I think about forgiveness often. I think about the inspirational quotes we have all read about the subject. I think about the mistakes I have made out of love, anger, and misguidance. I think about grace and wish I possessed more.
I think about a list of Sanskrit sayings to which I am frequently drawn, “There are no mistakes, only lessons. A lesson will be repeated until it is learned. You will never stop learning lessons,” and, sometimes, my daily life reminds me, all too painfully, there are many lessons I have clearly never grasped.
But as I sat in an awe inducing cathedral several Saturdays ago on the occasion of my daughter’s first reconciliation, listening to a young priest’s sermon, many of these thoughts converged.
The Catholic Church’s concept of forgiveness is an otherworldly one I realized as I tried to prepare my daughter for penance. In this sacrament, the act of confessing one’s sins with an open heart to a priest allows God, acting through the priest, to absolve the sinner of his mistakes. Try explaining that to an almost 8 year old.
The young priest spoke plainly. If you confess with an open heart, God will forgive you. Wipe the slate clean. And you will leave here free of sin, try to learn from your mistakes and do better, but, inevitably, you will make other mistakes because none of us is perfect. As he spoke, it all made perfect sense.
Maybe as adults we shouldn’t torture ourselves reliving and rehashing our mistakes, questioning them, wishing we had acted differently. Instead we need to accept the inevitable, we will make mistakes because we are all fallible.
The dim March sunlight illuminated the vibrant details in the stained glass windows. For one moment, I felt absolution, the ability to show grace and kindness to myself as I navigate, or stumble, through life’s lessons.