Mirror tricks can be delightful. Who has not found himself placed between two mirrors, and noticed in the background a diminishing cascade of reflections; telescoping images of mirror and self and mirror and self…

Another trick, my favorite, requires an array of mirrors, as you might find in a bathroom with a front mirror over the sink, and another mirror on the door of a side cabinet (you can do it with a big enough hand-held mirror, but it is harder).  We all know the oddness of looking at ourselves in a mirror, and noticing that my right side shows up on my left side; my mirror reflection is reversed!

But if you can adjust or tilt one of the mirrors, you can reverse the reversal, and actually see a reflection that is as right-handed as you are in reality. (It probably works just as well if you are left-handed; I don’t really know.)

I was reminded of all this while preparing for my most recent visit to the Confessional for the sacrament of reconciliation. 

Reflecting on my sins, I distractedly wandered into thinking about some of the GOOD things I have done (like a defendant preparing to bolster his guilty plea with character references to show he isn’t ALL bad.)  And I instantly challenged myself – had I done the good things simply to square my accounts with God? Or worse, had I done good so that I might feel good about myself?  In other words, was I doing good for my own sake, rather than to help others or to please God?  If so, was that not a sin of pride, or presumption? A kind of greed for praise or self-praise?

And then I started a round of second-stage self- judging.  Was I being too fastidious, worrying about my motives?  Was I committing the sin of excess scrupulosity, exaggerating the importance of very small distinctions?  (My confessor had in the past introduced me to this sin.)  Was I making too much out of a small sin?

And then I rebuked myself for even entertaining the idea of a “small” sin. Is there such a thing? Or are all sins better categorized as either “big” or “bigger”?

I started with self consciousness in pursuit of self examination. Then, my self-criticism led to an automatic reversion to self congratulation.. That triggered self condemnation. A self-referential cycle of over-thinking, spiraling into confusion.

At some point, I felt like the man in the first trick, standing between two mirrors and puzzling over the endless array of reflections, wondering which one is real.  Then, when mental flip-flops led to mental exhaustion, I remembered the second trick I described above. I needed to get back to my reversal-reversing mirrors to find a true picture of my sin.

But where could I find the properly placed mirrors of my soul?

In the confessional, of course.

Being a catholic can seem very complicated at times.  But it can also be very, very simple. Not easy, but simple.

God bless you all.  Leave a comment. I’d love to hear from you.

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  • albert  On May 23, 2019 at 1:24 pm

    Wish I could alert myself BEFORE glancing at a mirror (or a store window, for that matter) to not stop and gaze. Same with examining my past, or even the day’s behaviors. A quick check in a mirror for inappropriate or messy presentation is enough. Same for looking inward in preparation to approach God. We know that good parenting does not induce fear or anxiety, so why should it be be any different with Our Father. Confession is indeed a sacrament. But maybe, like baptism, confirmation, matrimony and anointing, its grace is steady, reliable, a means of solidifying a way of life unless something unusual intervenes or a major crisis needs addressing.

    (Just my own thoughts — a lifelong Roman/Orthodox Catholic Christian — it’s how I worked things out, finally.)

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