An illuminating, reassuring explanation of the Catholic Church's teachings on confession and forgiveness by the bestselling author of The Lamb's Supper and Hail, Holy Queen. Jesus told his first clergy, "If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained." In Lord, Have Mercy, Scott Hahn explores the sacrament of reconciliation and shows why it is the key to spiritual growth, particularly in these times of intense anxiety and uncertainty. Drawing on the history of ancient Israel, the Gospels, the writings of the early Church, and the lives of the saints, Hahn reveals the living, scriptural heart of the Church's teachings on penance, forgiveness, and reconciliation. It is a story that begins with the sin of Adam and Eve, continues in the biographies of Moses, King David, and the Apostle Peter, and reverberates in the lives of believers today. Hahn presents the Catholic and biblical perspective on sin and mercy, elucidating in clear, easily understood language the true import of Jesus' simple, yet profound promise-"I am the door; if anyone enters by Me, he will be saved (John 10:9).
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March 18, 2003
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Excerpt from Lord, Have Mercy by Scott Hahn
Getting Our Stories Straight
Confession is a mixed-up matter for many Catholics. The more we need it, the less we seem to want it. The more we choose to sin, the less we want to discuss our sins.
It's only natural, this reluctance to speak up about our moral failures. If you're the losing pitcher in the final game of the World Series, you're not going to seek out the sportswriters on your way to the locker room. If your mismanagement of the family business has driven most of your kin to bankruptcy court, you probably won't volunteer that information at a cocktail party.
Sin, moreover, is the one thing in life we should be ashamed about. For sin is a transgression against almighty God, which is a more serious matter than a business blunder or a fat pitch down the middle of the plate. When we sin, we reject the love of God, to some degree, and nothing can be hid from God.
Raised from the Dread
So, again, it's only natural for us to wince at the very thought of kneeling before God's representatives on earth, his priests, and of speaking our sins aloud--in clear terms, without whitewash, without excuses. Self-accusation has never been humanitys favorite pastime. Yet it's essential to every confession.
To dread confession is only natural, yes, but nothing that's "only natural" can get us to heaven, or even win us happiness here on earth. Heaven is supernatural; it's above the natural, and every natural happiness is fleeting. Our natural instincts tell us to avoid pain and embrace pleasure, but the wisdom of the ages tells us things like "No pain, no gain."
Whatever we suffer from speaking our sins aloud, it's far less than the pain we bring on ourselves by living in inward or outward denial, acting as if our sins don't exist or don't matter. "If we say we are without sin," the Bible tells us, "we deceive ourselves" (1 Jn 1:8).
Self-deception is a nasty thing in itself, but it's only the beginning of our troubles. For when we begin to deny our sins, we begin to live a lie. In our speech or in our thought, we have broken important connections of cause and effect, because we have denied our own responsibility for our own most grievous faults. Once we've done this, even in a small matter, we have begun to erode the contours of reality. We can't quite get our story straight, and this can't help but affect our lives, our health, and our relationships--most directly and most profoundly, our relationship with God.