"You are awfully chipper, my ursine friend," said St. Corbinian. "Have you found a jar of honey?"
"No, Father," the Bear answered cheerfully. "Bear is just enjoying mercy. And failure. Like Bear taught Father about last time. But Bear does want to confess."
"Very well, Bear, I am listening. But something tells me this is not going to go well."
"Father, Bear killed two ponies. And some sheep."
"It is good to confess your sins. But I am not discerning any contrition. Sorrow for offending God by your misdeeds."
"But Father, you said yourself that when we are weak we are strong in God's mercy. Bear believes in God, and His mercy. And he accepts his failures during Lent because we agreed we cannot help ourselves."
"Oh, my dear creature, how could you confuse God's mercy with his justice? They are not the same thing! Knowing you are going to fail, and accepting that as a fact, is different from not trying to be good, from counting as nothing your sins. To do evil in reliance on God's mercy is called presumption. To fear you will continue to sink into sin no matter what is despair. Both are serious sins."
"Bear is confused by your religion, Father. There is no sense in it. God shows mercy to Bear when he does bad. Yet God is angry with Bear when he does bad. Which is it?"
"Sin offends the Good God who gave you your strength and cunning, and further made you nearly a man, for reasons that remain obscure. That alone should invite you to resist temptation. If you love God, why would you offend Him?
"Sin also makes you dark inside. If you deliberately choose sin, you are choosing the fire of Hell. Yes, you will fail. But sometimes you will fight. It is a bearish business to fight temptation, and you must be every inch the bear! Fight Bear, as for your very life! For something far more precious is at stake: your immortal soul, if you have one.
"What God does about your sins depends on what you do about them yourself, Bear. If you honestly repent and confess your sins -- which includes having the intention of not doing them again -- the Good God will forgive your sins in His mercy."
St. Corbinian held the crucifix he wore around his neck up to the Bear. "This is mercy and redemption, Bear. The Son of God died for our sins. If I were the only person in the whole world, my sins would be sufficient to nail Our Savior onto the tree. Woe is me! Think of all the sins in the world, my Bear! Think of your sins! God's justice is satisfied by the terrible death of His own Son. But for that, we would all be damned. We deserve this death! But Jesus paid our debts for us. If I have ever been a fool in speaking of God's mercy carelessly, may He forgive me."
The old man had become quite animated, and now took a moment to compose himself.
"It is not easy to understand some things, Bear," he continued in a softer voice. "Yes, the Good God gives freely, and shows unflagging mercy. But we can choose to turn our backs on His gifts. Reject his mercy. And we do that when we continue in sin. The burden you bore at my command, Bear. All the way to Rome. Was it heavy?"
"Very heavy, Father."
"Were there times you wished you did not carry it?"
"When you think of your sins, remember that burden. But you can put it off through contrition and confession. It will not be me weighing your body down with some trifling burden. It will be the Devil afflicting your soul with great chains. He would make you his slave, Bear. You could no longer stand my company."
"Bear does not want to carry sin or say goodbye to Father for days without end. And now he is truly sorry for the ponies and sheep. He is afraid to go to Hell, and afraid to miss Heaven, but most of all, he is sorry for being bad to the Good God who made Bear as he is. Father?"
"Can I confess my sins? Really, this time?"
So the Bear knelt, his massive paws outstretched before him on the ground, and pressed together, as St. Corbinian had taught him. And he poured out his simple, Bearish, sins with such sincerity that the saint was moved to tears.
"I must leave for vespers, Bear," the old man said. "Lent never seems long enough, because we never seem to improve as we would like. But Easter will be upon us, ready or not. Let us get ready together, Bear, and resolve to make the very best of the time that remains."