Thursday, 5 February 2015

Forgive me Father ... I have sinned


It was another Saturday morning and Father Ignatius made his way into the confessional and sat there praying silently.

It was one of those old fashioned wooden confessionals consisting of a large cubicle into which he sat and at either side of him there was a little window covered by a thick curtain. On the other side of the window his parishioners would kneel to confess their sins; alternating one on the left and one on the right.

He was half-way through reciting the Hail Mary when he heard two people kneeling at either side of him. He leant to his right and said quietly “In the name of the Father, and of the Son and the Holy Ghost. Amen.”

This was his signal for the person at the other side of the curtain to start his confession.

At first he had two or three young children confessing their usual “I have been naughty … I disobeyed my parents … I forgot to say my evening prayers …” type of sins.

These were then followed by a few adults with more mature sins to confess. Nothing too serious though like murder or robbing a bank; but the usual sins he had heard times before perfectly symbolizing the frailty of human nature and the tendency to fail again and again at the same stumbling block.

It got to the point that, over the years, he got to recognize his parishioners by their voices and he could foretell their litany of sins before they even started speaking.

“Ah … it’s Mrs Salter once again …” he would think, “and here comes that same old sin once more … it’s like going to the doctor for a repeat prescription for the same old ailments!”

He would yet again, gently and with love and sympathy, dispense his words of wisdom before absolving her and mete out a penance.

And Mrs Salter would be followed by Mrs James … and Mr Collins … and so on and so forth … all religiously kneeling beside him confessing, more out of habit rather than determination, the same old sins week in and week out.

He’d fantasized that one day he’d stop one of his parishioners before they started and he’d say, “Now let me guess … you’ve done this and that once again this week … and you’ve also done this …”

Of course, Father Ignatius would never sully the sanctity of the Confession by doing such a thing, but the thought had crossed his mind many a time. Besides, if he did such a thing they’d probably think he was a mind-reader … and that would be worse for his reputation!

One Sunday morning he resolved to address the problem head on; but he had to do it with kindness and diplomacy.

He approached the lectern and said:

“I love ginger marmalade!”

Well … that certainly focused his parishioners’ attention.

“I have ginger marmalade on toast for breakfast every morning,” he continued, “sometimes Mrs Davenport, our kind and very helpful housekeeper, only serves me two slices of toast for breakfast …

“So I wait when she's not looking and sneak into the kitchen for two more slices!”

Mrs Davenport frowned in the front pew as the congregation laughed.

“Mrs Davenport says that I am putting on weight …” said Father Ignatius, “and it’s true that when I stand on the weighing machine it confirms what she says …

“So I have resolved to do something about it …

“From now on, I promise to stop weighing myself!”

The congregation laughed again. The priest waited until they’d settled down before going on.

“You see … ginger marmalade is my weakness. You may call it my sin.

“No matter how much I try … I always weaken and have some more. Sometimes I serve a little bit more marmalade than I need on my plate; and then, having finished the toast, all four slices, I enjoy the extra marmalade by itself …

“But this is not my only sin of course. I confess many others to Father Donald and Monsignor Thomas when he visits here …

“Now I don’t know about you … but I find that I frequently seem to confess the same sins I committed before …

“Just like ginger marmalade … the wily old devil seems to know my weakness and he tricks me yet again into the same sins.

“Do you remember I wonder when the Pharisees brought to Jesus a woman caught committing adultery?

“Now that was a whopper of a sin! Not just an extra spoon of ginger marmalade … was it?”

The congregation laughed.

“And according to Jewish law she had to be stoned to death for that sin,” continued Father Ignatius gently.

“Now we’re told in the Gospel of John that Jesus wrote in the sand with His finger.

“We’re not told what He wrote … I guess He wrote ‘Dear God … will they never learn?’

“But that’s not important … what is important is that after He said let the one who has never sinned throw the first stone … and when they all left one by one … Jesus turned to the woman and asked ‘Is there no one left to condemn you?’

“She said ‘No one …’

“And Jesus replied ‘I do not condemn you either. Go, but do not sin again.’ ”

Father Ignatius paused for a few moments.

“Go, but do not sin again,” he repeated.

“Now Jesus did not mean do not sin any sin whatsoever ever again for the rest of your life …

“He knew that that would be impossible. The woman was human, and it is natural that she would sin again.

“Jesus knows our human nature and He knows that we are liable to sin again and again …

“What Jesus said to the woman is, do not commit that particular sin again … it is serious enough to get you into a lot of trouble with the Pharisees as well as with God Himself.

“And that’s what Jesus is saying to us today …

“He knows we are weak … He knows that we will sin … which is why we have the Holy Sacrament of Confession.

“By saying ‘do not sin again’ Jesus is warning us to beware of those particular sins which are serious enough to lead us into damnation, and into an eternity of exclusion from our Father in Heaven.

“As we prepare for our weekly confession we need to consider carefully the seriousness of our sins. Which ones are ginger marmalade sins; and which ones are grave enough to exclude us from God’s ever lasting love.

