When I was a kid, I stole a lollipop from the corner grocery store. It was a long time ago. That was when you knew the people who owned that little store on the corner, and they knew your parents. I snuck the candy out of the store in my pocket and I ran home, very happily, after I had eaten the lollipop. I didn’t know it, but a phone call had already been made to my home. I didn’t know that my lips were bright red from the candy I had eaten. When I walked home, I felt really good because of my sugar high. My grandmother was in the kitchen. She looked at me and shook her head. I knew I had been caught. “I’m so sorry,” I said. “I took the candy, and I didn’t pay for it.” I blurted the words out before I knew what I was saying.
“Why did you do that,” she asked?
“I didn’t have enough money with me to buy the sucker.”
“Are you sorry?”
I nodded as I cried.
“Why are you sorry?”
“It was wrong?”
“Why was it wrong?”
“We’re not supposed to steal.”
“So what do you have to do?”
“Take it back?”
“Yes. What else?”
“Pay for it?”
“I don’t have enough money.”
“Then you need to figure out a way to pay Mr. Rodriguez. Go back and talk to him. Where’s the sucker?”
“I ate it.”
“Then that’s a problem because you can’t return it. Would you like me to go with you?”
We walked the 3 blocks back to the store. My head was bowed in shame. My grandma walked in with me, but she waited at the door.
“Go on,” she said. “Tell him.”
I walked up to the counter and told Mr. Rodriguez what I had done.
He looked at me with sad eyes. “I’m glad you told me this. I’m disappointed in you. How are you going to pay me for the sucker? That’s how I earn my living. I need for you to pay for the sucker.”
I hung my head in shame. “I don’t know.”
“Hmmmmmm. How about if you come in tomorrow and the next day and sweep the floor so my wife doesn’t have to do that. You can also sweep the floor right now. Can you do that?”
I nodded. Mr. Rodriguez handed me the broom. It was taller than I was. “All right, then. When you finish sweeping, you will have paid for the sucker. Do you plan on stealing from me again?”
“No, I’ll never do that again!”
“All right, then you are forgiven. We can be friends again. Just remember stealing is wrong.”
I breathed a sigh of relief. I grabbed that big broom, and I began to sweep. Mr. Rodriguez and my grandma went outside to talk. She sat down under a tree, on a chair, in the yard. She waited while I swept.
We walked home, and I felt so good. Two days later, when I had “paid” for my sucker, I ran home full of joy. “I Paid him! I don’t have to go back and sweep, and we’re friends again!”
My grandma just smiled at me. “I’m so happy for you,” she said. “Tomorrow is Saturday. We’ll be going to confession then. Remember, stealing is a sin, and you need to tell the priest about it.”
“God wants to forgive you, too.”
“I have to tell Father Kelleher about it? I already did my sweeping. I paid for the sucker.”
“I know that. You paid Mr. Rodriguez, and he forgave you. Now you must ask God to forgive you, too. Remember the commandment, Thou shalt not steal?”
I squeaked out, “I guess so.”
That means you have to tell God that you’re sorry, too.
“Oh. Are you sure? Can’t I just say my act of contrition now, and that will take care of it?”
“No, you must confess your sin in the confessional.”
“But, but, Father won’t like me anymore.”
“It’s much more important that you are reconciled with God again.”
“That means you’ll feel the peace of God in your heart. God loves you so much, and you hurt him when you stole that sucker. That candy was not yours to take.”
I knew I wasn’t getting out of it.
So, the next day, I walked into the confessional holding my rosary tightly in my hand. I confessed stealing the sucker. Father asked me why I stole the sucker. I told him the truth. He said, “Hmmmmmm.” he said. Did I know that stealing was wrong?
“Yes, Father, I do, but it was strawberry, and I didn’t have enough money. I was soooooooo hungry!”
“I see. Did you pay Mr. Rodriguez back?”
“Yes, I swept his floor 5 times to pay for the sucker.”
“All right. Never steal again. For your penance say 5 Hail Mary’s. I also want you to listen for the heart of God. Now say your act of contrition.” I did.
“5 Hail Mary’s?” That was a big penance! I left the confessional. It felt good to tell God I was sorry. God and I were friends again. I listened. I didn’t hear God’s heart beating, at least, not yet. I would keep listening.
When we walked home, I skipped all the way. I felt so good! More so, I never stole again. I was relieved of my burden, and I learned a lesson I would never forget.
When was the last time you went to confession. Has it been a while since you’ve been there? Do you remember? It’s all right if you don’t remember, right now, but you will need to be able to make an educated guess when you walk into the room where graces flow freely into the soul through the ministry of the priest who can forgive our sins on earth. Listen for the heart of God beating with love for you. You’ll grow closer to Him. You’ll feel good when you are relieved of the burden of sin.
Of course, you’ll sin again. If you’re like me, 5 minutes later, you might commit another sin, but the wonderful grace is that the Sacrament of Reconciliation will cause the graces of God to flow into your heart again.
If you haven’t been in a while, go as soon as you can. If a 7 year old child can feel the graces of God flowing in the confessional, you can, too!