How many sins each of us commits every hour, yet people feel no need to confess their sins!

By contrast, the great and mighty King David could not abide the awareness of his sin even for a moment, but immediately confessed it and with immense sorrow laid it before the Lord.

Can you show me nowadays any wealthy and distinguished person who will not take it amiss if he or she is accused of some sin?

Yet that renowned King, approved by so many divine oracles, was not displeased and angered at being charged by a private person with grave sin, but admitted it and sorrowfully lamented his guilt.

The result was that his deep sorrow moved the Lord, so that Nathan could say: Because you have repented the Lord has taken away your sin.

The King’s prompt pardon was proof of the depth of his repentance, since it could remove even an offence as heinous as his was.

Others, when reproached by priests, make their sin worse by trying to deny or defend it, so that when one might have expected a change of heart their guilt is actually increased.

By contrast, when the Lord’s saints, who long to fight the holy combat to the finish and to run the race of salvation, happen to fall through the frailty of human nature rather than from any inclination to sin, their sense of shame brings them to their feet again, more eager than ever to run the race;

their energy is renewed for even harder struggles, so that their fall, far from being a hindrance, becomes the motive for an even speedier advance.

We can see another way in which sin can benefit us, and how it is providential that it surprised the saints.

They are set before us as models, and therefore the Lord has seen to it that they too should sometimes fall;

for if they had run their course untouched by faults despite the many hazards of this world, they would have made us who are weaker think of them as possessed of a higher and even superhuman nature that prevented them from sinning and sharing the experience of guilt.

Such a view would deter those lacking this nature from imitating them, for they would regard it as impossible.

The grace of God therefore passed them by momentarily, so that their lives might be models for us to follow, and we might learn from their actions not only to be blameless, but also to repent.

Ambrose of Milan (c. 337-397): Apologia Prophetae David, 1.2, 5-7 (CSEL 32.2.301-3); from the Monastic Office of Vigils, Saturday of the Fifteenth Week of Ordinary Time, Year I.