Saint Augustine: No Matter How Great Our Crimes
“Though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool.”
Continuing on with our Lenten series in which Saint Augustine is our guide, go here , here ,here , here and here to read the first five posts in the series, we come to the whole purpose of Lent. One of the greatest weapons in the arsenal of the eternal enemy of Man is despair. How many people abstain from confession and reconciliation with God on the mistaken belief that their sins are too great and they are beyond redemption. It would seem in our day that these people would be small in number since so many would appear to have lost any sense of sin. Perhaps, but perhaps also a denial of the fact of sin is merely a surface attempt to avoid the gnawing guilt and emptiness that sin usually causes in most souls, whether the sin is recognized as such or not. For all lost and wandering souls the forgiveness of God is close at hand for His mercy is as infinite as His justice is sure. What so many of us have earned at the hands of His justice, He spares us by His mercy. Despair is a sin, and in Lent we should turn our backs on it, as we do all sin. Here is what Augustine wrote in regard to forgiveness of sins, no matter how great they are:
Nevertheless, no matter how great our crimes, their forgiveness should never be despaired of in holy Church for those who truly repent, each according to the measure of his sin. And, in the act of repentance, where a crime has been committed of such gravity as also to cut off the sinner from the body of Christ, we should not consider the measure of time as much as the measure of sorrow. For, “a contrite and humbled heart God will not despise.” Still, since the sorrow of one heart is mostly hid from another, and does not come to notice through words and other such signs — even when it is plain to Him of whom it is said, “My groaning is not hid from thee” — times of repentance have been rightly established by those set over the churches, that satisfaction may also be made in the Church, in which the sins are forgiven. For, of course, outside her they are not forgiven. For she alone has received the pledge of the Holy Spirit, without whom there is no forgiveness of sins. Those forgiven thus obtain life everlasting.
The tumult and the shouting dies—
The Captains and the Kings depart—
Still stands Thine ancient sacrifice,
An humble and a contrite heart.
Rudyard Kipling, Recessional