I remember working with a Dominican chaplain who once, “that those who hate the Catholic Church (or at least try to ridicule the Church) always point to our Sacrament of Reconciliation (“Confession”, saying that we Catholics sin with abandon; go confess our sins; and then we’re free to sin all over again!” They are unable to understand how sinners can really feel sorry for their sins, confess them, and then fall into sin again.
You don’t have to be a bishop or a doctor of philosophy to recognise that Jesus came to save us all, and that he accomplished our salvation by for our sins. Even on the cross, instead of turning against his torturers in anger, he spoke words of forgiveness: “Father, forgive them; they don’t know what they’re doing.” Surely, forgiveness and mercy are what this Holy Year of Mercy is all about.
The most obvious characteristic of this God of ours, manifested in Jesus Christ, is his loving mercy. It overwhelmed the mind of St. Paul so much, as he stood in awe of such a merciful God, that he was compelled more than once to teach the awesome fact that “while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (e.g., Rom. 5:7-8) . The history of the Israelites through the centuries, as demonstrated in the Old Testament, is one of repeated failures in observing the Covenant. Catholics (and all humans, for that matter) also fail repeatedly, even after being forgiven over and over by the sacramental grace of God.
There is the constant challenge: to “go and sin no more,” just like the adulterous woman who was counselled by Jesus. Then come those soothing words of relief, “neither do I condemn you.” This is what true forgiveness is all about. We must forgive, perhaps giving that person another chance to hurt us again: and that’s what Jesus did for each one of us. Have you taken the time, this Lent, to be open and forgive someone for what they have done?