I responded to help officers who had come across a lady covered in blood and screaming uncontrollably. On the way en route, I was wondering if she had been assaulted, shot, maybe stabbed? What was going on? After I got there, we determined that the lady was a "cutter" and was high on drugs. I'm not a doctor so forgive me for this crude explanation. A cutter is someone who is emotionally disturbed and deals with their problems by cutting themselves--literally. They take knives or glass or whatever type of sharp object that can get and cut themselves. The paramedics arrived and the lady explained to the medic how she feels better when she cuts herself.
A person's first reaction was, "why in the heck would someone do that?!?!?!" But in a way, don't we all do this? Aren't we all cutters at heart? Maybe not in the physical sense. We don't literally take a knife or a piece of glass and slice up our arm. But spiritually that is what we do when we sin. We do harm to ourselves spiritually. We do harm to ourselves and we convince ourselves that it's because it makes us feel better. We slander. We harm. We lust. We covet. We are greedy and envious and lazy. We do this and we feel good about it while at the same time we are ripping ourselves away from God. We sin and we are so delusional that we often don't see the harm in it.
But God is there. He's like that medic who took the woman and cleaned her arm up. Washed off the blood and bandaged up her wounds. Except instead of cleaning us up in the back of the wagon he does it in the confessional. We are cleansed, the gunk is washed up and we are healed by these words, "through the ministry of the church you are absolved of your sins" and through the grace that we receive in the sacrament. The thing is, just like the lady who walked to the ambulance and asked for help, we have to take the first step and ask for forgiveness.
I don't know how long the lady had been harming herself but gauging by the scars on her arms it was for several years. We too are scarred by our sins. It leaves gouges and scrapes on our souls just as much as the knives had left scar tissue on the lady's wrists. We are forgiven for our sins but the scars remain. And it is only through purgatory what the wounds from those scars completely go away and we are purified.
An interesting thing about the lady. The paramedic knew her. She didn't recognize her at first but after a moment she did. It had been awhile since she had run a call with her and attended to her wounds. But the lady was back again. Sometimes confession is like that. It seems like we have to return time and time again because we continue to sin and sin again. Now knowing the harm we are doing but we are still convinced that it makes us feel better.