We all love a fresh start. New beginnings are always full of hope, excitement, and promise. We feel refreshed, able to take on the world and whatever challenges life sends our way. Fresh starts can be hard to come by. In relationships, past hurts get in our way. First impressions are lasting impressions and, if you make a mistake, it can be extremely difficult to overcome. What if there was a way to get a true fresh start? What if there was a reset button you could press that would wipe the slate clean and get you back on track?
Our yearning for fresh starts begins with an acknowledgement that we are weak. We make mistakes, dozens of mistakes, every single day. None of us has a great track record. It’s out of this reality that God offers us, through the Church and the Sacrament of Reconciliation, the fresh start that we so desperately need.
Confession is that new beginning. It’s the grace we need to start fresh, to start over, and to get it right this time. We know the path isn’t easy, but we choose to comb the mountain anyway. But Confession is only that, a beginning. When we leave the confessional, it’s immediately up to us to make better choices and temptation is waiting as close as the doors of the Church.
So, how do we keep from messing it up again?
Stop giving yourself passes. There’s a balance to be struck between being overly scrupulous and too lax in our treatment of ourselves. We can be tempted to be too nit-picky, or we can be tempted to chalk all of our sins up to our humanity and move on. It’s time to get tough and find the middle of the road. Yes, we will sin. But those sins can be minor.We have the ability to control ourselves, we need to use it.
Get serious about Heaven and Hell. We don’t know when death is coming, but at some point, it will. We like to think that we’ll live until we’re at least 80, and most of us will. However, no matter what age you are, people older than you have died, and people who are younger than you have died. That means we need to get serious about the reality of Heaven and Hell and we need to buy our ticket, today. We must decide where we want to spend eternity and let our thoughts, actions, and choices flow from that decision.
Turn the focus off you. I love focusing on me, but one of the best way to reduce incidents of sin is to focus on someone else. Most sin is about me and how I want to feel. So if I lose myself in service to others (wife, kids, friends, community), I’ll have less opportunity to commit sin. As much as I love me, I could love me a lot less and be much more happy.
Fresh starts are amazing, but it’s important to not blow it. Next time you’re in line for Confession, make planning a better life for yourself part of your examination of conscience.