Frankly I was suspicious of his motives. He seemed friendly, but have you ever had that feeling that someone was being nice to you just to take advantage of you? Well, that’s exactly how I felt: like he was just waiting to catch me in saying something so he could use it against me. Of course, I was testifying against his client and he was the defense attorney trying to win a “not guilty” verdict for his client whom I had arrested on a drunk driving charge. So, I guess he was just doing his job, but still did he have to act like he and I were best friends. It just felt icky!
We all struggle with being honest about our motives. But the sad truth is many times we don’t even stop to consider our motives. We just act. And then we wonder why our relationships suffer, or our intentions are misunderstood. If I am asleep to how my own motives can be corrupted by self-interest or greed or fear or passions, I always run the risk of looking at everyone else as potential “servants” to my own needs. And that always leads to codependency, never true sacrificial love!
Look at our Gospel Lesson in Luke 20:1-8
At that time, as Jesus was teaching the people in the temple and preaching the gospel, the chief priests and the scribes with the elders came up and said to Him, “Tell us by what authority you do these things, or who it is that gave you this authority.” He answered them, “I also will ask you a question; now tell me, was the baptism of John from heaven or from men?” And they discussed it with one another, saying, “If we say, ‘From heaven,’ he will say, ‘Why did you not believe him?’ But if we say, ‘From men,’ all the people will stone us; for they are convinced that John was a prophet.” So they answered that they did not know whence it was. And Jesus said to them, “Neither will I tell you by what authority I do these things.”
Our Lord used this insight into the hearts of men when He was confronted by the religious leaders of His day about His authority to teach and to cleanse the Temple and to basically indict the leaders as leading the people wrongly! His wise use of “verbal” jousting revealed the leaders for the hypocrites they were. He knew they weren’t really interested in hearing about His true identity or His authority. they were just trying to trap Him or shame Him or at least cover up their own spiritual poverty. But it didn’t work. They had to admit “We don’t know.”
And in that, they finally admitted the truth. They didn’t know because they chose not to know. They chose to remain deluded by their ego and their pride.
That same fate awaits everyone who never allows for a time of honest reflection, spiritual discernment, and humble confession. This is why the Faith offers you and me the spiritual “medicine” of confession, so that, not trusting that I can be self aware enough to see past my own temptations to either be too easy on myself or too hard on myself, I come to the Church, to the “father” who has been given the grace by the Holy Spirit to “bind and loose” to ask that the searchlight of God’s wisdom and grace be turned inward so that I can finally get to the bottom of my own spiritual illness!
To be sure, this rarely pleasant, but, having heard confessions and regularly going to confession myself, I can tell you that seeing someone come to some clarity about their struggles is so very gratifying. The liberty in their face, the joy in their hearts, makes me wonder why our priests aren’t constantly busy offering this indispensable gift to all our Orthodox faithful. Oh, and guess what question get asked the most. Yep, “Father, how often should I go to confession?” And my answer is always the same: “Every time you need to!” Do it and you may find you come to love doing this spiritual work of normal Orthodoxy!
Today, as we continue the Nativity Fast, why not make an appointment for confession before the Nativity Feast? Even if you’ve never done it before, it is time to start making this normal Orthodox Christian discipline a part of the spiritual toolbox for your spiritual health. I mean, surely you want to be Orthodox on Purpose, don’t you?