Monday, December 5, 2011

Confession, Good for the Soul and the Body

Today's gospel passage (Lk 5:17-26) got me to thinking about the physical consequences of sin, but let me back up a ways first and make some other connections.  Over the past several months I have been undertaking some studies in the area of counselling and psychology.  One important thing I learned, which most people do not know, is that untreated mental illness can have the effect of shortening one's life expectancy.  As I said, most people would probably not expect that to be the case, we could all make the connection between physical illness and a shorter life span, but mental illness?  I don't have all the details on what the effects are, but I would suspect that untreated mental illness at the very least contributes to a heightened level of stress on the rest of the body, and thus leads to a shorter life.  I would like to suggest that something similar might be true of sin.  I'm sure for those with a strong interior life, a strong prayer life, it becomes noticeable when sins begin to accumulate, and when confession is becoming over due.  I certainly have had that experience in prayer, but I've noticed physical signs in myself as well.  I suffer from a neck injury I sustained in a car accident back in high school.  Most of the time it's fine, but I know that when stress is building around something the stiffness sets in.  There are times when I have nothing to be stressed about, but realize that it's been a while since I've been to confession, because my neck gives me the same signal.  Many times too, I have heard the confession of someone with a "big" sin to confess, or someone who has been away from confession for a long time.  At the end of the confession, you can see a physical difference, as though a weight has been lifted from their shoulders.  Theologically we know that death entered the world as a consequence of sin, but perhaps (and I have no theological or scientific evidence for this other than my own observations) leaving our sins untended and unconfessed can have an effect on our physical well-being as well.  This Advent, as we prepare for Christmas, it's a good time to make a confession if we haven't been in a while.  As so many people are focusing on their health I suggest the following simple rules:  have a good diet, get a good night's sleep, get good exercise, and make a good confession.  You just might feel better, in more ways than one.

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