The Sacrament of Confession
It is quite sad to hear about people that have lived their entire lives without truly getting to know the Lord and doing His will. Yet, I have had the privilege of getting to know some of them as they return to the Lord, even if they have only days or hours to live.
What a holy and awesome privilege I have had as a priest! I share in the joy of Christ our Lord when his servants return; the ones, when asked by God to do his work, said “I will not” yet, in the end, changed their minds and served (Mt 21).
This reminds me of a movie depicting the story of St. John Bosco. He was a very holy priest who served underprivileged juvenile delinquent boys. Throughout his mission, a government official opposed him because he believed that there was no hope for the boys except to keep them in prison.
At the end of his life, as he laid on his bed, sick with grief and guilt, he called out for St. Bosco to visit him. When St. Bosco went to him, the government official repented and confessed his sins before the holy priest. After St. Bosco absolved him the official cried out, “I am so sorry for all that I have done against you! I deserve punishment!”
St. Bosco replied, “nonsense! At this very moment, at the end of your life, you have outdone me in virtue!” St. Bosco had a very powerful sense of the great mystery of mercy at work in this old man who lived a life of bitterness, yet, like the servant who said, “I will not serve,” he served the Lord in the end.
He served the Lord, in his remaining hours of life, by helping St. Bosco advance his mission for the youth and for the advancement of holiness by assisting in forming some very important administrative aspects of it.
St. Don Bosco
We know now that St. Bosco would formalize this mission into a religious order known as the Society of St. Francis de Sales, also known as the Salesians.
Our Lord, for our sakes, works quickly for our healing and forgiveness. The Psalms say that the Lord is slow to anger and abounding in mercy and love (103). Do we believe this?
Do we truly believe that the Lord’s mercy to us is limited only by how much we trust in it and ask for it?
Pope Francis, in his first Angelus address to the world said that the Lord never tires of forgiving us. Rather, it is we who are tired of asking for forgiveness!
One of the reasons we tire of asking for forgiveness is shame. We cannot bear the shame of facing our sins for what they really are and the damage they really do. So, like Adam and Eve, we hide from God.
We can forget that our God is loving and that when he looks at us in our sins he does not see what we might think he sees. He definitely does not see us the way we see ourselves. Sin has a way of distorting our view of ourselves and of life in general.
When we sin, we might only see ourselves as worthy of punishment and nothing else. Yet, the Lord sees the one he created, the one he has known from the beginning, the one in whom he has placed his love and the one who he wants to be happy. He sees the one for whom he has many dreams and beautiful plans. He sees the one who bears the features of his only begotten son, Jesus. He sees his own adopted child, whom he takes as his own and will never let go…yet will not force them into his embrace.
He knows how good we are and he knows how bad we are. Every time we sin, how does he respond? The Lord says that if one “has turned away from all the sins that he has committed, he shall surely live, he shall not die” (Ez 18).
This is what St. Bosco knew and saw when he looked at the youth in prison. He saw this also in the government official. By the way, he sees us in the same way. How wonderful it is to be under the loving gaze and care of the saints!
So, our greatest challenge is to put aside the shame and turn away from a life of sin. We must do this daily. In the morning we can ask the Lord to help us especially with those sins with which we struggle the most. We can also ask the help of others who love us for who we are, such as good friends and family, the Blessed Virgin Mary, the saints, like St. Bosco, and the angels, especially our guardian angel.
Most importantly, the most effective way to be healed of our sins and change our way of life is the sacrament of confession. In confession we do the opposite of hiding. We open ourselves up and bear all before Jesus. We have no need to hide. Let the eyes of your heart see Jesus in the priest in confession, just like the government official did.
It is sad to think of those who said they would do God’s will and then don’t do it. It is sadder to think of those who said they would not do God’s will, don’t do it, and never repent. We can enjoy the Lord’s mercy here and now as long as we never get tired of asking for forgiveness and striving to live a better life.