Thursday, June 2, 2011


Q - This is mainly in the context of a sin I repetitively fall back into. Very soon after falling, I want to go to Confession, but sometimes I feel like I fall into presuming I can easily get rid of the stain and use the sacrament to clean up soon after I get all dirty. Presumption is not good, obviously, but what's worse is when after I commit the sin, I have a hard time returning in a timely manner because the fact that I presumed I could quickly "confess it all away" makes me not want to make good on that. Like maybe if I waited a bit I would not be cashing in on my presumption. But If I need to go, I need to go ASAP. Or that is at least how I feel. Why remain removed from God's love any longer than necessary, right? So I want to confess soon after the sin has been committed. But I feel bad because I'm doing (presuming I can quickly "get rid" of the sin) exactly what Satan has tempted me into thinking I could do. And it struck me when I was thinking I should not go to confession because it wouldn't be right to. The fleeting thought that regaining God's love later would be better than doing it now is scary and dangerous. If I desire to be forgiven of my sins, and feel sorry for them shouldn't we do it asap?

A -
Thanks for the question. I think you have the problem figured out already. Now, the question becomes - what do I do about it?

I want to tell you something clearly. God desires us to ask him for forgiveness. Again and again. No matter how many times it takes. He doesn't count the number, only we do.

Here are the facts:
  • We all sin.
  • We all need forgiveness.
  • Only God can forgive sins.
  • We need his forgiveness repeatedly.
  • Our delay in seeking forgiveness harms us, not Him.
I have done the same thing you have. We all want to enjoy the sin, but then we regret our acts and yet are fearful of seeking forgiveness or just presume God's forgiveness without seeking it out. This act of presumption is sinning twice, because we presume that God is merciful and yet sin anyway knowing He will forgive.

From my own experience, I believe the problem arises from making God too small. I wanted God to be a neat and clean cosmic washing machine that would clean me from my sins anytime I needed him to. But, God is much more than that. God is God! God is Father! God wants a relationship and this means he wants me. That means I have to invest in this and not just use him for what I need.

You should not delay in going to confession. Run to it. Do whatever it takes. Then lay it all on the line in front of God. Confess your presumption and your delay in receiving the Sacrament. Pray for a desire to not commit the sin again. If you do, go back to confession without delay. Don't feel bad about being a burden on the priest - they would rather see you there being honest than not. Also, repeatedly telling the same priest a sin you are doing out of habit or vice is best, because they can help you with it as well as giving you an external reason to avoid the sin - having to tell someone over and over again the same sin.

My confessors have helped me break numerous bad habits and vices. But, we have to seek them out.

But, don't take my word for it - listen to your confessor.


JC said...

I think it was Scott Hahn who relayed a story about confessing the same old sins again and again: his confessor simply asked, what do you want? A set of new sins?

Sarah said...

From my understanding presumption happens before (or during) a sin is being committed. For example, I’m considering doing something (or am currently doing something) I know is wrong and say to myself, “That is okay, I can go to confession afterwards.” That is presumption, assuming God will forgive you later for what you are choosing to do now. You’re right in not wanting to “abuse” confession as a “quick fix”; however, if after all is said and done you are sorry for both the sin committed and the presumption in committing it . . . that sounds like contrition to me.

Sometimes even when we are contrite (sorry for the sin) and desiring to stop, we can also be aware that a sin is a pattern and the likelihood of doing it again is high. That is distinct from presumption. In that situation we can still go to confession sincerely hoping to avoid it, planning to avoid it, and choosing to rely on God’s grace to avoid it. The “planning” and “choosing” are key though. “Hoping” to avoid it without changing anything else in our lives usually does not work.

I echo what Marcel said about talking to your confessor. I would add a suggestion to talk with him not just about your sin, but also the struggle with repeating it and the concern about presumption. He should be able to help you navigate this. I’ve found sharing my thought processes and concerns in confession to be immensely helpful.

And lastly, you mentioned the idea of “regaining God’s love”. I just wanted to say we never loose God’s love, not even through sin. God’s love is constant and in fact it is precisely His love that calls us back to Himself through confession. His love is always present despite our greatest sins. It is helpful for me to remember that.

You'll be in my prayers.