Do you make New Year resolutions? Do you decide what things are wrong in your life and then plan to put them right? A friend recently said that she couldn’t come to Communion because she had not been to confession. The truth is she has not been to confession for years.
Confession is one way of looking at past actions but that is no good if that is all we do. Saying fifty hail Mary’s is no punishment because nothing gets resolved. It doesn’t put us in the position of making a new start, a new beginning, a new creation or a new kind of behavior. Private confessions are not so common among Anglicans and you don’t see the little confessional boxes in Anglican churches as you do in those of the Roman Catholics.
However do not think that I am condemning confession because I am not … it is the first part of a routine that we should all be engaged in on a regular basis.
Reviewing who we are, and what we do, is a pre-requisite for being a Christian. Making an assessment of our life, our behavior towards our self and towards others should be part of the ongoing review of our Christian life.
First of all we have to be true to ourselves and we need to treat ourselves well. Too much we neglect our own needs and, when we do, we deteriorate as a human being.
We were talking in the Breakfast Study Group last week about how much we are an integrated body and mind, with one embracing the other, and we talked about the extent to which we are affected by what we do even down to the foods we eat. One of the group recalled that the body of a fourteenth century man was dug up on the Channel Islands recently and his bones were sent for analysis. From his bones the experts were able to say that he died from leprosy and that his diet was mainly fish. Our bodies are what we eat.
People in China and Japan are growing taller because their diet is improving … people in the Western nations are living longer because our diet is more nutritious. Life, of course, is more than just what we eat, but food is a vital ingredient to a healthy and productive life. If we eat the wrong foods, we may be in the process of slowly killing ourselves, and we should ask if that is better or worse than someone who takes their own life suddenly. Being kind and considerate to ourselves may mean that we need to make changes to our lifestyle.
Take yourself seriously, and your needs seriously, because your whole future depends upon it. This is not some abstract exercise without any real effects. A friend of mine went to the doctor because she felt ill, and yet there seemed to be nothing drastically wrong with her. She was just out of sorts, a person who had lost her zest for life. She had become subject to depression and lacked drive and energy. She was unhappy with herself and with her relationships, that also seemed to be going nowhere.
Like most of us do, she blamed it upon an outside illness, a virus that must have come from outer space to affect her and her alone. She did not see it as her own illness, a malaise with which she infected herself. The doctor examined her for all kinds of problems but could not find one specific ailment on which to hang a root cause of her troubles.
She was passed on to another doctor for a further opinion. You have a fatty liver he said to her. What was that she wanted to know?
It is the result of eating the wrong kind of foods too often he said … you have overwhelmed your liver with so much work it can no longer function properly. Like a blocked drain the black water is now going everywhere it can find a place to go. All the toxins that can no longer go through your sluggish liver are being pumped back into your body. No wonder you feel lousy and unwell. You have to get your liver cleaned out with a better diet. In weeks she began to feel better as the blockage was slowly being removed. She has more energy and her enthusiasm for life is returning and her depression is lessening.
I am not saying that all our ills are connected to our diet, but many could well be. Each one of us needs to look carefully at what we do and eat, and we need to be fair to ourselves if we want to lead a good life.
Confession is not making up petty wrongs to say aloud. Confession is a review of ourselves against what we know we should be doing. We have a duty to know about our weaknesses and ourselves because when they interfere with our lives they also begin to impede the lives of others.
When Jesus says that we should treat others as we treat ourselves, he is assuming that we have a substantial knowledge of who we are, and we should know others to the same extent, so that their lives are not diminished through our selfishness. This is the way to promote peace and goodwill.
We have been talking about peace and goodwill to all over the Christmas holiday, but it won’t come on its own. It will only happen if we make it happen and that is when we take hold of our lives in a positive way and use them to create good.
If we are looking for discord and chaos, then carry on letting events dictate to us what the outcome shall be. Eat whatever you want without regard to its affect upon our bodies and personalities. Can we be surprised that the world is going out of control when we have no notion of controlling ourselves?
If we want a better place and world in which to live, a better environment in which to prosper then we need to go to confession and put before God exactly what we do and how we do it.
Let God, through reading the Scriptures, or a priest, or a Counselor, or a doctor, or a real friend that could be a husband or wife, help you assess your life and how you live it and then we can sensibly make the changes that are necessary for our life to be full and beautiful.
A friend who is overcoming her fight with cancer refused a chocolate she was offered. No thank you, she said, I don’t want to win my fight against cancer so that I can die of diabetes.
Let us all review our eating habits; let us all review our relationships, with our spouses, our children, and our neighbors and let us lay the foundation for change to make life better.
When we do this we shall receive the absolution that we need to feel good about ourselves. We may have sung and almost certainly will have heard the carol, ‘Joy to the world the Lord has come.’
Making a true confession is to let the Lord come in, and that brings the joy that lights our lives and makes us truly Christian.