“A few years ago I was in a church in Worcester and at about half past six one morning a man came in. I knew he wasn’t a Catholic because he tried to come in through the door that was always locked. He was looking for his son aged nine, who’d been missing all night and had been seen playing around our church the evening before. He’d stolen some money from his father and he must have been too frightened to come home. The father thought that he might have come into our church and hidden somewhere and gone to sleep. So we looked all through the church, in the confessionals and everywhere, but the boy was nowhere to be found and the father went out.
It was now time for me to go and say Mass in the convent, so I got the car out and went out of the gates. I saw the man sheltering in a shop doorway, lighting a cigarette. It was beginning to rain and he did not have a raincoat, so I pulled up and asked if I could give him a lift. He turned and said it was alright thanks, and there in the daylight I could see that his eyes were red-rimmed with want of sleep and filled with tears.
I drove on and thought to myself: There you have the love of a human father; what must not God’s love for us be like? The little boy of nine who’d stolen money – he thought it was all finished now between him and his father; he’d stolen money and his father wouldn’t want him back; he didn’t dare come home. But the father had forgotten all about the money. He wouldn’t have minded if the boy had stolen much more. All he wanted was to get his child back, safe and sound.
Sure, we’ve sinned. But you could almost say that our sins are nothing to God. He’s paid the price already. What he wants is to get us back, and when we go to confession he helps us realise how much we mean to him.
This awareness that God loves us deeply even though he knows all about us is needed for our spiritual growth. We poor sinners do need to be aware of this truth about God, that he is good and that he loves us.
There was a priest called Father Dan Considine who was quite well known in his day. He was our Jesuit novice master and he once wrote that if he had to assess the holiness to which any individual would come, he would base his assessment on the quality of that person’s hope, in the confidence he had in God’s love for him. It’s the basis of St Therese’s Little Way, this awareness of the Fatherly love that God has for us, and that we are just his little children. One of the fruits of confession is that it makes us still more aware of this.
In fact, it seems to me that just as our offering the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass helps increase our faith and receiving Christ in Holy Communion helps increase our charity, so receiving this sacrament of reconciliation should help increase our hope. I repeat, it’s a growth sacrament.”
– Fr Hugh S. Thwaites