As I have written before, I am increasingly uncomfortable with how much time Christians spend — and not only in Lent — begging God for mercy as if we were (as one writer puts it) “an abused child before her abuser or a criminal standing before a hanging judge.” However, I do believe that we are sinners in need of confession and repentance.
We are sinners because all of us consistently fail to live up to the high calling to love which was woven into our very nature by the Creator. We turn out backs on God, we hurt one another, by our silence we are complicit in things done on our behalf which wound our sisters and brothers every day.
Confession simply means naming those sins. If we do not bring to consciousness the ways in which we have fallen short, it is unlikely that we will ever do any better. One of the ways in which sacramental confession (confessing our sins to God in the presence of a priest) is infinitely superior to private confession (in our own prayers) is that we actually have to say these things out loud, in the presence of another person. It is less likely that we will gloss over things by saying something like “You know what I have done wring. I’m sorry. Please forgive me.”
That will not likely lead to repentance which means “doing a 180,” actually turning around and going in a new direction. I really think that we are better off confessing our sins, not to God (even in the presence of a priest) but confessing them to the ones against whom we have actually sinned. “Please forgive me for what I said last night. I was wrong and I am sorry” goes a long way toward the reconciliation we all so desperately want. It’s harder than confessing them in the privacy of our prayer closets…but it is infinitely more effective.
So, this Lent, let’s spend less time beating our breasts and pleading for mercy to the One who, in any case, is the Source of all love and showers forgiveness upon us like the spring rains, and more time confessing our sins to one another…and actually doing something about it.