Struggles with self-forgiveness

By | June 9, 2010

King David sinned. Adultery and murder brought great harm to so many: to Uriah, to his wife, indeed, to David’s own household. When confronted by the prophet Nathan, David admitted his sin and turned to the Lord for forgiveness. We know the rest of the


Bishop Robert Morneau


David’s remorse and guilt did not paralyze him. Through God’s grace and mercy, he was able to lead his people and do good, real good. Whether or not it was the guilt that drove him on, the king did use his gifts for the common good. And through the psalms, all of us can join in David’s songs of thanksgiving and praise for what God did for and with him.

Paul sinned. We know of his persecution of the early church and his own religious arrogance. But Paul, like David, experienced God’s mercy through Jesus. Now justified by faith, Paul made it clear to everyone who would listen that it was not the law that saved. Rather, faith in Christ was the doorway into salvation. And now that Christ lived in him, he would do good, real good, by telling everyone of the mercy of God in Jesus who died for our redemption.

The woman who came to the Pharisee’s house sinned. But Jesus saw in her the grace of love and her deep faith as she anointed his feet with precious oil. Jesus offered her two great gifts: forgiveness and peace. We do not know the rest of her story but we can surmise that she went forth and did good, real good, by sharing her graced love and deep faith with others.

Did David, Paul and the woman struggle with self-forgiveness? Undoubtedly they did, as we all do. Hopefully, like them, the guilt and remorse that we feel over our sins might be transposed into doing good, real good, in the building up of God’s kingdom.

In the 2003, New York Times bestseller “The Kite Runner,” Khaled Hosseini presents a story of love and guilt, redemption and fear in Afghanistan. Among the book’s passages is: “I know that in the end, God will forgive. He will forgive your father, me and you too. I hope you can do the same. Forgive your father, if you can. Forgive me if you wish. But, most important, forgive yourself.” (302).

Our responsorial refrain captures the essence of today’s celebration: “Lord, forgive the wrong I have done.”

Questions for reflection

1. How can guilt be creative rather than destructive?

2. What is your experience of God’s mercy?

3. Why is self-forgiveness so difficult?

Bishop Morneau is the auxiliary bishop of the Green Bay Diocese and pastor of Resurrection Parish in Allouez.

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