One area of spirituality that has been under attack for the past forty years is the “emphasis on sinfulness”that seems to have dominated the spirituality of all religions from the beginning of time. Those who have bought into this removal of sinfulness from their spirituality have found that after awhile God has very little to do with it.
Sin essentially is anything that breaks our relationship with God. Remove sin and you are essentially removing God from the picture — because you are admitting that it really doesn’t matter if you are offending God or not. It would be like being in a relationship with your spouse and refusing ever to admit any wrongdoing — one would expect such a relationship to be in grave trouble.
Admitting that we are not living up to our part of the relationship is a healthy part of the struggle to stay in continual communion with God. If we are doing it with “sighs and tears” it means that we are not just doing it out of habit but rather are emotionally feeling what we are saying. St. Ignatius of Loyola would have retreatants pray for the gift of tears when they meditated on their sinfulness, and this is a practice that should be restored.
I remember standing in a confessional line during a Marian pilgrimage that I made in the late 1980s and watching people emerge from the outside confessional stations (the priest sat in a chair, while the penitent knelt beside him, visible to all gathered there) wiping tears away. It was touching, because it gave me the sense that these people weren’t just listing off faults but experiencing a heartfelt conversion from a life without God to a life that the penitent truly wanted to live with the help of God. We should all pray for the gift of tears for our failings.
My great-grandfather would always be wiping tears away when he returned from receiving communion. I found this deeply significant as a child,and it is something I’ve never forgotten. Involving our emotions in our relationship with God is a great grace that we should strive to have in our relationship with him.
Real contrition for our sins involves a firm resolve to involve God in those parts of our lives where we have excluded him in the past. By being aware of God’s presence at all times we likely will amend our lives in the future.