I walk into the church and then nervously I slip inside the altar rail and stand next to the chair waiting for me. I pick up the prayer book so that I can sit down, and it’s already opened. Form 2, it says. “Damn it” I say to myself, knowing the differences between the two confession forms that I have studied. For me, one of those forms is much harder than the other, and God knows it and the priest knows it.
I need forgiveness, that’s why I’m here. My friend rolls her eyes when I tell her I’m going to confession, she tells me that I can confess my sins to God at home and I know that’s true, but I crave the absolution that confessing to the priest will give me. There is a reason that confession, or rather, reconciliation, is a sacrament. It’s because, like the bread and the wine, we need it. I need to know that I am forgiven by God and for me it helps to have the priest give absolution; it helps me remember for sure that God has forgiven me.
My confession is done and the priest asks the one question I wanted to use the other form to avoid: “Do you, then, forgive those who have sinned against you?” I’m here seeking forgiveness and absolution from the priest for my own sins, and yet I don’t want to answer this question. But slowly I answer the question that was asked: “I forgive them”. I can’t really go seeking forgiveness for my own sins if I won’t forgive others for their sins.
Every Sunday I kneel and pray for forgiveness of sins in unison with the rest of the congregation. The priest pronounces God’s forgiveness for our sins, and as we get ready to partake of the bread and the wine, we also pray the Lord’s Prayer. Again in the Lord’s Prayer, I ask for forgiveness for my own sins and then follow that with a declaration of forgiveness towards those who have sinned against me. Besides which, the Golden Rule says that I am to treat people the way I want to be treated, not the way that I am treated. Besides which, when I give forgiveness, I gain peace.
I have begun to realize that forgiveness is huge, which is why I crave it. I want to be in unity with the people around me. We can be so much stronger together than we can apart. Forgiveness must be given and received. Grace and peace are the two biggest themes that I’m seeing in the Episcopal Church and when I forgive someone for their sins against me, it gives me peace, because it’s no longer something that I have to worry about and get all bent out of shape over. The Bible says that people who want forgiveness ought to be ready to also grant forgiveness to others.
“…and forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us”.