I have read several of Pope Francis’ books. My favorite so far is The Name of God is Mercy. In it, the Pope uses an excerpt from yet another book, Bruce Marshall’s novel To Every Man a Penny.
In Marshall’s novel, Father Gaston wants to hear the confession of a young German soldier whom French partisans are about to execute. The soldier confesses he has fornicated many times. He has slept with many, many women. Father Gaston asks the solider whether he’s sorry. The priest explains that the solider needs to repent. The young man does not life. He says, “How can I repent? It was something that I enjoyed, and if I had the chance I would do it again, even now. How can I repent?” Father Gaston is a compassionate man. He desperately wants to forgive the solider’s sins. He pauses, and then he has an inspiration. Thinking about God’s mercy, the young priest asks the solider, “But are you sorry that you are not sorry?” The German solider answers, “Yes, I am sorry that I am not sorry.” In other words, he apologizes for not repenting. The door was opened just a crack and Father Gaston and God’s absolution went in.
What does Pope Francis say after telling this story? Does he say, “How shameful that Father Gaston didn’t hold the solider’s feet to the fire.”? No! This is what Pope Francis says, “It’s a good example of the lengths to which God goes to enter the heart of man, to find that small opening that will permit him to grant grace. He does not want anyone to be lost. His mercy is infinitely greater than our sins, his medicine is infinitely stronger than our illnesses that he has to heal.”
God’s desire to forgive us is mind boggling. So, if you are not coming to confession regularly, why not? God desperately wants to forgive your sins! ALL sins! Think of the worst possible sin you can imagine. God will forgive it. But suppose you have committed the worst possible sin dozens of times? No problem. God will still forgive. God’s mercy is INFINITE.
Pope Francis continues, “God waits; he waits for us to concede him only the smallest glimmer of space so that he can enact his forgiveness and his charity within us. We stand before a God who knows our sins, our betrayals, our denials, our wretchedness. And yet he is there waiting for us, ready to give himself completely to us, to lift us up.”
I estimate my average confession lasts two minutes. The average penance I give can be completed in approximately the same amount of time. Usually less! And trust me, I’ve heard it ALL before. So, please come. Give God at least a sliver of a crack to enter into you with his bigger-than-the-universe forgiveness. Also, factor this into your decision. God promises us five times in the Bible that when he forgives, he also does what we humans don’t have the capacity to do. In Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and twice in Hebrews, God says that when he forgives sins, he not only forgives out sins, he FORGETS them. When the complete confession process ends, every page in the chapter of sins in our Book of Life in heaven turns BLANK. God has a huge eraser.
Come to confession. I recommend that you bold profess all your sins and have sorrow for them. But, if not, come any way and open the door a crack.