|Flags for our Veteran|
Friars who served in Army, Navy
and Air Forces
To the penitent God provides a way back,
he encourages those who are losing hope
and has chosen for them the lot of truth.
Return to him and give up sin,
pray to the LORD and make your offenses few.
The penitent who would return to the Lord might well ask, "What is the way back? How do I get there from here?"
Is it possible for the murderer to undo his killing? Or the rapist to erase the trauma of his crime from the women and children he has ravaged?
The incarcerated are not the only ones who ask such questions. Some military veterans also suffer fearsome nightmares and paralyzing daylight flashbacks, memories of what occurred in another place and time. In some cases they were under orders, but rationalizing does not bring back the dead. Many seek relief -- if that is what it is -- in suicide.
At one time the Church offered the way of mortification. If you saw the movie, The Mission, you might remember the tormented soldier dragging his sword, shield and armor through the jungles of Brazil in an effort to purge himself of guilt. Penitents might go on pilgrimage, tracing hundreds of miles on their knees, fasting, wearing hairshirts and chains. They hoped their physical suffering would atone for what they'd done.
Eventually wiser saints would urge the Church not to impose such burdens on the penitent. That is not the way.
Our Catholic tradition offers the Sacrament of Penance, but this should not be misinterpreted as simply a whispered "confession" and "three Hail Marys." The Sacrament of Penance is an encounter with Jesus Christ, who is the Way, the Truth and the Life. It is an act of faith that Jesus, by his cross and resurrection, can, has and will undo all the harm of our sins.
The Sacrament is a divine glance that confounds the furies of guilt and shame. Standing within Jesus' gaze, the penitent knows he is welcome to follow. [follow those links for relevant scripture passages]
Today's penitent might not be reassured by a word. We are a visual society; and words, it is said, are cheap. But we still believe in what we see; and penitents who look into the eyes of Jesus find the Way.
The wise man said, God "has chosen for them the lot of truth." She must become our passion, our craving, our desire, need, hope and preference at every hour of the day and night. As a young man desires a woman or an alcoholic craves a drink, the repentant sinner loves and adores truth. She demands much and he gives everything in return for peace of mind.
Relieved of guilt and shame, sinners find ways to atone for their sins and, with Jesus, for the sins of all creatures.