Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Underwear and Sin

Having read all of the Bible now at some point in my life or another, I was really surprised to read the first reading for last night's Mass from Jeremiah.  I don't remember ever having read the passage, but I must have had the reading as a priest two years ago, so I don't know how I've not payed attention to it before...anyway, it is a very odd reading.  Here's the summary:

God tells Jeremiah to go buy some underwear
God tells Jeremiah to wear the underwear for a few days
God tells Jeremiah to go hide the used underwear behind a rock in the mountains
God waits for a few months
God tells Jeremiah to go back to the rock and fetch the dirty underwear
God tells Jeremiah to note how the underwear has rotted
God tells Jeremiah "this dirty underwear is like my people"

Now I suppose God could have short-circuited the process and just told Jeremiah at the outset "my people are like rotted underwear" and would have saved Jeremiah a lot of trouble, but God knows everything, so perhaps he discerned that Jeremiah was one of those "visual learners".

Regardless, what struck me about the reading is that I've never heard sin compared to something that rots.  As we all know, if you wash clothing regularly, it doesn't rot, but...if you leave it unwashed for a few months, the dirt, the grime, the sweat etc. have a decaying effect on the clothing.

What a perfect analogy for sin - all sin is bad, but if I wash regularly, sins effects on me, over time, are limited.  However, if I sin but don't ever wash myself, if I never go to the sacrament of reconciliation, then I can expect the effects of the sin, over time, to be more damaging to me.  Sins pile up, and they make it harder and harder to do the right thing, but every time a person goes to confession, the person starts over fresh, and living rightly and happily suddenly becomes a lot easier.

The Church asks us to make a whopping five things non-negotiable in our lives - and one of those non-negotiables is going to confession once a year. 

But who washes their clothes once a year?  I know some people who go to reconciliation once a week or twice a month, and that's great, but I'd say a person who is really seeking to grow in holiness should go to confession every 4-6 weeks at a minimum.  Try it out for a while, not as a command, but just check it out and see if you don't feel better. 

No one likes to feel like they are the spiritual equivalent of rotting underwear!