“My prayer group and pastor prayed over me and it should never have happened. It’s okay though because God forgives.” She stated this with conviction.
As I looked at her lovely face I felt certain that she had misunderstood her pastor. I was working Monday at a ministry that helps women who are pregnant and in crisis. This young woman – I’ll call her Eve, wasn’t talking about something that happened in the past. She was talking about the abortion she was currently seeking. Eve emphatically believed that God would forgive her, even though she believed it was wrong to have an abortion and she planned to do it anyway.
As Eve continued to speak my heart kind of broke for her. There was something gravely missing in her interpretation of mercy and forgiveness. She showed no remorse and no sorrow for what she was about to do. I’ve heard other people talk this way about their recklessness or bad decisions. To them I kindly say…mercy isn’t a free pass to do whatever we want. We can’t be abusive, do drugs, or drink in excess without hurting ourselves and others. We can’t lie, cheat, steal or kill and think we’ll be okay because “Hey, God forgives.” Sins have consequences. Eve could likely experience serious physical problems or emotional and spiritual pain and suffering as a consequence of her decision. It happens often. Her family members are affected too. And most hurtful of all, when we willfully do what we know we shouldn’t do, our relationship with God is damaged.
BUT, we know that Jesus forgives. What is necessary and often misunderstood (or missing) is our thoughtful evaluation of our life before God, and the determination to be better and to do what God wants of us. Have we really considered the consequences of our actions? Are we sad, remorseful or sorrowful for the sin we know we committed? “Contrition” is sorrow for our sin based on the love of God. When our “contrition” happens, we have hope for reconciliation with God. How beautiful is that?
“Therefore submit to God; resist the devil and he will take flight. Draw close to God and he will draw close to you…Be humbled in the sight of the Lord and he will raise you on high.” [James 7,-8, 10 NAB, St. Joseph Ed.]
During this “Year of Mercy” we are given a fantastic opportunity to learn about the immeasurable mercy of God. I’m reading and studying, and I hope you are too.
In hope, Peggy
For more on Forgiveness and the Sacrament of Reconciliation:
Books by Pope Francis or The Catechism of the Catholic Church, CCC 1422-1498