"I've made so many wrong choices. I went to drugs, hung out with the wrong crowd, and I...I've gone so far from where I use to be. I can't seem to forgive myself. I feel so lost. I can't talk to God anymore. How can I? ....with everything that I have done?"
A young woman shared this with me, and as she spoke, my heart wept with hers. I wondered how many people in the world felt similarly to her- sharing in her brokenness, in her shame, and in her despair. How deeply pained I was that this beautiful young woman had a hard time believing that God would forgive her and more importantly, that He loves her!
The words I felt called to speak to her were these- Nothing you do could ever make God love you any less!
Like this young woman, St. Peter, a fisherman, struggled with his own failings. After a hard night without catching any fish, St. Peter meets Jesus for the first time and tells St. Peter to cast his net again. Upon following His command, St. Peter's net was filled with so many fish that his boat almost sinks! St. Peter, now aware that he was truly in the presence of God, falls to his knees and says, "Depart from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man" (Luke 5:8).
As we draw closer to God who is perfect and holy, we become more aware of our imperfections and sinfulness. Like Peter, our eyes become open to how far we have gone astray from God. St. Peter felt like he could not remain with Jesus because of everything wrong he had ever done. This, however, could not be further from the truth. Instead of leaving him in his despair, Jesus tells St. Peter and his friends, "Do not be afraid; from now on you will be catching men" (Luke 5:10). Jesus does not condemn them but rather, He calls St. Peter and his friends to leave their past behind and follow Him.
Is this not what God calls us to do every time we make a mistake? To place our sins, our darkest secrets, our most regrettable actions at His feet and then, follow Him in a life of truth, holiness, and love?
Throughout the Bible, God continually shows His mercy towards those who ask for His forgiveness: the woman caught in adultery (John 8:1-11), the corrupt tax collector (Luke 19:1-10), and even those who were about to kill Him (Luke 23:34). Jesus' love for all of these undeniably sinful people never changed. He kept pouring out His heart for them and even died to save and redeem them from their sins. Nothing they did, no matter how horrible, made Him love them any less!
A contrite heart that seeks to be reconciled to God- this is all that is needed.
Jesus forgave and forgave and forgave. If people were truly sorrowful for what they have done and sought to sin no more, God forgave them even knowing that they might sin again in the future. Why? Because God does not expect perfection from us. He knows that we are human and will inevitably make mistakes, but all He desires is that we keep running back to Him. He loves us so profoundly that God chooses to forgive so that we may continue to remain with Him. He is a faithful and loving Father who seeks to be with us, love us, and care for us. Our earthly father may be nothing like this, but our Heavenly Father cannot help but love us unconditionally.
A Sacrament of Healing
This is why the Sacrament of Reconciliation is so powerful. It allows us to hear the words we so desperately need to hear in our world today:
"God, the Father of mercies,
through the death and the resurrection of his Son
has reconciled the world to himself
and sent the Holy Spirit among us
for the forgiveness of sins;
through the ministry of the Church
may God give you pardon and peace,
and I absolve you from your sins in the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit" (CCC 1449)
Through this sacrament, God forgives us through the priest who is acting in the person of Christ. So many times it is ourselves who are our harshest critic. We condemn ourselves, because we can not seem to forgive ourselves for the wrong that we have done. The Sacrament of Reconciliation is the way in which God provides healing for our souls. He reminds us that nothing we do could ever make Him love us any less, and He gives us the grace to strengthen us from all future temptations. The Sacrament of Reconciliation is not for God's benefit but for ours. God knows our hearts and recognizes the agony we feel when we have done something wrong.
God wants to pour His love into your heart. He wants to shake your very being, so that you may learn the truth- you are forgiven and you are LOVED! Put your past behind you and follow Me.