basis. I admit, however, that time and time again I continue to fail to follow through. Slowly, but ever so surely, the breath is sucked out of me as the “combustible material” of sin begins to smolder within me.
I have a feeling I am not alone. Like me, it seems that many avoid receiving the Sacrament of Reconciliation for whatever reason we think are sufficient to excuse ourselves. “I don’t want to confess my sins to a priest who knows me,” we say. Or, “I am so busy with other things in my life that I simply do not have time to prepare to receive this sacrament.” Or, probably the most popular excuse of all, “why should I have to confess my sins to a priest when I can simply tell them to God directly?”
Yet as Catholic Christians, we believe that each time we receive a sacrament, we receive grace – grace that is necessary to live out our Christian calling. So why would we avoid a sacrament that we have the opportunity of receiving quite often? Most parishes schedule regular times for the Sacrament of Reconciliation throughout the week and on weekends, along with the added “by appointment” option. So what is my excuse? The only truthful answer I can offer is that I have misused my free will. It is simple as that. I have, by my own choice, said no to receiving grace from this sacrament no more than once or twice per year – grace I need to be fruitful in living out my calling as a follower of Jesus Christ.
If I continue to neglect to receive the Sacrament of Reconciliation more regularly, I will, without a doubt, begin to feel unable to “breathe” freely as my sins build up within me. The longer I go, the closer I get to spontaneous combustion. I don’t know about you, but I do not want to go up in flames like those rolls of foam. That may sound a little dramatic, but if that’s what it takes to wake me up, then so be it. No more excuses.
Brenda Hopf is a member of Divine Mercy Parish in Saint Anthony and also contributes to the “Sharing the Load” column in The Message.