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!


  1. I try to make confession every week, usually its more like twice a month. That hour after confession that I usually spend at adoration or some other sacred space is the highlight of my week.

    What I find interesting about this reading today, is our priest gave a different interpretation. I like hearing different takes because it reminds me that the word of God truly is alive.

  2. what are the other 4 non- negotiables?

    1. 1. Attend Mass every Sunday
      2. Eucharist at least once a year during Easter
      3. Confess once a year (mentioned above)
      4. Observe Holy Days of Obligation
      5. Observe days of fast and abstinence.

      Now i thought there was a sixth precept which was to observe Church laws regarding marriage. No?

  3. So how dirty are the underwears of Lutheran's, Methodists, Baptists, Presbyterians, non-denominational's?? They don't go to confession and yet they think once saved, always saved. How does that work? Can they be saved? Can they enter Heaven too without ever stepping foot in a confessional?

    1. many of those Christians you mention don't believe in once saved always saved. and although they never step into a confessional many go to heaven, but they miss out of a lot of heaven on earth in the meantime.
      They receive forgiveness and clean their loin clothes the same way many Catholics do, praying directly to God, as we do with the confiteor. What they don't do is take advantage of the best way which Christ gave to the church the evening of the resurrection, the sacrament of reconciliation.
      Those other Christians get to heaven the same way Catholics do, through baptism, through Jesus Christ and the Catholic Church. even though they don't realize it their still saved through the CC. (ccc 1215, 836-850).