I can remember looking at my newborn son in the NICU, his little body pierced by tubes and needles, connected to his life support system, and thinking, “Thomas, you are suffering because of sin.” A day later, I knew sin had caused his death.
My baby didn’t die as a result of a sinful act. He wasn’t the victim of violence or evil. He died a natural death caused by a health problem: Thomas was born with lungs too small for independent breathing and so he could never have lived. So why did I think my son died because of sin?
As I watched Thomas’ chest inflating and deflating, a machine taking the place of his inadequate lungs, I thought about what should have been, what would have been… if sin had not entered the world and upset the balance of nature. There would have been no disease, no pain, no newborn babies fighting for their lives, no mothers sorrowing, no tears, no death.
But there is sin and Thomas did die and I suffered.
I have always been a reader and I searched for books to help me cope with my sorrow. But in those early weeks of grief, I found it difficult to concentrate. Every time I opened a book and started to read, my mind almost instantly drifted away. The words were just a blur on the page. And then one day I picked up a book called Looking for Peace? Try Confession by Mary Ann Budnik. From the very first page, the words grabbed my attention.
A book on confession? I would never have imagined such a book could have helped me, a bereaved parent. But it did.
It’s been 12 years since I read that book and so the details have faded. But I do remember how engaging and easy the book was to read, and how it re-ignited that dying spark: my interest in life. Perhaps the book made me realise that the problem of evil in the world can only be put right by each and every one of us taking responsibility for our own sin.
I thought about Thomas dying in a world upset by sin and Jesus dying on the cross because of sin… and I didn’t want to sin. I also didn’t want to suffer but I realised that I was able to offer my sufferings to God, and this gave them value and helped me bear them. I knew I could unite my sufferings with those of Jesus to atone for sin.
Looking for Peace? Yes, I wanted to find peace.
I still struggle with sin. I know it will be a lifetime battle. But I did find peace. I found it in an unexpected place. I found peace in the confessional, in the sacrament of reconciliation.
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