Monday, February 21, 2011

The Need to Confess

A few years back I discovered the rare genius that was the great Russian author, Fyodor Dostoevsky. If you haven't read Crime and Punishment, The Brothers Karamazov, or The Possessed, you're missing out on some great storytelling.

I bring up Dostoevsky because of something that Fr. Barron said in his most recent video commentary (watch it below) regarding the new iPhone app for confession: "this need to confess seems to be hard-wired in us, to bring our problems before some higher authority and receive a word of forgiveness or a word of judgment." I immediately thought of Crime and Punishment.

The book is about a man named Rodion Romanovich Raskolnikov who has convinced himself that in spite of being poor and unemployed, his education makes him a superior human being. He rationalizes that his superiority gives him the right to judge as worthless to the world a woman with some money who lives in the neighborhood. His plan is to kill her, steal her money and then use it for himself, the superior human being much more worthy of living. His plan is foiled when the woman's sister walks in on the murder. Raskolnikov panics, kills the sister, grabs a bag of worthless trinkets and runs off in haste with none of the money he planned on taking.

Throughout the novel Raskolnikov's crime torments him as he spins his stories to cover his tracks and dodge the police. He becomes paranoid, is wrapped up in lying, hiding, rationalizing, worrying, looking over his shoulder and alienating himself; yet still he continues to revel in his delusion of superiority, laying blame wherever possible to avoid taking responsibility for his terrible crimes. He is constantly arguing with himself, sometimes out loud in public like a crazy man, as he fights the urge to confess his crimes, and several times he almost confesses in spite of himself.

Herein lies the punishment.

Yes, this is extreme, but one of the lessons to be learned from Crime and Punishment is that we can't hide from our sins or rationalize that we're somehow above making a confession. We are the ones who have sinned, who have turned away from God; it is therefore we who must take that step and reconcile. That's why the Sacrament is called "Reconciliation."  Why punish ourselves with being apart from God and His Church?

Lent is only a few weeks away.  What a great time to find a regular confessor and make confession a new spiritual habit.

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