OK, so maybe your father beat you up and your mother burned you with cigarettes and your teacher hit you with a paddle and your big brother abused you. What if you were to take responsibility for their sins as well as your own? What if we were to see the people who hurt us with hearts of compassion and be the agent of forgiveness towards them? What if we were to say, “Here I’ll take all that crap for you. I’ll take responsibility for the mess of your life as well as the mess of my life.” What if our first ‘mea culpa’ was for us, and the second was for other people who have messed us up? By taking responsibility in this way we will actually find forgiveness, healing and peace.
If we use the second ‘my fault’ to take responsibility for other people’s sins in our lives what if we were to use the third ‘my most grievous fault’ and claim responsibility for the sins of the whole world. That sounds pretty ambitious. Megalomaniacal even, but what I mean is this: don’t I, in my own sin and selfishness, contribute to the sins of the whole world? What if I were to step out of my own little shell, my own little universe and see the connections? I’m involved. I am not an island. I am a part of the continent, a part of the main. I am a man, but I am also humanity in microcosm.
Have I not shared in the greed that has ruined our country? Have I not shared in the lust that has ruined families? Have I not shared in the pride, the envy, the gluttony, the sloth and the wrath that has soiled the world? Yes, I have, and when I cry, “My most grievous fault” in the new Confiteo, perhaps I may, in my own small way, identify with Christ the Lord who really did take the sins of the whole world to himself, and perhaps in my own small way, I may come to understand more deeply the mystery of the cross of Christ.
Those who are into the sentimental promotion of ‘self esteem’ and ‘personal fulfillment’ and ‘individual liberation’ may be shocked at such a seeming debasement of the person. They may be dismayed by what seems to be yet more groveling and self abnegation. What they do not understand is the immense freedom and power that comes from genuine repentance. In this action I take responsibility (by God’s grace) and I rise above the faults. I am forgiven and I forgive. In this there is not only true freedom, but true self esteem, true fulfillment, and ultimately a supernatural joy.