Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Precepts of the Catholic Church, part III

Again this week, I’d like to continue with the series about the precepts of the Catholic Church.

The following inset quote is from the Catechism of the Catholic Church

The second precept ("You shall confess your sins at least once a year") ensures preparation for the Eucharist by the reception of the sacrament of reconciliation, which continues Baptism's work of conversion and forgiveness.

I think for many of us it is too easy to think of our selves as not having any serious sin to confess. In our society, we’ve gotten to the point where many of us think like the title of an old book, “I’m OK, You’re OK”. It is easy to not realize the harm done by some of our sinful behavior.

When we kill someone, or steal something, it is usually pretty easy to know who has been hurt by our actions. What about when we miss Mass on Sunday, or engage in consensual, but immoral, sexual activity? Is someone hurt by these actions? YES. First of all, we’ve hurt God by turning our back on Him whom we should love above all things. We’ve put some pleasure in place of honoring God and following the directions he has given us by which we are to live. When we miss Mass, it hurts the rest of the gathered assembly. Each of us has a part to add to the celebration, even if it is just our presence. Many times when we engage in immoral sexual activities, we develop a sense of pride, or an attitude that we know better than the Church. Instead of trying to struggle with understanding what the Church, instituted by Christ, is teaching on the matter, we choose to do our own thing.

Some may argue that the Second Vatican Council talked about following our conscience. The document in question was addressing the rights of people to follow their faith without government intimidation. For example, if you are Catholic living in a Muslim country, you should have the right to practice your Catholic faith. It has nothing to do with being able to act in an immoral way just because in your conscience you think that it is ok.

The Church also speaks of a rightly formed conscience. She expects her followers to truly study the teachings of the church from the standpoint of the Magisterium. Often times our consciences seem to be formed by those who disagree with the official teaching of the church. People like Fr. Richard McBrien, and publications like the National Catholic Reporter, become our source because we like what they say. When they disagree with the Magisterium, and imply that our immoral acts are not sins, we see that as an excuse to continue living life as we want, not in conformity with the teachings of Christ as passed through his bride, the Church.

It is also easy, when we are not in the state of grace, to let some of the effects of sin affect our lives. It is much easier sometimes rather than go to confession, to hold on to anger, and let it be expressed at inopportune times. Our guilt/anger/resent, might make itself evident when speaking with our spouse or children.

Thus we can see the need to confess our sins at least once a year. It is preferable to take advantage of the sacrament even more frequently. We may not need to go to confession every week, as was the practice years ago, but we do need to go to confession on a regular basis. Monthly reception of the sacrament of reconciliation would be most appropriate.

Peace and prayers until next week

Fr. Leo
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