Thursday, June 12, 2008

Giving Up Stealing for Lent!: "The Great Sinner"

Tattling and Confession have a certain similarity in that both involve the revelation of sins. Tattling is the revelation of someone else’s sins; Confession is the revelation of your own sins. For Catholics, Confession of sins in the Sacrament of Penance is an integral part of our spiritual life. Protestants look askance at the practice, not understanding the Catholic belief that it is Christ acting through the priest who absolves sins. Yet there is a form of confession, an admission of guilt, in many Protestant Churches, sometimes in a very public way. It was this very public form that mystified and amused Uncle Jim.

For many years there was an excellent and very popular radio preacher, Pastor Reed of the Open Bible Church, whom many people of all faiths listened to every Sunday. Uncle Jim, Mom and Aunt Mike listened to him every Sunday, as did our Uncle Rob, another of Mom’s brothers. At the end of each program, letters from listeners were read. These letters tickled Uncle Jim’s fancy as often they recounted the sinful lives of the writer. He’d shake his head and chuckle, “They don’t believe in going to Confession but they’ll have their sins blasted out over the radio for all of Baltimore City to hear!”

Bill and Mike, hearing Uncle Jim make such comments week after week, decided one Sunday to have some fun. They composed a letter detailing a sinful life, a life that had been turned around by the preaching of Pastor Reed. They signed it “a great sinner”-giving Uncle Jim’s name and address!

The following Sunday Uncle Jim was having his usual chuckle during the letters portion of the broadcast—that is until he heard his own name given as the writer of a letter from “a great sinner.” Pandemonium and outrage! Uncle Jim shot out of his chair like a Fourth of July rocket shouting. Mom and Aunt Mike were equally angry. Then the telephone rang; it was Uncle Rob, laughing his head off and demanding to talk to “the great sinner”! Assuming Uncle Rob was the prankster, Mom blistered his ears, and Uncle Jim followed suit. All of Uncle Rob’s protests of innocence were in vain, partly because of his laughter, and partly because of his well- deserved reputation for pranks and the like.

For years thereafter, whenever Uncle Rob came to our house he would greet Uncle Jim as “the great sinner” and stir the whole thing up again. He always, with a big laugh, protested his innocence, but none of the three ever believed him. They all went to their graves convinced that he was the culprit. But Uncle Jim had no grounds for complaining about such pranks as he was as known to pull such stunts himself. He once sent the Jehovah’s Witnesses over to Aunt Florence’s house, causing her to be subjected to their preaching for three hours!

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