When I was in high school, it had been many years since I had been to confession. I went to my first reconciliation and then had no desire to go again until many years later. That desire changed when I was a freshman in High School. I was at a weekend-long conference called the Steubenville conference, and we went to Steubenville on the Bayou, hosted by the Diocese of Houma Thibodaux. Suddenly I had a desire to go to confession and confess my sins. I remember getting in a long line for confession and being very nervous. Unfortunately, the next event came up, and they said you need to go to confession at a later time. The end of the evening finally came, and I still had yet to be to confession. My youth minister challenged me to find a priest and ask him for confession. The first priest I saw was a bishop, I don’t remember his name, but I went up to him and asked him for confession. He generously agreed and heard my confession. To make a long story short, he challenged me not to wait so long before I went to confession again. However, something else happened and has happened many times after this one. There was a weight that I could feel lifted off my shoulders. I felt relieved I felt lighter and felt better about myself.
Now there may be a natural explanation to these feelings, but I believe there is a supernatural reality happening because of this confession. When we go to confession, there is a weight lifted off our shoulders, and that weight is sin.
We just heard in the Gospel, come to me all you who are labored and are heavy burdened, and I will give you rest! Many things in our lives labor us and provide us with stress and anxiety. There is something we may not realize weighs us down and burdens us. That is our sinful habits and the ways we sin. Sin weighs us down and brings us higher burdens in our lives. Jesus, on the other hand, wants to remove that weight from our lives. How do we remove that weight? One way is through confession and confessing our sins to a priest.
Another way is to live the life of the spirit, as St. Paul explains. St. Paul tells us that we are no longer in the flesh; we are rather in the spirit. Being a part of the spirit means that we follow Christ, we do our best to follow the commandments and to live good Christian lives. For me, follow Jesus, living out the commandments, and doing my best to avoid sin brings me joy. For me, when I feel joyful, I don’t feel burdened by life, I don’t feel like things are weighing me down. This is the life of the spirit and what it feels like to follow Christ.
However, we all know that we are not perfect, and we do fall into sin, and other aspects of our lives may burden us and cause us stress. What do we do with this stress, these heavy burdens? Give them to Jesus. Jesus tells us that the burden he wants to give us is light. Why is it light? Because Jesus takes on the heavy burdens and does the lifting for us. I wrote about this some in my bulletin article. I encourage you to pick on up after mass and read it.
What is also the case is that we are challenged to give our heavy burdens to Jesus so he can take them on. Part of that is removing from our lives things of the flesh. What I mean is sins and worldly things that cause us heavy burdens. St. Paul speaks about this when he says put to death deeds of the body. What are those deeds of the body? They are sinful activities we may engage in. When we realize that we fall into those sins, we need to confess them. However, we should also examine ourselves and say what lead to that sin and how can I avoid it in the future.
I want to leave you with this. I challenge all of us to look at our lives and ask ourselves. What is burdening me and causing me stress? What sins do I need to remove from my life and bring them to confession? I must admit I’m in need to go to confession again, and I hope to call up one of my priest friends and avail myself of that sacrament. I encourage all of us to find time for confession, we have confession 30 minutes before every daily mass, and two hours before Saturday mass. I also encourage you if it doesn’t work with your schedule, give the office a call and ask to talk to Fr. Al or myself. We would be willing to make an appointment and hear your confession. We want nothing less than to remove that heavy burden from your life, and through God’s grace, forgive your sins.