"Who is Confession for?"
1) Anon: “Who is Confession for -- the penitent or God? I ask because I am not motivated to go for myself because I have done it and it does not do a thing for me.” As with all the sacraments, Anon, Confession is for us (although our participation in the sacraments glorifies God). God has given us these opportunities to come closer to Him not for himself, but for us. We have addressed the whole ‘feelings’ issue on this site many times – it may not ‘feel’ that Confession does a thing for you, but, believe me, it does A TON! It fills your soul with God’s Grace (divine life) and reconciles you with Him and the Church (all of us). Our bodies may not feel anything when we go to Confession or Mass, but our souls are very happy!! Finally, it may help to think of times when you’ve had to apologize to a dear friend and reconciled with him or her; has there ever been a time when it did not do a thing for you? God is our dear friend with whom we reconcile in Confession.
2) Anon asked the following, and quoted one of my homilies: "'Normally, he is much more subtle in his attacks on the Eucharist. He puts certain thoughts in our heads: “it’s just a symbol”; “I can worship God on my own; “I don’t need the Eucharist”; or “I don’t need to come to Mass every week”’. What is the difference between having these thoughts out of reason than being evil thoughts. I am confused.”
Anon, I wouldn’t refer to these thoughts as reasonable. None of them has been revealed by God – e.g., “the Eucharist is just a symbol” is not found anywhere in Scripture or Tradition. In fact, quite the opposite is true of them. God has revealed that a) the Eucharist is really the Body and Blood of Christ, b) worship of God is a communal event, c) we need the Eucharist to have life, bear fruit with our lives, and have eternal life, and d) the Sabbath occurs every week, and we need to go to Mass as Catholic Christians to keep it holy. It is reasonable to believe what God has revealed.
The confusion comes in, of course, when the Evil One gets involved. He tries to put thoughts in our minds that contradict what God has revealed. Quick example: in the Garden of Eden, God revealed to Adam and Eve that they shouldn’t eat the fruit of the tree. Then, Satan got involved, putting the thought in their heads that if they ate the fruit, they would have the knowledge that God has. It wasn’t reasonable to believe that because a) God hadn’t revealed that, and b) it wasn’t true. Reason rejoices with the Truth! What God has revealed – whatever it might be – is the Truth.
The examples of evil thoughts that I used in my homily haven’t been revealed by God and are not true. It might take some time to sift through certain things to discern what the truth is. When we find it, our reason recognizes it: “everyone who belongs to the Truth listens to my voice” (Jn 18:37). And, so, we are then able to know what are evil thoughts – those that the Devil tries to put in our heads to take us away from Christ who is the Truth.
In all of this, I am mainly referring to matters of doctrine; it can be harder to discern personal thoughts as being from God or from the Evil One (e.g., having proud thoughts). As soon as we can recognize thoughts as being doctrinally erroneous (i.e., in direct conflict with what God has revealed), we should move away from them immediately by thinking about or doing something else. “Resist the devil, and he will flee from you” (Jam 4:7).
3) Kiwi Nomad 2006: “I was given a blessing by a priest I met in Lourdes last year, the first such 'personal' blessing I have ever had. A few weeks later it was the 40th anniversary of my father's death, and I was kind of sad thinking about this as I cycled along. But I found that each time I had a 'sad' thought, I also had a memory of the blessing, and it was as if I was 'lifted up' out of my sadness. When I was talking about this to a friend, she said "That was the grace of the blessing." Was she right?”
I think so, Kiwi! Lourdes, France, is an especially powerful place. I was there this time last year. It was a Grace-filled experience!