Our Delightfully Imperfect Pope
Ten Springboards for Thought
On Sin and Confession
Pope Francis Breaks Tradition And Stuns Thousands With Bold Move
Pope Francis stunned parishioners, faith leaders and his own master of ceremonies Friday when he broke protocol to do something wholly unexpected: he bowed down in front of the crowd at St. Peter’s Basilica and confessed his sins to an ordinary priest, Reuters reported.
10. We are all in it together.
What sins did the Pope confess? Were they individual or collective? Was he confessing his personal sins, the church's sins, the sins of capitalism, or the sins of the world? Maybe all of them. After all, he knows -- as should we all -- that we carry within our hearts not only the burdens of our own past, but the burdens of others, too. At every moment of our lives, we include the many realities of the past actual world, both consciously and unconsciously, and these realities become one in the immediacy of the present. We may not have committed the sins that others committed, but they are part of us. Sin is relational, too.
You might also enjoy:
The Pope is Right: Unfettered Capitalism is the New Tyranny
This is My Body: The Pope Washing Feet of Muslim Women
Our Spontaneous Pope and his Jazz-Like Spirit
1. Life is not for the perfect or the flawless.
This life is not for the perfect. It is not for the flawless. It is not for the whole. If you are like me, there are parts of you that are very good, and there are parts of you that are aching. There are parts of you that strive and fall short; there are parts of you that feel broken. Those are the parts that let in the light. Don't run from your imperfections. Don't hide from your brokenness. Broken bones re-grow stronger at the very location where they are broken. Those are the spots where the light will shine through.
2. Confessing sin is an act of letting go.
Learning to let go of the need to control is vital. But of course on a metaphysical level nothing really is fully within our control to start with. We are never, at any time, omnipotent; nor are we ever completely powerless. So we can learn to accept this basic relational fact by letting go of our demands on life, others, and ourselves. We can desire that things go well, but we cannot demand it. We have power, but our power is relational and limited. So, when we are overwhelmed by events outside our immediate influence--when we feel angry and helpless and afraid--we must first learn to release our demands on life, on others, and on ourselves.
3. We can confess gifts, too.
Confessing sin is not for everybody. The appropriateness of confessing sins is always contextual. For some people, sometimes, it is much more important to confess gifts than sins. Some people need to say "I have sinned" and others need to say "I am beautiful." Most of us need to say "I have sinned and I am beautiful."
4. We confess sins in order to become wide souls.
The fat soul is one that, for the sake of love and beauty and intensity of feeling, expands to include the so-called imperfect, the not-quite-right, and the sweet but sad melancholy of perpetual perishing....Perfectionism can in fact make us miserable and neurotic and play heinous tricks on our psyche. It can make us sick. Perfectionism is a dangerous game and, if not watched carefully, can turn tragic.
5. Perfectionism can be a sin.
Through the years, process thought—especially process theology—helped expand my narrow, severe, impoverished view of myself, God, and the world into a lovely, widening landscape of beauty, love, and letting go. The psychological effect of process theology helped me slowly regain my health and, eventually, flourish. Yet when, as a professional minister and teacher, I encountered anorexic girls, I related to them only as an objective professional, keeping my own "imperfect" past to myself. But now I am too old and life is too short for such distance and pretense. At least that's what Karen Carpenter was telling me with her voice from somewhere in heaven.
6. Confessing sins is a form of soul-weaving.
I am a philosopher, let me tell you a great secret of life—a soul is not a thing, it is not something which stands untouched by the events of your life. Your soul is the river of your life; it is the cumulative flow of your experience. But what do we experience? The world. Each other. So your soul is the cumulative flow of all of your relationships with everything and everyone around you. In a different image, we weave ourselves out of the threads of our relationships with everyone around us.
7. Guilt has its place but honesty is better.
Sometimes confession is accompanied by guilt or remorse, but this is by no means enough. Guilt can become obsessive, in which case it becomes a source of further sin. We can wallow in our guilt and not really change. The better purpose of confession is honesty, and the better outcome of confession is repentance: a genuine turning around from habits of the past through openness to fresh possibilities. On the other side of confession is resurrection, not as something that comes after death, but rather as something that occurs in this very life, when we change our ways and do our best to become our better selves. Confession is a stepping stone for creative transformation. It is one way of opening into God's grace.
8. Jesus loved imperfect people.
Thinking of Jesus may be another remedy for Plato’s obsession with abstract perfectionism and ideal forms. Jesus much preferred real, earthy, imperfect people—sinners, tax collectors and the “least of these”—to the “perfect” Pharisees. Perfect people don’t have the capacity for love like imperfect people. Jesus knew that; he knew only love is the answer to the mystery of life—not perfection.
9. Yes, Jesus sinned, too.
Jesus was hungry and, seeing a fig tree, went to it to get some fruit. There was none on it. He cursed the tree and it died. This became the occasion for telling the disciples that with sufficient faith they could perform miracles. But this seems to be the kind of use of his powers that he rejected as a temptation at the outset of his ministry. It is understandable, of course, that a tired and hungry man would be angry to find the fig barren of fruit, and that he would express that anger. But it is hard for me to imagine that in doing so Jesus was fully conformal to God’s ideal aim for him.