by Rick Cheek
“If the world hates you, know that it hated me first. If you belonged to the world, the world would love its own.” “Do not let your hearts be troubled. You have faith in God; have faith also in me.”
— Jn 15:18 and Jn 14:1
Those two verses from the Gospel of John kept ringing in my ear as I sat and listened to the account of the death of my son Jared and his fellow seminarian Matty Molnar in September 2005 as told by the driver, Father Rob Spaulding, to young people and adults during a visit to the archdiocese in February. Father Spaulding didn’t talk so much about the dangers of drinking and driving as how one decision can change not only one life, but thousands.
So many times the world tells us that we should be angry when bad things happen — that we should seek revenge instead of seeking reconciliation. Would it have been so easy to hate and get on with our lives? Or to say, “You’re forgiven,” and move on? In all reality, would that have made our lives any better? Would we truly be living the Gospel message of forgiveness? I don’t think so.
Someone asked me how I could sit and listen to that same talk eight times. Was it hard? Yes, but we have to be witnesses to the power of forgiveness that Jesus talks about time and again in the Gospels. We have to listen to the words from our pastors as they share God’s complete and total forgiveness in their homilies.
Father Spaulding talked about how you don’t have to be defined by the bad decisions you make, but can be defined by the choices you make from those decisions and learn from them. When you experience the power of forgiveness in the sacrament of reconciliation, you are truly forgiven.
I hear so many times that young people are afraid of going to confession or even asking someone to forgive them.
But why? It’s easy! In the confessional, the priest is not your judge; he is there to help you and to dispense God’s mercy and forgiveness.
So what are some decisions you have made in the past for which you are sorry, but have not asked God for forgiveness? Why are you still holding on to them? Take those bad decisions you’ve made in your life and turn them into something good.
When you wonder what forgiveness looks like, look at those who have for- given you: That is the face of Jesus. Remember what he said: “Behold I make all things new.” Don’t wait till the next Advent or Lent to experience the power of forgiveness in the sacrament of reconciliation.