"These people thought that God could not forgive them. I told them with all my soul, with all my heart, very clearly, that he could."
The confessional is a place of mission. It is like going to unknown lands and evangelizing, announcing the redemption of Christ, His mercy towards man, proclaiming the love of God to those who do not yet know him. In the confessional, a world of pain is poured out, a world of suffering, an immense need to be listened to, to share situations that can no longer be borne alone, a great need to be forgiven is revealed.
God became man to be with us. He came to forgive, to love, to embrace. He became incarnate to walk with us. God’s forgiveness is a force of love; and suffering goes far beyond the natural feeling of disgust for the evil we do. God’s forgiveness gives us the will to repair, to change our lives.
The suffering of having had an abortion
Many mothers have come to my confessional suffering from having aborted a child, even after many years. They did it for various reasons: because they had lost their job and did not know how they would provide for them, or because the husband had abandoned them, or for both reasons. Burdened with this weight, they ask for forgiveness, they try to justify themselves by saying it was a necessity, but they still cannot free themselves of their pain. They are mothers who often know that they have committed a crime and this makes life bitter, despite all their justifications.
Abortion weighs heavily on a woman’s life. Some women who come to the confessional after many years cannot get rid of this burden. When they have had an abortion in their youth, these women say, “Father, I didn’t know what I was doing. Now I realize that I killed my child.” Over the years, they have had other children, seen their beauty, seen them grow up by their side and think of the one they did not want. This is very hard, especially when there have been several abortions. I remember a woman who had had six. And another, five.
Sometimes they try to downplay the facts, as if nothing irreparable had happened. But they know very well in their heart that it was not a harmless act, even if human nature protects itself from suffering by trying to minimize it and relegate it to the past. In the majority of cases, the decision to have an abortion was not theirs, but their parents’ who put pressure on them. Or their partner, who paid for the abortion so that nobody would know anything about it.
Often, too, the girl decides to put an end to the pregnancy because of her financial situation, because she is unemployed, neither of them has work or because her job is insecure.
Another common reason for an abortion is tension between the mother and the partner, fiancé or husband, fear of a relationship that is not going to last, fear of remaining alone with her child etc. I listen to them, I look at them and I realize that it is hard. That, for them, what they have come to confess is very painful. How can you take God’s forgiveness lightly?
Bible figures whom Jesus forgave
With these women, I talk about people in the Bible whom Jesus forgave. The woman who washed Jesus’ feet, the adulteress, Zacchaeus the tax collector, the repentant thief. They spent all their lives doing terrible things and, because of only one word of regret, Jesus forgave them. And He told stories about the greatness of His Father’s forgiveness for prodigal sons and lost sheep.
God came to forgive
I also tell them that God embraces them, that God loves them, that He loves them and walks with them; that He came to forgive, not to punish; that He came to be with us; that He came down from Heaven to share our condition as men who go astray. How, then, could we be afraid?
Thanks to God, the confessional is also a place of life. It always is, because it regenerates, brings forth something new that did not exist before. But it is also a place of life when a young girl realizes that what she is planning to do is negative and, because of that, decides not to do so. I had the case of two youngsters who arrived saying they wanted to have an abortion – and then did not go through with it. Sometimes, going against their parents’ opinion: “Let them think what they want, but I want to keep my child …”
Sometimes, and it pleases me, young people come and say, “Father, today I want to confess something I never had the courage to say. I had the opportunity, but I did not say it.” I encourage them: “Take as long as it takes. I am not in a hurry. But get it off your chest, confess, put all this weight that crushes you in the hands of God! Unburden yourself on Him and you will see how relieved you will be when you leave the confessional.” And that’s what happens.
“Is there anything else?”
“And how do you feel now?””
“I can breathe again.”
A real experience of liberation.
Taken from the French.