A few years ago I was asked to prepare a year 13 group to receive the Sacrament of Reconciliation. I began by asking how many considered themselves to be sinners. A couple of hands went up including my own. I then asked again, explaining that my question was a serious one adding that all my friends were sinners. A few more hands were raised. For the next half hour I explained that we are created by God for abundant life, but we sin when our fears lead us to grasp at what is immediate and unsatisfying. I explained that the Sacrament of Reconciliation enables us to experience divine love and mercy in the part of our lives where we most struggle, and that this was a beautiful thing both in a human relationship and even more-so in our relationship with God. I concluded commenting that we are sinners, much more than we think we are, but this is not a problem for our loving and merciful God.
At the end of the class the teacher approached me, very angry, saying “we do all we can to build up our students’ self-esteem, and you shoot it down in one class by telling these young people that they are sinners.”
The teacher did not understand that self-esteem is not a human achievement. Healthy self-esteem is the fruit of knowing that we are loved even as imperfect, weak and vulnerable sinners. We know Jesus to be “saviour,” and if we think we can sort our lives by our own efforts then we have no need for Jesus.
Fr. John O’Connor www.foodforfaith.org.nz
Download full newsletter hereNewsletter 7 April 2019