But Given Half a Chance Will Follow the Shepherd
Jennifer Hartline of My Chocolate Heart and Catholic Online wrote a beautiful piece about God's merciful forgiveness, and our reticence to believe that we can be forgiven here, with the same reproduced at Catholic Online here.
It was brought back to memory and to reality this morning for me.
Today after morning prayer, I went for breakfast with my dear friend Deacon George Sebok. I should have known that something profound might happen, when My Dear Wife had told me last evening that if I wanted to go out for breakfast this morning, that she would still be able to make her own appointment, as I would be home in time for her to take the car. She was very specific about this, which struck me as odd. With her statement in mind, I asked George if he had time for breakfast, which he declined. Then, he turned back to me and said yes.
With a man of such powerful but simple faith as my brother George, it is wise to listen, and to let the Holy Spirit guide our thoughts and words.
He ministers in the local hospitals in a chaplaincy role, one for which he is ably suited by demeanor and wisdom. One day, he walked into the room of an elderly Catholic man, who was a war veteran, and had had heart surgery. He asked the man if he would like to receive the Eucharist, and the man declined with eyes down. As George recalls it, he blurted out instantaneously: "Why?" The man told him that in the war he had done things he was ashamed of, and did not feel worthy to receive Communion. George asked him if he has since gone to confession about whatever it is he did. He said he had, but that he still felt unworthy.
George then spoke to him about the grace of God in confession, that there is nothing that God cannot forgive to a contrite heart. The man then agreed with him, and started to weep, and straightened up in his bed. He then told George that he had not been to confession in many years, so did not think that he should receive the Body and Blood of Our Saviour. George said that if he promised to go to Confession at his earliest convenience that he would give Communion to him. The man agreed and eagerly received the Blessed Sacrament. As Deacon George noted to me, the man's health perked up quickly and he was released a few days later.
I then was reminded of my own similar experience. After a disabling auto accident several years ago, I went into a depression, and a doctor prescribed psychotherapy for me. During the two years that I underwent therapy, some unusual things happened. During a particular stretch of a few months, I had visions at most sessions, and they built upon each other, until they culminated in this final one I am about to relay.
At this particular session, I was opening up about some of the sin in my life, particularly in areas related to sex. I was particularly ashamed of my past behaviour, and even of tendencies I had and am susceptible to in my daily thought life. I had been to Confession about my behaviours, and had received absolution from the priest and the graces of Confession. Yet, I could not believe that God could forgive someone as sinful as me.
During this one session, I had a particular vision of being in a boat that was traveling downstream in the current of a river. This followed on from earlier visions, same boat, same river, no paddles, me sitting in the middle of it. But, in this vision, I was aware of my own sinfulness, and feeling bad that I was not worthy of God's love, and forgiveness. Then I noticed that there was a dark tarp on the floor of the boat. It was as though I had never seen the tarp before, though it was obvious that it had been there all along. In my sadness, I lifted up the tarp to see what was under it. As I lifted it up, light exploded from under it, and enveloped me. I knew that it was the grace and love of God for ME, ME the sinner. HE LOVED ME.
What I realised was that that love and grace was there all along, and I in my spiritual pride (not humility) had refused to receive it. If God says I have been made worthy by His redeeming sacrifice, who was I to refuse to receive that free gift? Yet, I had refused to receive it, like the unopened present beneath the Christmas tree.
Here is how Deacon George had explained God's view of our sins to the former soldier. He said that when we ask God to forgive our sins, that He puts them behind Him, and that He never looks back. HE NEVER LOOKS BACK. So, when we remember our past sins and mull over how unworthy we are, He does not know what we are talking about, not because He can't remember them, but because He refuses to ever remember them again. He forgave them already.
My Brothers, and Sisters, there is nothing that you have done that God will not forgive you for. I know. He forgave me for all the hurtful things I have done to date, and He will forgive me again, though I seriously do not desire to sin against Him. It is not an act of humility to think we are not worthy of God's forgiveness. It is an act of spiritual pride, and directly contrary to God's very own word, and His Word made flesh in Jesus.
If you have sinned and know it in your heart, and if you have asked God to forgive you, let it go. He has. If you have refused to let go of sins forgiven, then confess that spiritual pride, and move on.
Sacred Heart of Jesus, I trust in your love for me.