I was listening to a talk by Matthew Kelly published by Lighthouse Catholic Media the other day and I was struck by the imagery he used to describe how our souls can become desensitized to sin.
We treat our souls, it seems, much like we treat our cars.
When we wash our cars and clean out the backseat, for the first few days we’ll do whatever it takes to keep it clean. We’ll swerve into oncoming traffic to avoid puddles and forbid any kind of food in both the front and back seats. Each spring, once I’ve vacuumed a winter’s worth of grunge and dog fur out of my Volkswagen, my son is forced to endure a whole new set of stringent car rules with the promise that this year is going to be different and they will be enforced henceforth.
The problem is, Matthew Kelly points out, is that once the freshness of clean has worn off, we tend to let things slide a little. The dog will jump in the back seat, leaving behind fur and muddy paw prints that I promise myself I’ll clean on the weekend, but I never get to it. The empty water bottle used to refresh myself on a long car ride gets tossed into the back seat with the notion to dispose of it at my destination, but is forgotten once I get there. A coffee cup can languish for days in the cup holder. After awhile it’s no longer small bits of garbage, but sheets of paper, books, gym bags with even my hockey bag having spent a night or two in the back.
Each item, no matter how small, stands out like a sore thumb in a newly cleaned car, but becomes hidden, no matter how large, amongst all the other junk cluttering up my car. I’ve become desensitized to the mess that surrounds me.
Our souls are the same. A small venial sin will stand out on its own, but will soon seem inconsequential when it’s hidden among a host of other – seemingly inconsequential sins. What happens, though, is that all of these inconsequential sins will help make larger sins also seem inconsequential. We become desensitized to the mess that fills our soul.
The best way to remain sensitive to the clutter in our car is to keep it clean – heading to the car wash on a regular basis.
We can re-sensitize our souls to our sin in much the same way – keeping them clean by going to confession.
The Catholic Church stipulates that we go to confession at least once a year, but most of us will wash our car more often than that. On average, we go through a car once every 5 to 10 years, but our souls are for eternity – which should we keep better care of?
I’ve found that making a good and regular confession has re-sensitized me to my sin and I’m now much more aware of even the small, venial sins that I never considered to be sins before. If you haven’t been to confession in a while, I urge you to return to this grace-filled sacrament, using this examination of conscience as a guide. If it’s been so long that you feel intimidated by the experience, be not afraid, be up front with the priest and he will gently guide you through the process to help you refresh the cleanliness of your soul.