I know it is difficult to be someone who goes to church. When you decide to take your faith seriously, you immediately become a role model. People expect more of you, and your are left wondering how to deal with the sin that roars inside. I admit that sometimes it is easier for me to act holy because it’s too painful and embarrassing to talk about the real struggles of my life.
Some people will argue that it’s not worth going to church because the pews are filled with hypocrites–people who say one thing and do another. This is a valid point, but critics are missing the whole reason you go to church. You go to church because you need God, not because you are perfect. You go to church because you are bad at being holy.
So what’s the difference between a church full of sinners and a church full of hypocrites? Pride. Pride makes one more concerned with looking holy than BEING holy. It’s pride that corrupts a church to the point where nobody feels welcome because everybody is judged. But above all, pride prevents us from experiencing God’s grace.
This is where we, as Catholics, have a unique source of healing and grace: the sacrament of reconciliation. I mean think about it, the whole experience of confession is humbling, leaving no room for pride. We are expected to spill out all of our issues, our problems, and our sins. Sometimes it’s the embarrassment alone that can prevent one from sinning in the first place. The act of confessing with our lips is so powerful that even non-Catholics see the healing that can come from it.
Many Christian denominations have made “accountability groups” or “accountability partners” as a critical part of forming their congregations. People are paired off and asked to meet to talk about their sins–to confess their sins–with hopes that once we are brutally honest about our sinfulness, we might have our first chance of true healing. But we can’t just think of reconciliation as a rite of humiliation that discouraged from sinning.
Reconciliation is a sacrament, a way that God shares real grace that helps us get through this earth so we can eventually be with Him. Think of grace as an energy drink for the exercise of holiness. It’s only when we experience God’s grace do we have a chance at not being a hypocrite. And surrounded by his grace, we are able to be more loving and accepting of anyone who comes through our church doors.
A great saint said it the best: “The church is not a waiting room for saints, it’s a hospital for sinners.”