March 21, 2017
Peter approached Jesus and asked him,
“Lord, if my brother sins against me,
how often must I forgive him?
As many as seven times?”
Jesus answered, “I say to you, not seven times but seventy-seven times.” (Matthew 18:21-22)
The following is a common concern I hear expressed by young people and adults alike regarding the Sacrament of Reconciliation: I feel I keep confessing the same sin over and over again. In my heart I wonder if God has a limit on His patience with me. He must be thinking, ‘I have already forgiven you for this sin multiple times – that’s it – no more!’
We hear God’s response to this concern in today’s gospel. He expects of us the same as He offers to us. That is, unlimited mercy.
What I share with those who express concern over being repeat sinners is this: If you are simply going through the motions, going to confession with the same script you used last time, in order to check “confession” off of your list…you will not reap the benefits of the sacrament.
However, God knows your heart. If you enter the confessional with a willingness to be open and honest in your failings, and a sincere desire to do better, mercy will be granted – regardless of the number of times you have confessed that same sin.
The words of the Act of Contrition capture the spirit of the “contrite heart”: I am sorry for my sins with all my heart…I firmly intend, with your help, to do penance, to sin no more,
and to avoid whatever leads me to sin.
That is what God wants of me – He wants to know that I am sorry with all my heart and firmly intend to sin no more.
If He finds sincerity in my heart and in my words, He will forgive me “seventy-seven times.”
God’s mercy has no limits.