Have you ever lied to someone? Did you mean to? Did you feel bad afterwards? What about during prayer? A friend and I recently shared a conversation about lying. In our own way, we each had entered into a state of sin; we fell short of our call to holiness and virtue. We shared that we had been consistent and diligent in our prayer life, in an effort to be faithful in at least one way. However, we both voiced an anxiety or uneasiness felt during that prayer time: “It felt like I was lying to God.”
We both felt that we were lying during prayer when in that state of sin: “Here I am, Lord! Except I just turned away from you.” Admitting that we desire being with God is an essential element of the Christian life. It makes sense that I felt uneasy during that time of sin or darkness. But, how will I respond to that anxiety or fear? Will I let it consume me? It may be the case that I fear punishment for this sin, whatever the sin may be. It may be that I don’t believe God’s love or mercy is strong or real enough for me.
I can respond to this fear and anxiety and let it enslave me, but that harms me. What does St. John say?
There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and he who fears is not perfected in love. -1 John 4:18
His epistle is a call to recognize the movements of our heart. He does not mean to condemn the reader. He means to make this struggle clear, in order to help us and point us to God. “I feel like I’m lying to God.” That’s fine. Please, admit that to Him. It is necessary for the Christian to confront that fear, anxiety, sin, and lie. Without recognizing nor confronting this, God and his work of redemption become a stumbling block to us, just as it did to the Jews and Gentiles:
For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God…For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to the Jews and folly to the Gentiles, but to us who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. -1 Corinthians 1:18, 22-24
Sin has the capacity to separate us from God, yes. This is the very reason we run to Confession and admit our faults and renounce sin. The Catholic Church desires to reconcile her children to God. Consider 2 Corinthians 5, when St. Paul says they have been given Christ’s ministry of reconciliation:
All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself, and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, God was in Christ reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. So we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We beseech you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. (5:18-20)
When you feel like you have lied to God, take that thought captive for Christ (2 Cor. 10:5). Be honest about it. Do not let fear or anxiety consume you. Take it captive and bring it to Jesus. Be honest and vulnerable with the King of the Universe. He will speak into your heart and bring you out of darkness and into his marvelous light (1 Peter 2:9). With the power and grace of Confession, we will be able to declare the wonderful deeds of Christ the Lord who has worked in us this new life.
This honesty helps to examine one’s conscience, giving the penitent the grace of contrition and sorrow for sin. Do not fall into the lie that you are unworthy of God’s mercy. We may not deserve it based on our shortcomings, but the fundamental relationship between the baptized person and God is not that of an exchange of goods, nor a contractual agreement. The relationship is that of father and child. That relationship is the exact reason we are in need of the Sacrament of Confession, to restore us to a state of grace and reconcile us to God our Father.
Consider this: “since we have a great priest (Jesus) over the house of God, let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water” (Hebrews 10:21-22). We are “sprinkled clean” when we bring to Jesus our contrite hearts (Psalm 51:17). This is the confession of faith that we hold unwaveringly to: Jesus Christ is Redeemer. Do not let lies, fears, or anxieties prevent that truth from changing you and drawing you ever nearer to his Sacred Heart. This mercy converts us, washes us, and makes us whiter than snow in our purity (Psalm 51:7).
The Significance of St. Andrew’s Confession
Remember that St. Andrew’s decision to follow Jesus moved him to bring his brother, Simon Peter to Jesus (John 1:35-39, 40-42). This action is significant: Andrew’s docility to Jesus’ call moved him to bring his own brother, who became the rock on which Jesus founded his Church (Matthew 16:18). What if Andrew had shied away from Jesus and responded in fear? What if he let fear, anxiety, and lies consume his heart in a way that hardened it? What if Jesus became a stumbling to Andrew?
Not to doubt and dive into the negative, but it is important for this reason: Andrew’s own conversion and confession brought not only (1) another human being to Christ, it (2) prepared Simon Peter to receive his call (even though he was not always the most faithful disciple). If the importance of Andrew’s conversion is not clear, consider how it relates to the confession of Simon Peter:
You are the Christ, the Son of the living God. -Matthew 16:16
Peter confesses that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God. Could this have happened without Andrew bringing Peter to Jesus? Think about how integral and necessary Andrew’s role in Peter’s life was. What happened after Peter’s confession of faith? Long story short, he was made pope and began (or in a certain since continued) an unbroken succession of men to lead the people of God throughout the ages. Notice how the call of Jesus affected (and continues to affect) more than Andrew or Peter. The call to conversion and confession is magnanimous. Its significance is not measurable, and we cannot deny its potency or impact on the future. We do not know how significant our life is in relation to others. Can you imagine introducing the future pope (or Mother Teresa or any holy person) to Jesus Christ? It was not your own work that brought him or her, but your honesty with God and response to his call.
Never doubt God’s plan. Be like St. Andrew. Be like St. Peter. Better yet, be Saint <Your Name>. Take captive those thoughts and bring them to Christ. Always seek to live out this life of love, so that the God of peace may sanctify you wholly, so that your spirit, soul, and body may be kept sound and blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. He who calls you is faithful, and he will do it (1 Thessalonians 5:23-24).