What? Confession? Glad? If you’re like so many Catholics, even otherwise orthodox ones, the idea of confession can often fill you with dread. You need to talk to another, powerful, person about what a failure you’ve been, about how much you’ve fallen short of the glory of God, and that’s absolutely terrifying. Yes, you’re receiving grace from the sacrament, but is it worth the panic and the mortification?
Get out your Bible study hats, brownie-bites, it’s time to dive into a Bible story that suddenly jumped at me today as a really super-good reason to never fear Confession again. And it even has to do with our present Advent season!
You might guess from the title of this post what the story is, or you could just click the embedded link above. Either way, let’s take a close look at Luke 2:8-20 and the incredible story of Christmas night.
Let’s start with those shepherds. Shepherds were outcasts, for the most part. They wore weird clothes, they were dirt poor, and they smelled like sheep. They were weird and, if they went into the city, it was immediately obvious to everyone what they were. So here they are, alone, for the most part. Weird-looking. The least important people in the entire country… until that night.
Boom, crash! Giant angels appear in the sky! Now, everything the Bible says about angels says that they are terrifying. Literally every time they appear, they have to tell people to calm the hell down and not be afraid. And they appeared tonight, not to kings or to wise men (who just had a pretty star) and not to celebrities… but to stinky shepherds, shivering their way through another arduous night shift. The glory of God’s most beautiful creatures filled the sky, singing all together, and telling these seemingly worthless outcasts that God had come to earth and they were the very first to know; the VIPs of salvation with a meet-and-greet-pass to see the King of Kings! And not as a powerful, shiny, terrifying judge…. but as a baby.
Fragile, pink, whimpering, and as non-threatening as they come, the God of the universe had become a human, and the first humans He wanted to meet were the ones who thought themselves completely unworthy of human contact right then. He didn’t call for them to put on royal robes and bathe first, and He didn’t wait until they were perfect to call them to Himself. No, He sent His messengers to them when they were at their most normal, most awful selves. He wanted them to come to Him right then, even though it meant walking through the city. He had no judgement or shame for their state, because He had joined that state expressly for the purpose of meeting them and forgiving their sins, turning the outcasts into sons. He didn’t ask for grand gestures or sweeping bows, but delighted in the simple praise of a bunch of uneducated animal wranglers.
And you know what? It’s the same Jesus now as it was then. The same unthreatening, loving baby waits in the person of the priest as waited in a manger, for all of us outcasts to come to Him and see firsthand His humble glory. For all of our fears, our worry that we’ll be in the confessional too long, our terror that Father will get impatient with us for confessing too long or too much or not enough, we’re still called.
We doubt, we fear, and we stink of sin. But the angels still call us to come and see Christ, and give glorious testimony to the fact that He’s here to save us from that sin! Padre Pio testified that angels gather around the altar at Mass and the tabernacle, giving witness to Christ’s coming in the sacraments. So don’t fear! This is the good news of great joy, and it’s time for us to get up and go to Him who is waiting for us.
Glory to God in the highest, and on earth, peace to those upon whom His favor rests!
Love to all, and Merry Christmas!