God forgets your sins.
I was sitting in an uncomfortable wooden pew with no cushions. The cold I had felt coming in was suddenly gone, replaced by burning heat and sweat dripping down my arms. I repeated those words over and over in my head like a mantra, telling myself that if I could just make it through Reconciliation that it would be like my mistakes had never even happened. But something about those words bothered me… How could God forget something? Didn’t He know everything?
Those words might have been the easiest way to explain forgiveness to someone receiving the sacrament for the first time, but the more times I go through the old cycle of sinning and confessing and sinning and confessing, the more fault I find in them.
I know and believe that when I confess my sins they are truly and permanently forgiven. I am washed and made clean. I am reconciled with my Creator. But every time I go to Him, expecting my past to disappear before my eyes, I am utterly disappointed.
We all know what happens after Jesus’s passion and death: the Resurrection. But when Jesus appears to His disciples and afterwards Thomas (who wasn’t there for that) doubts, something truly shocking happens:
“Now a week later his disciples were again inside and Thomas was with them. Jesus came, although the doors were locked, and stood in their midst and said, ‘Peace be with you.’ Then he said to Thomas, ‘Put your finger here and see my hands, and bring your hand and put it in my side, and do not be unbelieving but believe.’ Thomas answered and said to Him, ‘My Lord and my God!’” (John 20: 26-28)
It is by putting his fingers to His wounds that Thomas knows that Christ lives.
I don’t know about you, but, if it were me, I think I would have preferred to miraculously heal my own wounds and flaunt it right in front of those Romans, proving that they can’t hurt me—that they have no power! Even in front of my own friends, I don’t think I would have been gung-ho about presenting my wounds to them. If I wanted to persuade them that I was alive and victorious, I would have healed myself. But that’s not what Jesus did.
Jesus presents His wounds as evidence of life, and they are, indeed, evidence of life because they glorify God. He wants to give us the same gift in our wounds.
When We Need Healing
Everyone’s recovering from something; everyone needs healing in some way. Whether it’s sin or self-contempt or addiction or a time when someone else hurt us, we all have some part of us that’s desperately in need of God’s grace. But sometimes it feels like God doesn’t want to give it. Our past and our mistakes still haunt us. We still go over the situation in our heads, kicking ourselves for not doing something differently, wondering why we didn’t. Maybe the problem is that we’re asking for the wrong thing.
We think that when God’s mercy heals us the past will be erased and we’ll never have to think about it or deal with it again; it will simply be over. But even God Himself let His wounds remain. He left the evidence of the atrocious, shameful things done to Him on His body even though He didn’t need to, and I think that those permanent wounds are there to tell us something.
They tell us that, through God’s mercy, our scars are signs of life, too. They tell us that our past can enlighten our future. They tell us that the holes in our hearts are really channels for God’s grace to sink deeper. They tell us that healing requires being humble enough to accept God’s glory into our wounds and to let them show because now they praise our Savior.
He doesn’t want us to forget our scars because He is waiting for us there. We need to ask Him to reveal Himself.
When we accept His healing, we can stop wishing for things to be different. We can stop kicking ourselves over our mistakes. We know that our wounds are part of the story of salvation.
As we begin this Year of Mercy, try to look at mercy in a new way. It’s a word we use a lot as Catholics, but it’s a much deeper truth than we might recognize. Christ’s plan for mercy isn’t always easy or simple, but it is always powerful. Christ’s healing is an attack on Satan’s kingdom. Every time.
Right before He ascends into heaven, Jesus raises His nail-pierced hands toward heaven, over His disciples’ heads—the disciples that loved Him, that left Him, that denied Him—and blesses them. He blesses them with wounds out in the open as a prayer of praise and as a consolation that His mercy is everlasting. By His permanent wounds, we know that His mercy is permanent. Jesus raises His hands over us in love to bless us, and when we look up, we see through those holes in His hands the glory that God desires to give us in our own wounds– the glory of forgiveness and of hope and of virtue.
Walking into Reconciliation my face still burns and my hands still shake sometimes. But, walking out, I feel freer and more whole than any other time in my life. I still remember the mistakes and the hurts, but I wouldn’t have it any other way. I look back on those wounds and watch God’s grace seep through every crevice, and they remind me of His Goodness and His Wisdom and His Mercy every day and in every doubt.
They point me back to Him. And I would choose such a roadmap over an untouched, unwounded heart any day.
“The Lord took his wounds with him to eternity. He is a wounded God; he let himself be injured from his love for us. […] What certainty of his mercy, what consolation do his wounds mean for us! …and what a duty they are for us, the duty to allow ourselves in turn to be wounded for him.” -Pope Benedict XVI