Paul was at his son’s First Penance Service. His son, Andrew, had just come back from going to Confession with a big smile on his face. “That wasn’t scary at all, you were right!”, he said to his Mom and Dad. And then Andrew looked at his father and said, “Mommy just went to Confession. Aren’t you going to go, too?”
Now Paul couldn’t remember the last time he had been to Confession. And that was the last thing he was expecting to do now. But for whatever reason he looked at his son and said, “Of course I’m going to go. I’ll be right back.”
And so, Paul got in line for Confession. As he waited he began thinking to himself, “Why does a person have to bother confession your sins to a priest, anyway? He’s just another human being like myself. And not all these guys are saints, we know that now!”
But as the line was getting shorter, Paul realized that he’d better figure out what he was going to say once he got in there. He was actually starting to get nervous. “Do I really tell the serious things that I’ve been running from for most of my life, or do I mention a few harmless things and get out as soon as I can!”
So, when Paul got in there here’s what he ended up saying: “Father, I guess I should be honest with you, I’m really here because my son just asked me to do this. I wanted to set a good example, but I guess i really wasn’t taking this seriously for myself. But, for some reason, now I feel that I should.”
And so Paul confessed his sins, especially the serious ones—the things he, deep down, had been ashamed of. Things that had happened years ago: That he had been unfaithful to his wife for a very brief period of time back in the early days of their marriage, that he’d stolen from the company where he worked one time, and that he had been holding a lot of anger and resentment in his heart against his father.
The priest listened and did not interrupt. When Paul was finished, he then said, “When I give you absolution for your sins, you will be a completely new man. All these sins are taken away by Christ on the cross. He wants to be a part of your life now and walk by your side as you leave this church. But do you realize that you are not here because you wanted to give a good example to your son? That’s really the way that Christ called you back. But you could have refused. Instead, you had character and courage to admit the truth—to admit you’ve done wrong, and now, hopefully, you will receive the grace of this sacrament. Commit yourself to Christ each day of your life. Stay with Him because He will be faithful. The Lord will strengthen you and guard you from all that is evil. So, do your best now to forgive others as you have been forgiven by Christ”.
That’s what Christ is asking of each of us today: Forgive as you have been forgiven. But for many of us, that forgiveness needs to start with the Sacrament of Reconciliation. What a freeing experience that can be for you! Especially if you’ve been keeping things buried inside yourself, and allowing anger and resentment to turn you into a bitter person.
This message about forgiveness is so important for all of us. Here’s something I really hope everyone pays attention to: And when it is hard to forgive another person, there’s a grace we must ask for. Sometimes it takes time to receive this grace, and this is normal. When we are very deeply wounded , receiving this grace can take time and a lot of prayer, patience and humility…It is difficult to say, “I forgive you”. It is easier to forgive the way Jesus does. When Jesus forgave his enemies on the cross, he turned to the Father and said, Father, forgive them. They know not what they do. When we find it too hard to say, “I forgive you”, we too must turn to the Father, because in the end only God can really forgive. To forgive, we have to go through the heart of the Father. This is the source of forgiveness. It’s not in me; its in the heart of God.