The old woman finishes her examination of conscience as she sits outside the confessional. In the quiet of the Church looking at Him in the Monstrance and feeling His call to her was an undeniable joy, but a dark cloud of underlying shame and darkness clung to her as her eyes returned to the question “have I ever lied or concealed my sins in confession?” In the days of her youth, as a young woman, when she journeyed far from God and the truth of His Church, she led a life of worldliness. A worldliness that had no room for purity of soul, no room to acknowledge the question “is what I am doing right now, leading me to or from the Lord?” With false friends who had no respect or faith for He who is greater than all, they delighted in drawing the girl from her path of purity into the void of darkness and sin.
Years passed and the young woman heeded His loving call and turned her back on her former ways and knelt before His altar in adoration and returned to the sacraments. But in the ensuing years, she was never able to utter the exact nature of her acts and as she tried to gather courage to name the sin, whispers from the evil one taunted her “your sins are so repulsive before the Lord, that you cannot be forgiven. So, dance around them, that is best…” Although she was contrite and sorrowful to her very core, the stain of the past refused to be washed clean and demons taunted her in moments of weakness with hissing whispers of “you are repugnant in the eyes of the Lord, your sins are too great to be forgiven and we wait for you in hell, for that is what you deserve and that is what you were made for, join us, we are waiting.” The young woman would call upon St. Michael for protection and push her sins and the dark whispers from her mind and bury them in the every day joys and sorrows which is life, but the heaviness of the stain clung tightly to her spirit.
Today, many years later, she sits gray haired and lined, her eyes are drawn again and again to the words “have I ever lied or concealed my sins in confession?” and the crushing shame and darkness make her want to flee this holy place until she can bury the guilty shame beneath the surface of her consciousness.
The door opens, and slowly she rises, taking halting steps towards the room where Jesus sits, waiting for His child. She kneels and begins the prayer “Bless me father, for I have sinned…” She begins to talk into the loving, gentle ear of our Lord and tell Him that she fears she has concealed past sins. Through the priest, Christ opens his arms and says, “Tell Me now, I’m listening…” The darkness begins to crush her, panic wells, and it is as if dark, smoky fingers are choking her to keep the sin hidden and her lips sealed. In a trembling rush the words pour forth, honest and true and the grace of our Lord flings the darkness away and the old woman is filled with blinding light and grace, a sweeping joy and the first taste of freedom her soul has known in years and her spirit soars with the angels. Jesus utters to her words of wisdom and prayers and forgiveness. There was no condemnation. No rebuke. No recoil in horror and disgust. Just the pure and cleansing love that He offers to all who ask, and in this asking the stain is washed away in His cleansing blood and the penitential act she will fulfill. The defeated demons shriek in fury and flee for their false power cannot overtake His goodness and light.
The old woman rises with grace and in grace, cleansing tears of joy streaming as her soul is gathered into the arms of her Father.