Depart From Me, Lord, For I am A Sinful Man
The St. Mary’s Seminary Chapel contains a collection of seven stained-glass windows that depict the sacraments. In this reflection, the stained-glass window for the sacrament of Confession (or Reconciliation) becomes the focus.
This stained-glass window recalls the Gospel scene where Peter encounters Christ. In the Gospel of Luke, Luke writes, “When Simon Peter saw this, he fell at the knees of Jesus and said, “Depart from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man." In the stained-glass window, the artists shows a young man (Peter) kneeling before Christ.
The artist chooses to depict Christ the priest and not an ordinary priest. Why? Priests do not absolve sins on their own; God absolves sins. Regarding sacramental causality, God uses priests as his instruments of mercy. When we participate in the sacrament, we admit our sinfulness and weakness to God, and God, through the priest, absolves us.
The art work contains the image of "keys" which recall the passage in Matthew 16:19, in which Christ chooses St. Peter to participate in His authority within the Church: "I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven."
This stained-glass window is located next to the confessional. The image can remind a person about the mercy of God as they prepare for the sacrament. In the stained-glass window, Jesus embodies mercy. How? The artist depicts Jesus placing his left hand on top of the young man’s head, and his right hand looks like he is absolving the young man by making the sign of the cross over him. These details direct us to the true reality of Christ forgiving the sinner.
In conclusion, God’s mercy outweighs the gravity of our sins. St. John Paul II says, “We are not the sum of our weaknesses and failures. We are the sum of the Father’s love for us and our real capacity to become the image of his Son.” We must believe that we are the sum of the Father’s love for us and avoid the illusion that God cannot forgive. Like St. Peter, we sin, sin, and sin, but God forgives, forgives, and forgives.
Written by Pete Hernandez, Seminarian for the Diocese of Brownsville