Recently I was blessed with the opportunity to speak to the parents of children who are preparing to receive the Sacrament of Reconciliation. As I prayed and thought about what I would say, I decided to implement one of my fancy new evangelization approaches. I would situate my catechesis on Confession and it's importance for the family within an all-out kerygmatic evangelization.
I wanted to go beyond a catechesis on the purpose and practice of Reconciliation. I wanted to break open the whole drama of humanity to give people a renewed vision of the gravity of sin, the immensity of forgiveness, the power of mercy, and the eternal depths of reconcilation with God.
I took a salvation history perspective, starting with the theme of God's overwhelming generosity. All is gift! All is received! The story of creation and the Garden of Eden is the tale of that generosity. God did not have to create us, He wanted to. And thus it is His generosity that we attack in all our sins.
Each sin we commit is proof that we think God is holding out on us. Sure, He has given us everything, but what if there's more? It comes in many forms: drunkenness, violence, hatred, war, porn, murder, gossip, lying, stealing, cheating, etc. We think He's holding back the good stuff, which can only be ours if we get it for ourselves. "Your way is nice, but I found something better!"
All Eve had to do when tempted by the serpent is simple: she just had to turn around.
If she would have put her back to the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil and just looked at all the other trees that she could have snagged the fruit from, she would have been instantly reminded of God's generosity to her and her husband. The superabundance of Eden would have been worthy enough a reminder that God is love, that love is real, and that love is always fruitful.
But Eve never turned around, and sin entered the human heart.
Funny thing is, the word repent means literally "to turn back, to turn around". This is an important part of the human experience of God's grace. In order to stay faithful, especially when times are tough, we have to turn around, putting our backs to the present temptation, and remember what good things the Lord has done for us in the past.
Remembrance is a central theme in the Old and New Testaments. For the wayward Israelites Moses, the prophets, the kings, and also the Psalms were always calling the People of God to "remember". Remembrance is crucial to living out faith in God. Remember how Yahweh delivered His People from Egypt, from the Pharaoh's armies, from starvation in the desert, from tribes that attacked them, from plagues that tormented them.
Remember what He did, cling to it, and remain faithful. God did not have to save the Israelites from Egypt, He wanted to be their Saving Champion. He chose to remember His covenant with them.
In the gospels Jesus Christ inaugerated the new covenant by taking bread and wine into his hands and transformed them into his body and blood, with the words "Do this in remembrance of me." The central act of worship that characterizes the new covenant is an act of remembrance. We remember that all is grace, even our ability to say "Thank You" to God (the word Eucharist means "thanksgiving").
Remember, remember, remember! Turn around, face the past, and see how good God has been to you. We face the past both sacramentally in the Eucharist and spiritually when in spiritual combat we remember all previous encounters we had with God that have shaped and molded our faith. Only then can you say to the face of the temptation: "Jesus Christ is better than you!"