My favorite part of Christmas Day is long after the presents are unwrapped, long after the gleeful cheers of youngsters oohing and aahing over each gift.
I love when all the wrapping paper’s picked up and the boxes are all prepared for recycling. That’s the moment when it all seems so, well, clean.
I’ve been thinking a lot about “clean” for the last several days. Early in the week, I took advantage of the sacrament of confession at my church for the first time in a while. It reminded me of how freeing it was to share my sins with a priest acting on behalf of Jesus Christ.
There’s a moment in this sacrament where Jesus forgives you, and He clearly means it. Whatever sins you brought with you into the confessional are no longer concerns anymore.
It’s a moment of change, of turning over a new leaf in life. My personal history says I’ll probably screw up in similar ways to the ways I have before. We all have our favorite sins we keep on committing, even if we hate them. Still, I hope and I pray that I can truly be a changed man and make the most of this forgiveness.
It makes me think about how we as a society deal with forgiveness.
We claim to love the underdog, the person who comes up from rough means and makes something of himself. There’s nothing more American than a rags-to-riches story.
It’s equally American to question the motives of people who’ve enjoyed a real change in direction of their lives.
If someone wronged you years ago and apologizes for it, it’s easy to tell them you forgive them. Do you really forgive them if you still distrust them, though?
The entire “cancel culture” is loaded with this. Someone did something wrong years ago, apologized for it and thought they could move on, only to have it pop back up and wreck their lives from this point onward.
It happens in popular culture all the time. People go back through every Facebook post and every tweet to find the moment of lapsed judgment.
Perhaps we’d all be better people if we had a statute of limitations on how long we’ll hold someone’s sins over their head. We shouldn’t accept apologies if we’re still going to hold grudges.
I’m as guilty as anyone of this, but at least I’m admitting it. I want to follow the path of my Lord and Savior, especially when it comes to forgiveness.
If I forgive you, I want it to be a complete absolution. I don’t want to ever remember the issue again. I don’t want to waste any more of our time on something that happened years ago and wasn’t worth the grudge.
This is why Jesus was born of Christmas. It’s why Jesus died on Good Friday.
Then we can all enjoy that freeing, joyful sense of a clean soul.