Friends, like millions of other people, I like to tackle certain initiatives at the beginning of each year. I make secular vows like losing weight and exercising more and pious vows like praying a daily Rosary or getting to Adoration once a week. Unfortunately, all too often, I fail at most, if not all, of my endeavors. Sometimes it takes a long time, but, in the end, I succumb to my worst nature. Does my human nature doom me to life overweight, lazy, and unable to maintain good norms of piety?
Matthew Kelly says no. He says, “There is a genius in Catholicism!” In his book Rediscover Catholicism, he highlights so many of the glorious things Our Lord gave us in the Church He founded. One of those things is Reconciliation. Matthew Kelly explains that Jesus, in His infinite wisdom, knew that even after hearing the truth of the Gospels, we would fail to walk in His ways. Understanding our human need for hearing the comforting words of forgiveness, we received a concrete avenue for offering our contrition while simultaneously receiving the grace to continue on our journey. Reconciliation truly sets us free.
Dan Ariely, a behavioral economist from Duke University, was looking for ways to reduce the desire for people to cheat in a myriad of situations. When he stumbled upon Catholic Confession, he didn’t know what to make of it. “From an economic perspective, we don’t understand confession. If you can confess and be absolved, shouldn’t you cheat more?” he asked. As it turned out, he discovered the opposite in his research. Confession led to better behavior instead of worse. In a series of secular experiments simulating confession, he discovered something he called the “what the hell” effect. He said that once people do something that they deem as bad enough times, they basically give up and convince themselves that they already have screwed things up this
As Catholics, we understand both the human and the supernatural effect of Reconciliation on our souls. Like the cleansing waters of Baptism, we are new creations formed by the words of Absolution. Emboldened by this comforting truth, I have decided to tie my efforts at improvement this year to sins I want to avoid. Sloth and gluttony are my biggest foes. Instead of simply starting a diet or workout program, I intend to offer sacrifices in my food choices to the Lord and make exercise a chance to clean the temple of the Holy Spirit my body is supposed to be. I know I will fail. It will happen more than once, but this time I know I can start over. Any day I can make it to the confessional can be New Year’s Day. Maybe if we had fireworks and confetti to celebrate as people came out people would understand the gift that Jesus continues to give us.
You will be in my prayers. Good luck with those Re(soul)utions.
Copyright 2018 Mark Andrews