Doing good, not sinning, following Christ is simple, right? All you have to do is love God with your whole heart, soul, and mind. Oh, and love your neighbor as yourself. See? Simple! Unfortunately, it’s not easy. I know that. You know that. Anyone who says it is easy is just plain lying (or maybe fooling themselves); of course it’s difficult to live so that our actions always follow from our love of God. There are so many things in life that we just plain want more than to live in love of God – at least for the moment. And the enemy is smart; he knows how to trick us down that road. He never tempts us with something that we would immediately reject. He starts small – like the tiniest grain of sand. Now, I’m from Florida, beach country, and I can tell you that, if you’re sensitive to it, a single grain of sand can be pretty uncomfortable. But let’s be honest, we are not all that sensitive – to sand or sin.
Let me give you a little illustration. Imagine you are walking along, and you pick up a little pebble that looks kinda cool. It’s shiny, a pretty color, sparkly – it gets your attention. You drop that pebble in your pocket and continue on your way; for this illustration, that little pebble is a sin. It doesn’t weigh you down that much, does it? But imagine you see another one on the road, and you like it, too. You already have one, so you get it a friend. Now you have two. You keep walking along and picking up pebbles that you like. Eventually they are going to start to get heavy, right? You start looking for pebbles, and your walk turns into a hunt for even better stones. As you go, some of the stones you find get larger; some are the size of your thumb, some your fist. Your collection is growing. You tell a little lie to your parents to stay out late. You cheat on a test. You sneak into a movie. The stones keep getting bigger.
Going out with your friends is more fun than going to Mass. It’s just this one time. The next week, it’s just one more time, but you’ll definitely go next week. God understands. We have an agreement. He’s still the center of my life, and I love him more than anything, but he loves me and wants me to be happy, so he wants me to spend time with my friends. The excuses get more elaborate. The stones get bigger. They’re starting to weigh you down, and you know you don’t like it, but you can’t stop. You need the next exciting stone for your collection. They aren’t worth anything, but they’re just so awesome looking!
Eventually, we will come to a time when we fully push God to the side, when we decide we no longer need him in our day-to-day life. We will do things we never thought we’d do – and we will add a big boulder to our collection to carry around.
In comes the priest to hear your confession. You unload. Jesus Christ, through that priest, takes all those stones you thought were so important, and you see them for the rubble and debris they are.
But what about the boulder? I can’t admit that to the priest. What would he think of me? I will just confess all the pebbles and the smaller stones. That bigger one, though, I can’t say that out loud! No one knows.
God does. That is the very rock he wants to take from you, but you have to be willing to hand it over to the priest. As long as you cling to that boulder, you cling to sin, you hold it close to your heart; ever try to give someone a hug while holding a boulder in your arms? It gets in the way of loving God with everything you are. I’m pleading with you. Trust God; trust the priest he has put in front of you today to hear your confession. The priest won’t think less of you (he probably won’t even remember). In fact, if anything, he’ll see your courage at throwing yourself on the mercy of God and receiving his forgiveness.
When you finish your confession, the priest will raise his hand and say,
“God, the Father of mercies, through the death and resurrection of his Son has reconciled the world to himself and sent the Holy Spirit among us for the forgiveness of sins; through the ministry of the Church may God give you pardon and peace, and I absolve you from your sins in the name of the Father, and of the Son, + and of the Holy Spirit.”
At that moment, the stones are gone. Christ has taken them on himself. We are finally free to love God again with our whole heart, our whole soul, and our whole mind. And we do our best to avoid starting another collection.