Those of us who fight against sexual sin often deal with shame. I know that for a long time I truly believed that if people really knew what I often thought—and of my many behaviors—not only would they not like me but they would be repulsed by me!
I was recently sharing with a friend about an experience I had in the Sacrament of Reconciliation about seven years ago. He told me he thought my story was the best explanation of the sacrament he had ever heard.
I had been struggling with habitual sin for decades and was haunted with shame, regret, and hopelessness. I entered the confessional and confessed once again that I had fallen multiple times. After some discussion, the priest invited me to pray the Act of Contrition. I began, “Oh my Jesus, I am heartily sorry for my sins. I detest all of my sins because of the fear of hell. But most of all, because they offend you who are worthy of all my love…”
I spoke these words from memory. I continued with “I firmly resolve,” but then the words caught in my throat. I began to sob and explained to the priest that I couldn’t complete the prayer. The prayer is supposed to conclude with, “I firmly resolve with the help of thy grace, to sin no more, and to avoid the near occasion of sin.” However, at that point, based on my countless previous experiences, I knew that I was going to crash and burn again—it was just a matter of time. I felt that by completing the prayer I would be so unbelievably hypocritical that I couldn’t even recite the words.
But then the Holy Spirit responded through the priest that day.
The priest asked me how often I took a shower. I told him I showered every day. He then asked me if I ever got upset about having body odor. I was surprised by the outrageous question. I said, “No.” He told me that the confessional is God’s shower and that I should never tire of coming to confession or believe that I’m beyond God’s cleansing reach. The priest then offered the prayer of absolution and invited me to sit in silence and feel God’s loving arms around me in that moment.
I recently heard Christopher West refer to the confessional as “God’s outhouse.” He explained that each of us carries around our “sh!%” and that we are spiritually “constipated.” We don’t want to expose our stinky putrid selves to ourselves, let alone anyone else! But the confessional is the place where God invites us to get rid of it all.
Around five years ago, God raised me out of my cesspool of sexual sin. Today, I now see my struggle with sexual sin, at least when it comes to pornography, as part of my past. I now commit to receiving the Sacrament of Reconciliation at least monthly. In fact, once I entered the confessional, began with the “Bless me Father for I have sinned” but then paused and told the priest, “I got nothing.” He asked me why I was there and I explained that I had made the commitment to get to confession as often as possible, and I was free that afternoon so figured I would come. He told me it was hard to argue with the plan.
However, that next morning I read the Liturgy of the Word and the reflection invited me to consider my love compared to God’s love. I was humbled, and a bit embarrassed to think that the day before I was without sin!?! I learned that there is always more that we can give to God in the confessional, always more inside us that He can clean and remove to help us love Him, others, and ourselves better.
The Sacrament of Reconciliation is the place where we can be seen, known, and loved by God. It’s the place we can receive the grace, no matter how many times we have sinned before, to start anew. It’s God’s beautiful gift to us!
If you aren’t already, I invite you to partake in this wonderful sacrament and gift soon and regularly—no matter how “dirty” or unworthy you feel. Praise be to God that our sins, no matter how great, are never, ever bigger than God’s infinite love and mercy.
Jim Gorski is a father of four children who has been married to the same woman for 36 years. He completed his master’s degree in social work in 1984 and has directed church music groups for the past 41 years. He remains a grateful child of the most high God and strives to trust in God’s loving mercy and His ability to provide for Jim’s every need.