“In our propensity to sin, God is loving and caring enough to forgive us again and again.

“But with our confession there should also be remorse and guilt for what we have done. Confession should not be just a laborious recitation of the same old sins; and a futile exercise which serves no one and certainly does not fool God Himself.

“Without true remorse, and a genuine resolve not to repeat our sins; then confession means nothing. And it would be better not to come to confession at all. At least that is honest in the eyes of God."

8 comments:

  1. Good homily Victor. You really make Fr. Ignatius seem real. I have to admit, I confess the same sins over and over.

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    1. Thank you for your kind words Manny. Nice to see you visiting again.

      God bless you and your family.

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  2. I thought I had gotten out of the habit of a couple of certain sins, just to fall back into them today. But a strange thing happened. I noticed that the time between committing this sin kept getting further and further apart. I know with God's grace I can over come this. 2 Corinthians 12 is good to read if you struggle with the same sin over and over.

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    1. Thank you for visiting here and commenting Adam. We look forward to your return visits.

      You're right that we tend to commit the same sins often; but if the gap between sinning grows longer it shows we are trying to improve.

      God bless you.

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  3. “Without true remorse, and a genuine resolve not to repeat our sins; then confession means nothing. And it would be better not to come to confession at all. At least that is honest in the eyes of God."

    I believe that the above is a good moral to your story Victor # 1... I could be wrong but if truth be known, i think that most people don't worry about marmalade stories in this twenty first century, if you get my drift?

    Here in Canada, we have legalized same-sex marriages... and no real official law against prostitution but we have a lot of legal "Dating Services" and as long as nobody complains and as long as the Pharisees are happy why worry about what this "Jesus" had to say?... Rightly so, violence is wrong and like "Jesus" said in so many words that only the ones without sins should throw the first stone.

    In our Canadian news, I heard tonight that they want to pass a Bill legalizing mercy killing but they make it sound harmless... they say that it is showing mercy for humans like they do for animals... it will only be used for those who can not bare their Mental suffering and some even say that 85% of people agree with "IT" nowadays... what's the use of confession when some people believe that GOD (Good Old Dad) doesn't really exist and/or he'll forgive in Time every thing that we do... That's Right! He Wills "IT"... Because He Loves all His Children so much, He always will forgive...

    sinner vic says that he spoke to some of my so called seven per sent age "Jesus" cells and what they told him really tickled his 93% funny bones... my "Jesus" cells told him that they forgot about the invisible angels who also exist and because we humans are made in GOD's Image and we are above them in GOD's Eyes... yes like The Prodigal Son story... the older brothers are the angels and God loves them also and must be seen to be a fair Man... OK! sinner vic also asked, a few of these last will be first "Jesus" cells, what's the worst that could possibly happen if all of US (usual sinners) "I" mean us Puppets, no, no, "I" meant to say if us gods continue believing what we do believe... long story short, you can keep having fun and when GOD's Angel snap their fingers, all virus and lost souls who "Jesus" spoke to the woman while He was carrying His Cross... these woman were feeling very sorry for "Jesus' and He told them in so many words that wo men should feel sorry for our future children.

    Hey forgive me for sounding so morbid cause Father Ignatius would never do that ... let me close with a little story about another priest:

    Once up on a time there was a priest who got tired of hearing the same confession over and over again and it really UP SET him to hear in the confessional box people saying stuff like forgive me father for having made love this (?) amount of time... others said I had sex (?) and when some didn't even know the opening remorse prayer and used the word "F" to describe their sins, he knew that something had to be done... so in the confessional box, he told them all to use the word "Slipped" and then to tell him how many times... long story short, that solved the problem as far as hearing those other words and this priest lived with that for a long time.

    To cut to the chase, this priest was later tested by all the sins that he had forgiven... let's just say that the Bishop told him that he had to leave this parish quickly one winter's day and so he never even got a chance to have a good talk with the new priest... this is what the new priest said as he got up to give his first sermon:

    I'm really happy to be here and the first thing that I'm going to do is have a good talk with the janitor and have him put more salt on the steps and side walks around our church cause a LOT of people have been slipping... as a matter of fact, The Mayor's Wife "Slipped" four times just last week.



    God Bless

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    1. It is sad to see that more and more people do not believe in God. We should pray for them

      God bless.

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  4. Thanks Victor, your homily pulls a cord that reveals the challenges a christian most battle and overcome with God's grace. Each time I come out from the confessionary, I am filled with joy and I do not want to go out to the 'world'. The battle against sin and the devils must be fought persistently with all our might. The biggest challenge is accommodation of those 'small' sins and the belief that we are not perfect. The story of repeat prescription and ginger marmalade sins paints a sad picture of our complacency.

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    1. It's great to see you visiting here Charles. Thank you. We look forward to your return visits.

      As you say, we sin again and again despite our attempts not to. But then ... Saints are sinners who never gave up trying to improve.

      God bless.

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