I think I have mentioned before how the Lord gave me great gifts of faith when I was 22 years old. Faith in His real presence in the Blessed Sacrament. And faith in the entire sacred ministry of the Catholic Church.
One question I had during my early days as a Catholic was the following. (Maybe it will sound strange. But it really boggled my mind for a while.)
Take for granted the fundamental fact that nothing happens, nothing exists at all, without God willing it. Then the question: Considering that Holy Baptism gives us the grace to get to heaven, why do we continue to live on earth after Baptism?
Maybe the question sounds strange. But let’s think about it. Our whole purpose during our pilgrim life is to get to heaven. Holy Baptism into the blood of the divine Lamb gives us the grace we need. God wills for us to reach the final goal; that was revealed at the crucifixion. So why the interval? The interval between our sharing in the fruits of Redemption, which we do when we receive baptism, and our reaching heaven?
I mean, I love football season, and time passing, and fresh apples, and Sam Adams seasonal, etc. But heaven would be better. I love being with my people to celebrate the sacraments and persevere in the faith together. But being together in the heavenly temple would be even better.
So why does God allot us all these days between Baptism and heaven? It can sometimes seems like a lot of days, the 28,000-odd days of the average human lifespan.
Okay. Admittedly this is what you might call a “deep thoughts” kind of question. At 22, I thought maybe I could find an answer. Turns out that faith means accepting that God has excellently good reasons for a lot of things that we don’t understand.
Nonetheless, I have a reason for bringing this up. I think I can propose one part of God’s reason for adding days to our lives.
Let’s put it like this. I wake up in the morning. I am still living on earth. I haven’t died and gone to the sub-basement of purgatory. The Lord has given me at least one more day here.
Therefore, I conclude: The Lord has issued the following judgment, regarding my soul. Not: saved. Not: damned. But, room for improvement. That’s at least part of the reason why he adds days and weeks and years to our lives. He may have lots of other reasons, too. But one of them definitely is: He has added another day to my pilgrimage because there is room for my improvement, and today is an opportunity for me to work on it.
See, this is why I have been saying the same thing one way or another for the past three years: It just doesn’t seem to make sense for any baptized person who is still alive on earth to let long periods of time go by without going to confession. If I didn’t need to go to confession any more, I wouldn’t be on the earth anymore. The Lord would have quietly taken me to Himself while I slept. I would be dead.
I mean, if I wake up, and it turns out that I am dead, and I am in purgatory, then I can say to myself, ‘Well, now at least I don’t have to worry about getting to confession once a month anymore. That’s all over and done with now. Let me just suffer whatever purifying agonies I need to undergo here in purgatory.’
But, if I wake up, and I’m still alive on earth, and it’s been over a month since I have been to confession, isn’t God’s message to me perfectly loud and clear? Isn’t He saying, as clear as day, ‘Look, son. I love you with all My Heart. But there’s still room for improvement on your end. So make a diligent examination of conscience and go to confession, so I can give you graces to do better. When I am satisfied that you don’t need to work on yourself any more, you will know. You’ll be dead. In the meantime, make a diligent examination of conscience, and go to confession, please!’
Like I mentioned last week there are two kinds of confessions. Conscious, freely willed violations of God’s solemn laws mean h, e, double l, unless I avail myself of the sacred ministry of the Church. The Lord died so that I could be forgiven, even of sins that merit damnation–I just have to get it out, admit it, and be sorry, in the sacred secrecy of the confessional. That’s called a confession necessary for salvation.
Now, if I diligently examine my conscience and find no conscious, freely willed violations of God’s solemn laws as expounded by Holy Mother Church, then I can make a confession of devotion. This can be as simple as reciting the Act of Contrition. Or I can make an even better devotional confession by choosing a particular aspect of my character that I know I need to work on, and accuse myself of my faults in that area, and God will help me do better through the grace of the sacrament.
Someday, we will all get the memo from God that we don’t need to go to confession anymore, and everyone else will be standing around at the funeral. But in the meantime, let’s go to confession once a month.