Just about everyone enjoys comeback stories. Whether it is a fictional or real-life account, we all seem drawn to the story of the one who didn’t give up. We may have our favorites, but it’s hard to know where to find new stories of perseverance through adversity, and eventual success.
But I’ll tell you where to find the best comeback story—perhaps many such stories. They will happen at Catholic churches all over the world this week. People who have been away from the Church and her sacraments for months, for years, for decades, will come back to God through the Sacrament of Confession—fully restored to sanctifying grace.
Maybe this year, one of those comeback stories will be yours.
Perhaps you’ve been away for a while, and you’ve been thinking about coming home. You are sorry for your sins, but something is still keeping you away.
Maybe you think that your sins are too bad for God to forgive. Let me assure you, they are not. But don’t take my word for it; take the word of Saint Thomas Aquinas:
But by suffering out of love and obedience, Christ gave more to God than was required to compensate for the offense of the whole human race…. Christ’s Passion was not only a sufficient but a superabundant atonement for the sins of the human race…
Maybe you worry that you’re not worthy of God’s mercy. If so, worry no longer. Why? Because whether you’ve attended daily Mass for 50 years or you haven’t been to Sunday Mass for 50 years, none of us is worthy of God’s mercy! Neither are we worthy of God’s justice. But it is not our worthiness that grants us access to Divine mercy, it is the love of God.
Even so, you might wonder, isn’t His mercy just for the best of the best? Should serious sinners dare ask for His mercy? The answer is a most emphatic yes! As Jesus revealed to Saint Faustina:
Let the greatest sinners place their trust in My mercy. They have the right before others to trust in the abyss of My mercy….To such souls I grant even more graces than they ask. I cannot punish even the greatest sinner if he makes an appeal to My compassion, but on the contrary, I justify him in My unfathomable and inscrutable mercy.
Maybe you’re embarrassed of your sins, ashamed of telling your sins to a priest. If so, stop and ask yourself a question: What sins have I—and only I—committed? Let me guarantee you something: you haven’t invented a new sin. Every sin you have committed is covered in the Catechism of the Catholic Church. And unless the priest who is hearing your Confession was ordained within the past week, he’s probably heard it lots of times before. But what if you’ve committed those sins dozens, hundreds, or literally thousands of times since your last Confession? Yes, he’s heard that, too.
Priests understand that it’s difficult for some people—perhaps most people—to make good Confessions, for a wide variety of reasons. Let him know that it’s difficult for you. He is there to help you, and you will very likely find a compassionate friend who understands you and your failings. But it goes way beyond that. Hearing confessions like yours, thus helping sinners come back to the state of grace, is one of the great joys of the priesthood.
And when you hear those wonderful words of absolution, your whole world changes. You may have walked into Confession at the beginning of winter, but when you walk out, it feels like the beginning of spring. Your soul will be “joyful and triumphant,” experiencing a new peaceful springtime in ways you never imagined. What’s more, all of Heaven rejoices for you, and with you.
How big a comeback is that? Let’s have Father Alfred Wilson, author of Pardon and Peace, explain it:
The regeneration of a sinner is an incomparably greater marvel than the raising of Lazarus; in fact, as St. Thomas points out, it is a greater work than an act of creation. In creation there is no resisting subject-matter, such as there is in regeneration, and the life produced is not divine.
A greater comeback than Lazarus? Let that sink in for a minute.
If you have put off Confession for years and decades, don’t put it off for one more year or one more day. God loves you and is ready, eager, and able to forgive all the sins of your life. God wants you to be truly happy again.
Let this year’s greatest comeback be your own.