Confession and Spiritual Warfare

ion 1" src="http://caritasetveritas.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/04/confession-1-150x150.jpg" alt="" width="150" height="150" srcset="https://i1.wp.com/caritasetveritas.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/04/confession-1.jpg?resize=150%2C150 150w, https://i1.wp.com/caritasetveritas.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/04/confession-1.jpg?zoom=2&resize=150%2C150 300w" sizes="(max-width: 150px) 100vw, 150px" />Confession is such an important Sacrament. We may associate the Sacrament of Confession especially with the season of Lent, or perhaps with Advent, but it is appropriate for Easter as well, since Easter celebrates the Lord’s resurrection, and many a soul are raised to new life through Confession. Moreover, Confession—which is sometimes called Reconciliation, or Penance—helps provide us with the grace and healing we need for the spiritual battles we engage in day in and day out. The battles I refer to are not the extraordinary ones we encounter in Hollywood films, so much as the daily battles we face to become more loving, to continually turn away from sin and turn toward God, continually to begin again and again—they are our daily battles to sow the seeds of the love and the peace of Christ in the world around us. In these daily battles, we get wounded, and Confession is the great Sacrament of healing that we need. St. Aphrahat was an eastern church father writing in the 300s A.D. Mike Aquilina includes a fantastic quotation from St. Aphrahat dealing with Confession/Penance, in a chapter devoted to the development of the Sacrament of Confession, in Aquilina’s wonderful book, Roots of the Faith. Here’s the quotation, taken from St. Aphrahat’s work, On Penitents:

“There is a medicine for every disease, and when a skillful physician finds the medicine, the disease is healed. For those who are wounded in our battle, there is the medicine of penance, and those who put it on their wounds are healed. Physicians, you disciples of our wise Physician, take this medicine, and use it to heal the wounds of the sick. For warriors who are wounded in battle by someone who is fighting them find a skillful physician, and then they put themselves into his hands to be healed, so that he can make the wounded parts whole. And when a physician heals a man who was wounded in battle, the king gives him gifts and honors. So, beloved, when someone is struggling in our battle, and the enemy fights against him and wounds him, it is appropriate to give him the medicine of penance, when the wounded man’s repentance has grown great. For God does not reject the penitent: as Ezekiel the prophet said, ‘I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that the wicked turn from his way and live.’ Now, whoever is wounded in battle is not ashamed to put himself in the hands of a skillful physician, so that he can be healed of the wounds he received in battle. And the king does not reject a man who has been healed, but considers him part of his army again. Likewise the man wounded by Satan should not be ashamed to confess his sin, and leave it behind, and beg for the medicine of penance. For gangrene comes if a man is ashamed to show his wound, and then the whole body is harmed. Whoever is not ashamed has his wound healed, and goes back to battle again; but if gangrene comes, he cannot be healed, and he cannot take up his arms again. So for anyone who has been overcome in our battle, this is the way he can be healed: he can say, ‘I have sinned,’ and ask for penance. But whoever is ashamed cannot be healed, because he will not reveal to the physician who earns two pennies where his wounds are, so that the physician can heal all of them.”1

For Further Reading:

Hahn, Scott. Lord, Have Mercy: The Healing Power of Confession. New York: Doubleday, 2003.

Hahn, Scott. Signs of Life: 40 Catholic Customs and Their Biblical Roots. New York: Doubleday, 2009.

Shanks, Jason. “God is Too Hot to Handle: Protestant Misconceptions about Confession.” This Rock 11, no. 5-6 (May/June 2000).

  1. Mike Aquilina, Roots of the Faith: From the Church Fathers to You (Cincinnati: St. Anthony Messenger, 2010), 11-12. []

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