Acts of Contrition


“I don’t want you remembering my sins,” I told my friend who was a priest. And it struck me, that God did not want to remember them either.

Words about a relationship: movement, waiting, change, patience. Old age.

I realized at the age of 23 and ever since, that I always was having difficulty with the things closest to me —from trying to address a business concern in Arthur, North Dakota when I lived in Fargo, to seeing them but not getting to the things so close. It would be so easier tomorrow. I would get around to it.

Patience: God waiting for a response. A girl I had thoughts of marrying once. Until I was moved inside. So here I was, born incomplete, imperfect, in need of something. Bored, restless.

I was headed into my cave this weekend to go on retreat. It was odd that when it came to civilization, that history did not view the cave man as advanced. Yet all men still were cavemen, in need of reflection about the important relationships in their lives. Cave men, old men, young men.

To find fullness, I had to realize my own need to be healed. A shaman was a healer who had God-like powers, when the doctor takes on the role of priest in the Amazon. And with healing as either a priest or a doctor, a miracle was happening. Or was it just hocus-pocus? To view it in others, using magic potions made from the bark of trees, or to see it in the relationships of my life, is to be moved, to change.

So there I was, distracted, having difficulty with the things closest to me. I was distracted from my God, always having difficulty with the things closest to me—The penitent who forgot what was important, seeing things, even these sins, a part of me I was not proud of, avoiding getting at the truth about me. Distracted from my God –a good definition of sin.

So this forgiveness: Was it just another hocus-pocus? In the words of the Creighton Jesuit, Andy Alexander:

“Jesus was here reshaping what the Chosen People thought about God, taking people into a deeper sense of who God is and therefore, who they are called to be. And in comes the transformation of the sense of what kind of relationship God wants to have with them. IN comes the sacrament of Reconciliation. “You have heard it said … but, I say to you …”

I saw it in the growth last year of trees that had been planted here in what seemed 2003. Those trees, their bark. The shaman was at work, even on me. What really had changed was that I had learned to pray here. And I was beginning to see God in all things, like I had never seen before. Even with the things closest to me.

Jesus continued after the Resurrection this reshaping what the people had heard and what they had learned. After the Resurrection, in the garden, hearing the same words of Jesus that he had asked of the apostles when he met them, only this time to Mary as he wiped away her tears: WHO IS IT THAT YOU ARE LOOKING FOR?

When I started going on retreat, I used to approach sacrament of Reconciliation with reluctance. It was a vanity. It was called arrogance in men, visible with age. I had once said to a priest, a friend: “I don’t want you remembering my sins.” And it struck me that God did not want to remember them either. That was the part about me that has changed.


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