Those following these reflections would know that I made a retreat recently. I had a great time with God for eight days and really understand the need for that “Holyday” once every week. I used the opportunity to make a good confession. I know that there are some priests who can make confession something to be dreaded, but most priests are simply wonderful in the confessional, and really show the face of Jesus to the repentant sinner. This priest was one of the awesome ones, and he told me a story when I was done.
A monk and his friend (he said) were on their way to a nearby village. They had to cross a lake to get to the village, and just before getting into the boat that would take them across, they got into an argument. The monk’s friend slapped him. The monk didn’t retaliate. He didn’t say anything either. He just scrawled a few words on the sand with his staff: “My friend slapped me,” he wrote. The friend saw what he had written, shook his head in bewilderment, and got into the boat. The monk got into the boat after him.
Midway through the crossing, the boat sprung a leak and began to sink. The monk didn’t know to swim, but his friend, who was an expert swimmer, came to his aid and helped him reach the other side of the shore. The monk thanked his friend, then taking a pocket knife from his satchel, carved a few words on a rock: “My friend saved me,” he wrote. His friend asked him what he was doing. The monk replied, “Some things should be forgotten, some things should be remembered. The things I write on sand, I choose to forget. The things I write on rock, I choose to remember.”
The point of this story, of course, is that God is like that. He writes our sins on the sand, and if we say we are sorry, they are washed away by the next wave like they never existed. But he remembers the good that we do, carving them on rock. Why does he do that? Because that’s the kind of God he is. He’s not an accountant sitting with a ledger, crediting us with points for good deeds, and debiting points for bad deeds. He is a gracious and merciful God who wants to forgive those who turn to him in repentance and just remember the wonderful thing that we do.
We, on the other hand, despite needing mercy, are not merciful towards others. We write the good things that people do on sand, and the bad things they do on rock to be remembered forever. Isn’t this true? This should change, and it will take a conscious and prolonged effort to make it happen, but when we are able to do this, we will truly be like our Father in heaven. Otherwise, we will be like the Pharisees in today’s story pointing fingers at every “bad guy”, forgetting that at one time (if we still aren’t, that is) we were the bad guys.
Blessed are the merciful, for they shall be shown mercy.