Monday, February 25, 2013
Why Am I Such A Failure?
I am a sinner; it has taken me many years to really appreciate that fact, and to understand its meaning. But … Jesus expects me to be a sinner at times, and that is something I’m still coming to grips with.
Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful. Judge not, and you will not be judged; condemn not, and you will not be condemned; forgive, and you will be forgiven. (Lk 6:36-7)
It was the final mass at our parish by the little Italian priest, before his transfer to a new location. He spoke, in his heavily accented voice about the gospel this morning, and forgiveness. He said he once asked a group of teenagers: “What should you be thinking of first, as you begin your examination of conscience before Confession?” (He said there was silence in the room, as the teenagers probably thought it was a trick question.) “As you begin your examination of conscience the first thing you should be considering,” he said, “is the love and mercy of Jesus. That’s where you begin,” he said.
In just a few short sentences, Fr. Fortunato went on to explain how we can’t begin to consider our sins without first considering Jesus. Jesus --- God --- did all that a man can do out of love; He gave everything for us, including His life. He showed us how much He cared for sinners; they were among His best friends, yes, friends. Even Judas who He KNEW would betray him, he gave the responsibility of the purse, He broke bread with him; He washed his feet. He gave us the Parable of the Prodigal Son, and the father who waited for him to return home. In this story, He told us that He waits for us, too. And waits, and waits, and waits. That’s love, and even when the Prodigal Son comes home and wants to apologize and ask forgiveness, the father quickly brushes past the talk of sins, and looks to celebrate, in love, the son’s return.
That, the kindly father explained, is what we should be thinking about when we approach Confession. Even as he counseled me personally last week, he reminded the small congregation that the most important thing in our relationship with God is God, not us, not our sins. He is a loving, a merciful God. And so when we think about our lives and ask in a despairing way: “Why am I such a failure?” God quickly moves to answer: “Yes, I’m glad you are concerned about that, but let’s plan for the future all the good things we will do together. Let’s talk about the celebration of you and I being together, such a wonderful thing. The past is the past; let’s talk about the future.”
If we approach Confession with the attitude that the good father counsels, first thinking about how good and merciful Jesus is, then our sins are put into a better perspective. Yes, they are an affront to this good and gracious God who would give us everything. Yes, they are a rejection of all He offered us, and still does. But no, He doesn’t want to sit and dwell on it, nor does He want us to. “Okay,” He seems to say, “We’ve grown apart. So let’s sit down and talk about how we can grow together.”
The title to this post is wrong, as is the thinking of anyone who would say those words. It is incorrect to say: “Why am I such a failure?” The correct words are: “Why WAS I such a failure?’ The moment you say the words recognizing your sin and your misuse of the gifts of God, at that same moment God is there with you, quick with His love and quick with His mercy. When you acknowledge your failure, you should also acknowledge the arms around you, the hug being given. Go ahead and confess your sins; it is a good thing to do. But before you do, consider the man, the God, you are confessing them to.
You are never a failure in His eyes.