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Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Forgiveness and Acceptance

Fr. Gordon MacRae, has written again from his unjust imprisonment, and I found myself in tears as I read of his friend Joseph, a man looking for redemption and forgiveness but certain his past has condemned him completely.

Oh, can I ever relate!

Please read his post in its entirety, but know that I focus this post and my own comment to him on the first part, directing it towards the subject of Joseph. Here is what I said in response:

The first part of this post was really the one that got to me the most, because it’s a problem I have, too. I have a past. Maybe it doesn’t involve guns and violence, but constantly I’m amazed that anyone who knows what I used to be would ever want to know me now. I have a couple friends who are priests, and they know my history, at least by my allusions to it. And still…they WANT to be my friend. It nearly scandalizes me.
Father if I sat down in front of you right now and told you my history, my past, and even my present, I would look at you in the same way as your friend Joseph; I’d be looking askance, looking for that same horror, wondering when you would shut the door on me. I really admire Joseph, for it seems he had the courage I don’t. I’ve never gone to my friends for Confession; what they know they learned outside of the Sacrament.
Yet I’ve never had the courage to ask them what I wonder so deeply: “Why do you want to be my friend?”. Most people I know don’t know the depths to which I’ve descended, and I am sure that if some of them, family especially, did know…I’d be cut off forever.

While in this comment I referred specifically to my priest friends, I did that given the venue, but in honesty have to say I wonder about my other non-clergy friends as well.  How could they WANT to be friends with me, given what they know about my past? About who I am now?  I am not now without sin, and in fact, there are some sins that even now force me to frequent Confession as I try to overcome them. Sins that might be shocking to some, but seem like mere gnats to another.

I don't want to read of the combox commentary on God's mercy...I know all about it.

In fact, I can lecture on it and I HAVE.

Please,  I am asking all of you, my readers,  to look into YOURSELVES and your own nakedness in your sin and recognize that YOU, too, know the same shame.

 I'm talking about the raw human reality that ALL of us experience, something platitudes cannot cover, cannot stop, cannot deny...that raw reality that when we are stripped down naked before God, we know we have sinned, we know what we deserve, and it's NATURAL to cringe in our concupiscence.


We all cringe in knowledge of our sin. We all fear rejection of others BECAUSE of our sin. As a priest I know (not a friend, just a lecturer I heard) observed, "People don't want to be known in their sin."

He was right. Yet...through different venues, in person, blogging, via email, my sin is known to my friends, and still, they are my friends. They WANT to be my friends, and looking at them in the same way, had they confessed the same wouldn't affect my love for THEM.

We all struggle with this.  We all ask for forgiveness, and we all need acceptance. And yet, when the latter happens...if we say we don't question it, we are lying.

My hope is that Fr. MacRae can convey this to his fellow prisoners, so that they will know they are not alone in the sense that they have a past that is known...but doesn't define them. That God's mercy is infinite, that they CAN change, and that they will not forever be judged according to what they have done in the past.

It is possible to be a New Creation, through God's Grace. It is possible to move on. It is possible to experience God's mercy expressed through the friendship of those who know us...who we were, who we are...and who we may be one day.

Myself...I pray for the grace to accept that reality, for I continue to cringe in shame, much like Joseph, Fr. MacRae's friend, who expects to see an expression of horror only to look up and recognize the significance of  friendship and mercy.

God grant me the humility to accept that same mercy. Amen.