Imagine when you die that you are met by Jesus and He shows you a video of your entire life. In it, you see all the good things you did. But there are also a number of blank minutes on the video. You wonder what the blank spots are. Jesus looks at you with love and tell you these were all the times you sinned and asked for God’s mercy and forgiveness. When God forgives, He forgives completely and forgets completely. A wonderful image of forgiveness in the Gospels is the story of the woman who comes to Christ at the banquet table (Matthew 26:5-6). Her unrestrained contrition and deep yearning for God’s forgiveness is a beautiful model for each of us. She reminds us of the treasure of true forgiveness. Do you suppose the people at the banquet table with Jesus were embarrassed at the behavior of the woman because of her heartfelt desire for forgiveness and her profound gratitude at being forgiven? Do you think she reminded the guests of their own sins and how much each one of them should also be kneeling, weeping, and loving?
Jesus teaches us that the more we’ve been forgiven, the more we need to forgive others. Love and forgiveness are inextricably bound together. If I am a person who loves little and sparingly, I probably also only forgive little and sparingly and probably as well have a hard time believing that God truly forgives me. If I love little, I am also probably judgmental of others. Jesus came not merely to forgive sins, but to bring love. Indeed, He is Love personified. At the banquet, when Jesus said that the woman’s sins were forgiven because she had very great love, His listeners were doubly convicted of their own sins, because they didn’t love much or forgive much and they didn’t recognize Jesus as being Love.
There’s no magic in being able to forgive others. It begins and ends with God’s grace. But it is how we allow and encourage that grace to unfold within our hearts that transforms us into Love. The only way to love and forgive as Christ does is to give ourselves entirely to Jesus. This can never happen if we are holding onto our own sins. We need to be the woman at the banquet. Christ gives us that opportunity in the Sacrament of Reconciliation (John 20:15-16). He invites us to meet Him there just as we are, in the midst of our own sinfulness, with all the baggage of our past sins and hurts, our angry feelings and resentments. He asks us to give Him our contrite hearts so that His love and mercy can transform them into His own. When His great Love meets our brokenness, we are made whole in Christ. All the self-help psychobabble in the world can never give you the peace that Christ offers in the Sacrament of Reconciliation. If you want to spend the rest of your life arguing in defense of your weaknesses, so be it. If you want to go on telling yourself, “That’s just how I am and I can’t change it,” go ahead. If you want to go on blaming your parents, your teachers, your first ex-wife or your old boss, feel free. If you want someone to explain away your unhappiness or justify your sins because of your childhood, your toilet-training, or your addictions, go to a psychologist. But if you want true peace in your heart, come to confession. If you want to be the person He created you to be, come receive His grace and forgiveness in Reconciliation. It’s just that simple and just that miraculous. You see, there’s a banquet of love and mercy waiting there—for you. Jesus has saved a place of honor there by His side—for you. Love Himself is waiting there—for you.
“There can be no hope for me except in Your great mercy.” —St. Augustine (354-430 AD)