A man in his mid 40’s enters a church and kneels in the back pew. He is the only one there. He bows his head. He’s disgusted with himself. He seems to have a hard time now looking at himself in the mirror.
How could he have been so stupid? Everything he stood for, everything he said he believed in was a lie! He was ashamed of himself. He was nothing but a hypocrite!
And now he would have to live with the real truth about himself. He knew what he was capable of. Others had done what he had done; they all gave in to the temptation, but this man had always thought of himself as not being able to commit such an act. Yet, in the end, he was all talk, for when the time came for him to say “no” to what he knew was wrong—-all his great words went up in smoke.
And so, kneeling in that pew, he asks God to forgive him. But he knows that he must do something more. It has to be said out loud to someone. He knows he can’t bury it. He thinks to himself: is this really the person I’ve become? He needs healing.
So this man does what many Catholics have to do at some point in their lives; he makes the most difficult confession he’s ever made.
And here’s what the priest says in response: “That confession you just made shows that you have a lot of character. You admit your wrong-doing. Many would try to hide it, but you were able to say it out loud in this sacrament. You admitted that it was your fault and you take responsibility. From now on the words “God forgives us” have new meaning for you. Christ says to you: “This is why I came—-that sin no longer stands in the way of you and I being friends. The punishment due to sin, I will take that—-You, my son, are forgiven.
So, a wonderful healing experience for the man in the story. Many of us have been in that situation at some time or other, I would think. Fear is the most parlaying part of the experience. But afterwards, you feel peace. You realize that the past is the past, and now you are able to do something about the present. And hopefully the future.
As humbling as this experience can be, you will find yourself not being so hard on others because you know that there was a time when you needed mercy. You step away from being the judge of others and leave that in God’s hands.
The feeling you had of being a hypocrite has been taken away because you have been honest with yourself in the end. We remember Jesus’ words: “I have come not for the self-righteous, but for sinners. I have come to save you from yourself.”
We now know for sure that the words of Christ from the cross were meant for us: “Father forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.”