Metropolitan Anthony of Sourozh
In the Name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. Amen.
For the fourth time I endeavour to speak on Confession. And what I
want to touch upon is the mystery of forgiveness. When we come to
Confession, as I have said before, we come into the presence of God.
But God is not a judge; God is our Saviour. God is our Friend, the one
who has loved us in such a way that He has given His life that we may
believe in His love, and given His life to save us from condemnation.
And it is to Him, as to a Friend, and to a Saviour, that we come.
We confess to Him, we open our hearts to Him. We tell Him, as I tried
to explain on other occasions, all that separates us from Him; not
lists of formal sins but what we feel in our hearts is our
unfaithfulness; what we feel in our hearts separates us, because in
spite of the words of love and of veneration which we pronounce, we
act in a way that nails Him to the cross again.
We lie; and we create a world in which only death can triumph. We
reject our neighbour and we close our own way into the Kingdom of God,
because unless we can say, ╚Our Father╩ and not ╚My Father╩, there is
no place for us in His Kingdom.
And so we ask the Lord for forgiveness - but not a formal word that
will say, ╚You have been unworthy of My friendship, but I'm
great-hearted and I forgive╩. No, that is not the point. It's not that
kind of forgiveness which we must seek. It's a true reconciliation, in
which we pour out our heart to God, the truth that there is to be
said, in which we tell Him all the ways in which we have been
unfaithful to Him - not only directly, but being unfaithful to our
neighbour, to our friends, to our relatives, to anyone around us. The
way, also, in which we have treated the world He has created with
contempt and indifference - a world which He has so loved as to call
it into existence.
And when we have said that, we must ask Him, as I have said a minute
before, for reconciliation. ╚Let us be friends again, Lord. I know I
have not changed yet. It is only Your friendship - unshakeable,
faithful, that can prompt me to become different. If You reject me, if
You turn away from me, I have no reason to change. I am damned, I am
damned in this world, whatever happens in the future world.╩ The only
reason why I can change is that the Lord said, ╚In spite of all, I
remain your friend. In spite of all, I love you with all My life and
all My death. Can you in response to this love show a little
faithfulness? I don't expect from you a total, immediate change. But
change step by step. Hold on to Me. I will support you, I'll help you,
I'll protect you, I'll guide you, I'll give you strength - but do
change. And when you receive forgiveness in My name from the priest,
don't imagine that the past does not exist. The past will have gone
only when you have become so alien to this past that it is no longer
It may sound very strange. But we all live a complex life. I remember
an old woman who came and said to me that she does not know how to
live. She spends her whole nights seeing in her dreams and in her
memories all the evil she has done. She went to the doctor, who gave
her pills, and it was only worse because from her memories it became
hallucinations. What can she do?
And I said to her, ╚Remember, God grants us not only once to live
through our life but to live and relive our lives time and again until
all the evil of it is expurgated. When evil stands up from the past
before you, ask yourself: now, with the experience of life I have
acquired, now, would I be the person I was then? Would I say these
murderous words, would I do such and such action which was evil? And
if you can say sincerely: oh no, with what I have learnt from life,
now, placed in the same situation, I would never, never do the same -
then you can say, 'Lord, forgive me this particular moment of my
past', and know that you are free. If you can say that with all your
heart, with all sincerity, with all the truth there is in you, then it
will not come back to you╩.
And so it happened to this old woman. And so it should happen to each
of us. We can not in a moment be free of our past. We must renounce
the evil there is in it. We must turn to Christ our God and promise to
struggle for faithfulness, ask for His help, and then, step by step
free ourselves of the past. It does not mean that we are not forgiven,
because forgiven means accepted in love, accepted with tenderness by
someone who will never forget our weakness, never forget what has gone
wrong with us, because to forget means that he will expose us to the
same temptation without protection.
I remember a woman who was a drunkard, who was treated for a long time
in hospital, who came back home healed. And to feast her return the
family put a bottle of wine on the table; and it was the end; because
they thought she was healed, but they did not realise that there was
still frailty in her.
And so it is with us when we receive forgiveness from God. Yes, our
estrangement from Him is gone. Yes, there is nothing that separates us
from Him as far as love is concerned - His love - and as far as our
longing - our longing - is concerned. But we must struggle and change
and become new, new creatures, with His help. Forgiveness does not
erase the past. It heals it in co-operation between God and us.
Let us therefore come to Confession in this spirit. Let us confess
ourselves daily to God, sincerely; open our hearts, make our peace
with Him, enter into reconciliation; and know that reconciliation
means that we have undertaken to be faithful to Him; and fight, and
fight ourselves, and fight evil, and fight for the people around us,
whom we wound, and for God, Whom we crucify.
Let us reflect on this. And then, when we come to Confession, the
prayer of Absolution will have a true and real meaning: the
re-establishment of a friendship that cannot be broken on God's part,
but was broken on ours and is now restored in intention. And this
intention must be determination; and determination must be action, and
new life in us. Amen.