An old Catholic archbishop was giving his Good Friday sermon to a large crowd in his inner-city cathedral. He told a story of three boys who long ago came into that same church during the confessional time. They were laughing and joking and making all kinds of disrespectful racket. Two of the boys then dared the other one to go into the confessional booth and make some stupid confession. They made a bet that he would not do it. But the boy did go in, and still chuckling, he made an outrageous confession to the priest. He said that he had robbed several banks, beat up his parents, knifed many other tough guys in fights, and went to bed with a different woman every night. His two friends were rolling in the aisles with laughter. The priest, however, kept his cool and replied calmly, “My son, in the name of your Savior, Jesus Christ, all of your many sins are forgiven you.”
The boy got up to leave and collect on his bet, but the priest called him back. He said, “You are forgiven, but as you know, every word of forgiveness requires an act of penance. This is what you must do. When you leave the confessional booth, you must go to the altar and look up at the statue of Jesus on the cross, with the crown of thorns on his head, the nails in his hands and feet, the stab wound from the spear in his side, and the scars from the beatings on his back. I want you to look into the eyes of your Lord on that cross, and I want you to say to him, ‘I know what you did for me Jesus and I’m here to tell you that I don’t give a damn.'”
The boy stood still. He was no longer laughing. Now, he just wanted to get out of there. He went to his friends and said, “There, I won the bet. Let’s go.”
But the friends, still howling with laughter, said, “Oh no, you aren’t done yet. If you want to win the bet, you have to finish your act of confession and do the act of penance. Go in and do it.”
The boy did not want to go back, but he did not want to lose the bet. So he went up to the cross, looked up at Jesus, and started to say, “I know what you did for me Jesus and I don’t give a …” He stopped. He could not finish the sentence. He started again, and again stopped. He tried one more time, and again had to quit. Finally, he ran past his laughing friends and out of the church.
The old archbishop telling the story then ended his sermon by saying, “I was that young man, and that day changed my life. I realized I could not say what the priest said I should say. I realized that I did care what Jesus did for me, and I knew I should begin acting like I cared. So the next day I went back to that priest and made a proper confession. In time, I myself became a priest, and it was all because that priest in that confessional made me look at the wounds of Christ and think about how those wounds were for me.”
Pray about any areas of your life in which you need to confess the attitude of “I know what is right, and I know what you want me to do, Jesus, and I know what you did for me– but I don’t care.”
Isaiah 53:4-6 — Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted. But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and by his stripes we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the Lord hath laid on him the iniquity of us all.
TRADITIONAL CATHOLIC PRAYER BEFORE A CRUCIFIX (www.catholic.org/prayers):
- Look down upon me, good and gentle Jesus,
- while before Thy face I humbly kneel and, with burning soul,
- pray and beseech Thee
- to fix deep in my heart lively sentiments
- of faith, hope and charity;
- true contrition for my sins,
- and a firm purpose of amendment.
- While I contemplate,
- with great love and tender pity,
- Thy five most precious wounds,
- pondering over them within me
- and calling to mind the words which David,
- Thy prophet, said of Thee, my Jesus:
- “They have pierced My hands and My feet, they have numbered all My bones.” Amen.