Joseph Girzone, the popular author, tells the following story in his parable Joshua and The Children.* Over a hundred years ago in France, a butler attached to a wealthy family knew where the family kept their money, hidden in a vault underneath their chateau. The butler methodically plotted to kill everyone in the family and steal the money. One night when everyone was asleep, he crept into the house and first murdered the father and mother. Then one by one he began to murder the children. The youngest escaped because he heard noises and could not sleep. When he realized what was happening, he quietly slipped out of his bedroom and hid in a closet under a pile of clothes.
For years the boy wandered the streets as an orphan. He eventually entered seminary and became a priest. After several years, he was assigned to Devil’s Island, a tough prison, as a chaplain. One afternoon one of the inmates came running from the fields, frantically calling for the chaplain. “There’s a man dying out in the field, Father. Come quickly.”

The priest ran out with the inmate and reached the dying prisoner. Kneeling down beside him, the priest lifted the man’s head onto his lap and asked if he would like to confess his sins. The dying man refused. “Why, my son?” asked the priest. “Because God will never forgive me for what I have done.”
“But what have you done that is so bad?” the priest continued. And the man went on to tell the story of how he had killed this whole family so that he could have their money, and only the little boy escaped because he could not find him.

Then the priest said to the dying man, “If I can forgive you then certainly God can forgive you. And I forgive you from my heart. It was my family you killed, and I am that little boy.” The convict cried and told the priest how he had been haunted all his life over what he had done, though no one else knew about it. Even the authorities never found out. The two men cried together. As the priest was giving the dying man absolution, the prisoner died with his head resting on the priest’s lap.

This powerful story, which I believe to be true, speaks clearly of the great compassion and love which God has for us. During Lent, we reflect on God’s love for us as we also confess our own sins. No one is perfect. But thanks be to God, we have grace – that unlimited love of God. Sometimes we do not think forgiveness is possible for our sins, and yet just as the priest forgave the man who killed his whole family, God forgives us. Remember with God all things are possible. God has no limits, although we constantly try to put limits on God, even on God’s love. This Lenten season remember the unlimited love of God and be welcomed by Jesus. His arms are open on the cross just waiting for us.

*Joseph F. Girzone, Joshua and the Children, (New York: Macmillian, 1989), pp. 9-10.

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