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  Opinion   Oped  22 Aug 2019  Mystic Mantra: ‘To err is human, to forgive, divine’

Mystic Mantra: ‘To err is human, to forgive, divine’

Francis Gonsalves is a professor of theology. He can be contacted at
Published : Aug 22, 2019, 1:42 am IST
Updated : Aug 22, 2019, 1:42 am IST

Sins, wrongdoings and crimes weigh heavily on one’s conscience.

Jesus Christ
 Jesus Christ

One of the Christian samskaras is called the “sacrament of reconciliation” or simply “confession”. The rationale behind this symbolic, purificatory practice is that every sin has a societal dimension since one does not only sin against oneself but against God, others and the cosmos. Thus, to reconcile, one confesses one’s sins to a priest, who offers some advice and blesses in God’s name. Priests, too, confess their sins to their confreres.

On his deathbed, Perugini, the Italian artist, was advised to go to “confession”. Not having confessed during his lifetime, Perugini didn’t want to go just before death lest it be seen as a “ticket to heaven” — an insult to God’s mercy. When asked by his wife, “Don’t you fear to die unconfessed?” he replied, “My dear, my profession is to paint and I’ve excelled at it. God’s profession is to forgive. If God is as good at his profession as I’ve been at mine, there’s no reason to be afraid.”


The Bible has approximately 125 references to forgiveness, most of them referring to God forgiving erring human beings. One ought to forgive others to restore broken relationships and broker peace among people. The popular “parable of the prodigal son” is outstanding example of God’s mercy and forgiveness. Here, a wayward son who squanders his father’s wealth in loose living is lovingly embraced, unconditionally forgiven, and joyfully reinstated as son without the father either seeking explanations or requiring him to make amends.

Sins, wrongdoings and crimes weigh heavily on one’s conscience. Therefore, one who wrongs others or destroys nature normally feels remorse. Moreover, apart from external disturbances due to one’s faults and failings, one’s inner “self” begins to feel alienated and broken. Indeed, my own wrongdoings harm “me” as much — or even more — as they harm others.


God’s graciousness is oft-repeated as: “God is merciful and forgiving, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.” God’s forgiveness is bountiful. When the apostle Peter asks Jesus whether it’s enough to forgive “seven times” (since “seven” indicates perfection), Jesus replies, “Not seven, but seventy times seven!” Peter himself experiences Jesus’ forgiveness after denying him thrice.

It’s said, “To err is human, to forgive, divine.” Created as we are in God’s image and likeness, shouldn’t we forgive those who sin against us? All religions preach daya, kshama and karuna in various ways. Beyond religions, it’s easy to see how much good can be done if we seek/give pardon — not just by religious “confession” — but also by simply saying, “Sorry! Forgive me!”


The “Our Father” prayer reads: “Forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us.” Let’s try to be good at God’s profession, forgiveness, as much as we’re good at our own!

Tags: confession, jesus