How specific does your confession have to be?

Some sins can be very complicated. How specific do you have to get? If there are other things going on that can change the nature of the sin can you just say you did the sin itself without going into specifics for the sake of simplicity and not taking 2 hours for a long story so the priest doesn’t personally judge you? Also, if confession behind a screen is acceptable, why can’t we do them over the phone?

Dear friend,

The confession of one’s mortal sins should not be so general that hearing oneself isn’t somewhat painful.

When one is truly sorry for having betrayed one’s Lord and Savior who suffered mentally and physically to the point of giving His very life for us, one doesn’t worry about what the priest will think. One also isn’t worried about hiding behind a screen or a telephone. Somehow, such concerns sound like the sinner’s concern for Confession is all about himself and not much on the One he offended. Get my drift? I suggest that you read the reflection below a few times. It puts everything into perspective for me–and I truly hope that it does so for you as well. You are in my prayers.

Fr. Vincent Serpa, O.P.

Reflection on the Passion of Our Lord Jesus Christ +

The agony in the garden was really the agony in His mind. He suffered the passion in His mind before He suffered it in His body—to the point of actually affecting the latter by sweating blood. But from then on, both His mental and physical suffering affected each other.

At the base of all His suffering was the one thing that human beings dread the most: rejection. He was betrayed by Judas, denied by Peter and abandoned by all the rest of His Apostles; those He had hand picked as His closest intimates. He was most rejected by those who put Him to death. They not only wanted Him dead, they wanted Him to suffer. They not only considered Him to be worth nothing, they considered Him to be worth minus nothing! This significance was not lost on Him. He felt fully the rejection as each physical agony reminded Him. But most of all the silence of the Father was the hardest to bear.

So we thank Him for joining us in our human journey and actually choosing to experience what we fear the most.

We thank Him for enduring the arrest and the cruelty of the guards and the Sanhedrin. We thank Him for enduring the cruelty of Pilate who allowed Him to be executed rather than risk his own political ruin—and for the cruelty of Herod who considered Him a nuisance. We thank Him for all the time He spent satisfying their preoccupation with themselves, just delaying His ultimate death. We thank Him for the anxiety of that night in a cell.

The next morning He was brutally scourged with such intensity and violence that He became as an aged man in a matter of minutes. His multiple wounds bloodied His entire body. The loss of so much blood not only severely weakened Him; it also caused a severe, throbbing headache that remained with Him for the duration.

We thank Him for this and for the mockery He received when they put a purple cloak over His open wounds, inviting immediate infection and then pushed a crown of thorns down into His head which intensified His headache. They blindfolded Him and struck Him multiple blows, insisting that He ‘prophesy’ who had hit Him. He, of course knew. It was they who were blind. They spat on Him and made Him walk to the preatorium, even though He could barely stand.

He stood in the praetorium in utter disgrace according to the crowd—while in reality, He stood in utter glory: almighty God, being present to every person who has ever suffered rejection, joining them in their moment of pain. It was there that He was sentenced to death by crucifixion. Physically, He was utterly miserable. He revealed to St. Bernard that carrying the cross was His most painful agony. He was so weak and thirsty, He could hardly walk. The weight of the cross most likely dislocated His shoulder and caused Him to fall three times under its weight on to the stone street, filthy with animal dung. He got up each time.

It was only with the help of Simon of Cyrene that He made it to Calvary. There they drove the nails into the His hands (most likely through the carpal tunnels which could support His weight), causing pain throughout His upper body. The nail in His feet registered great pain through all the sensitive nerves there. As He hung between heaven and earth on the cross, his body began to shut down. After three hours, He reached the point where His weakened state was simply no match for what is known as sepsis (where the bloodstream is overwhelmed by bacteria) and in this eternal moment He died, giving us His life. While this moment transcends time, covering everyone who has ever lived or will live, it remains as the Eucharist, present to us in the tabernacles of the world. We thank you, Lord. We adore you O Christ and we praise you. By your holy cross, you have redeemed the world.

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