“I got these tettoos for 30 cents Mom! Isn’t that great? I am ready for the next spirit day!” Cirque chirped as she glided the “Go Green!” tattoos before my eyes quickly. “It isn’t ‘tettoos’, it is “Tattoos”, as in T-a-t-t-o-o-s….” retorted JD, with his annoyed big brother voice and a shake of his head. “Whatever! Aren’t they cool? I also got myself and three other people NACHOS at lunch today!” Cirque added, as she jumped in place and twirled once or twice, as we awaited JD’s after school study group to end. “Um, that is very kind and generous of you Sweety, but shouldn’t you save your birthday money for something you really want?” I tried to suggest. “No”, she peeped and then joined the group of after-school-care kids doing walking laps around the cafeteria.
Although this is a small sample of her spending habits, Cirque isn’t one to squander every penny and save every dime (especially since she just learned the difference between the two coins!). No, she has a heart of gold, even if later it turns more regretful (like the time she loaned a generous $8 to JD for the high-priced “Sock Monkey” he just had to have, only to later try to rip a leg off of the sock–can you do that?–to get her money back).
But this day wasn’t admitting the well-intentioned expenditures of a small person who rarely has coin in hand. Like the widow Jesus praised for giving away her last coins at the offering, Cirque would give you the shirt off her back. Today’s ceremony was about the not-well intentioned circumstances of life. A moral act contains three basic elements: the act itself (stealing for example), the circumstances (starvation or latest fashion trend), and the intention (“I know it isn’t mine but I want it anyway” or “Oops! I walked out of the library with their pencil still in my hand!”). Confessing the act (which should be by name–stealing, not “borrowed”) should be well-intentioned, conscious, free, and truly sorrowful. We are sorrowful because it hurts us, Jesus and the church united. We are severing ourselves from the church family as well as Jesus when we sin. So the act of confessing our sins, is a most generous gift from God saying “I love you” back to us, like a faithful, loving Parent, no matter what we have done.
It was a beautiful ceremony of about 40 second-graders asking Jesus for his mercy for the first time in their lives. Our pastor read through a beautiful prayer, examination of conscience, and act of contrition (I was hoping it counted for me to join in the reading of it, but I don’t think so.) The second graders sang an adorable song about hurting Jesus with the bad choices we make, and sang with their whole little hearts. Once the kids were asked to go to the back of the church and pick one of our two parish priests to go to confess their sins, the parents could join them in their pew. We were asked to pray for everyone while they went one by one, and came out of the confessionals glowing like little angels. I began to pray to Our Lady, asking for guidance over my little one’s lips (Oh please don’t let her say anything that will mortify our young priest, Mother. You KNOW she likes to give an earful like her own earthly mom.) Cirque came out happy and glowing and went right to business on whatever her penance must have been, as she kneeled and silently prayed next to me.
At some point, the grace of the moment knocked on the door of my heart and I welcomed it in with tears and gratitude. I was trying to keep my composure while coming to the understanding that God just took away 8 years of sin from my daughter. Just like that. Because she believed He could, and because an ordained servant, anointed and devoted as an apostolic descendent of Jesus our Lord, was selfless enough to give his life to being the hands and voice of Jesus so this burden could be lifted from us.
I once had a friend ask how I could really believe that this priest was the one to forgive my sins, because “only God does that”. Yes, God does that. And He had his son, Jesus, send forth the apostles after anointing them and he said to them “As the Father has sent me, so I send you. And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the holy Spirit. Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them, and whose sins you retain are retained.” (John 20:21-23 NAB). The Catechism of the Catholic Church #1461 states “Since Christ entrusted to his apostles the ministry of reconciliation, bishops are their successors, and priests, the bishops’ collaborators, continue to exercise this ministry. Indeed bishops and priests by virtue of the sacrament of Holy Orders, have the power to forgive all sins ‘in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit’. ”
I asked Cirque how she felt afterward. She responded in a way surprised me with “REALLY GOOD!” Wow. Mercy is so awesome. God is so good. Thank you my loving Father.