The year is 1522. The place is Spain, a little way outside a small market town. In a cave above a river sits a man dressed in rags. He’s unshaven, dirty, and probably rather smelly. Perhaps surprisingly, he’s writing in a book. As you approach him, he tries to draw you into conversation about what is most important to you in your life at the moment. How do you respond to him?
The man tells you that he has decided to give his life to God. He has not always looked the way he does now. Until a couple of years ago, he was a proud nobleman, well-dressed and courteous. But now he’s doing penance for all the bad things he’s done in his life. Only in this way, he feels, can he be sure that God will forgive him. He asks you what you think of what he’s doing. What’s your honest answer?
Six months later, you pass that way again. To your surprise, the same man is still there. But now he’s clean, dressed plainly but presentably, and has cut his hair and trimmed his nails. When you ask him what has happened, he tells you that he has come to realise that God loves him just as he is. He doesn’t need to undertake arduous penances, or spend hours asking for God’s forgiveness. Tell him what you think of his change of heart.
Source: Jesuits in Britain