A relatively brief thought: For some reason, this has been coming up quite a bit in the last couple of months, on forgiveness.
A priest friend in Slovakia shared a story with my brother-in-law, Father Farrell, that he had given a homily on the need to forgive. A lady came up to him after Mass and said, “Father, based on what you said, I realized that there is something I’ve never let go of.
“Twenty-five years ago, a man broke into my home and raped me. I’ve never been able to forgive him. I’m finally ready to do that.” The priest then heard her confession.
Three weeks later, the same priest was in his rectory when he heard a knock at the door. He said to a man at the door, “Can I help you”. The man replied, “Father, I was passing through the town, I saw the Catholic Church. There’s been something for the last three weeks that’s just been eating away at me.
He said, “Twenty-five years ago, I broke into a woman’s house, and I took advantage of her.”
The priest said, “You realize that the entire Church—Our Lord said to St. Peter that “you have authority to bind and loose.” That’s for teaching. He said to all the apostles that in the Sacrament of Confession, “you bind and loose”. But He said to all the faithful, to the disciples on one occasion, “you’re called to share in this ministry of binding and loosing.”
When we hold someone’s sin against them, they are bound by that. They cannot be free until we offer them mercy. That doesn’t necessarily have to be in person, but at least in our hearts, “I forgive” the person.
A man one time came to Padre Pio, he thought Padre Pio was a phoney, despite all the spiritual gifts he had. The man said to Padre Pio, “I’ll believe that you have an authentic charism, that you’re who you say you are, if you can tell me the sin that I committed years ago that I’ve never been able to forgive myself for.” Padre Pio said, “Come back tomorrow and I will tell you.”
Anybody who knew Padre Pio, who would have been aware of that, would say, “How could he not know that”? I met an Italian woman just after Mass last weekend. I mentioned Padre Pio in my homily. She told me, “My aunt is Italian. She used to go to confession with Padre Pio. He would do her confessions for her.”
When the man said, “if you can tell me my sin”, Padre Pio said, “You can come back tomorrow”. The man came back and said, “Father, can you tell me?” Padre Pio said, “I cannot”.
The man scoffed and said, “I knew you were a fraud”. Padre Pio said, “I can’t tell you because you went to confession for it. Our Lord revealed that to me. So He no longer remembers your sin. God has forgotten it. My brother, it is okay now for you to do the same.”
If we’re to forgive as God forgives, that means, always, everywhere and as soon as possible, not just others, but also ourselves.