God loves you too much not to forgive you

Pope Francis in his apostolic exhortation Evangelii Gaudium tells us “God never tires of forgiving us; we are the ones who tire of seeking His mercy. Christ, Who told us to forgive one another ‘70 times seven’ (Mt 18:22) has given us His example: He has forgiven us 70 times seven.” (Evangelii Gaudium No. 3) It is a message he must really believe because it is a similar message he delivered his first weekend as pope and one that he has repeated constantly since. Does the pope think we are all bad people? Not at all. He knows that we are loved by God and are meant to live life in joy because of that love. We sometimes get in our own way though.

A basic understanding of sin is this: it turns our attention from God to ourselves. It narrows our vision and soon we are either blind to all that is around us, or we see everything around us (including our loved ones) as threats to us. This view of ourselves, the world and even God prevents us from living who we truly are. It stunts our growth Spiritually and emotionally. As much as we strive to be happy, to find enjoyment and pleasure, the deeper we may seem to fall. 

In ministry in the parish, on the college campus or in youth ministry, I have come to realize just how paralyzing sin is. We become frustrated with ourselves. To a certain extent we give up on ourselves and on God. As someone who has spent a lot of time ministering to people in the confessional, I can honestly say that the greatest challenge that I come across is not the sins that people are most concerned about or are embarrassed about, it is when I encounter someone who is in a state of despair. They have reached a point where they are convinced that they cannot be forgiven by God and are not worthy of God’s attention or love. There is nothing furthest from the truth!

God loves those He has made in His image and likeness. He desires that we seek to live in a loving relationship with Him. This relationship gives our lives meaning, it leads us to joy and gives us a great inner peace and strength that allows us to be joyful even in our struggles. We need help at times to keep focused on this relationship. We need help to see and hear where God is present. We need help to grow as children of God.

This idea of help isn’t foreign to us. Don’t we need help to grow? Our families help us to learn how to care for ourselves, how to interact with others. They help us discover who we are, what our gifts and talents are. Families encourage us, console us and at times challenge us to be true to ourselves. After the Super Bowl this past week, Julian Edelman and Bill Belichick took time in the post game interviews to highlight the importance of their dads and family in general.

The importance of family is why Jesus founded the Church, the family of faith. The Church understands our families as the domestic churches, where faith is first introduced to us. The Church helps us to learn more about God, how to interact with Him. It is through the Church that the Lord continues to speak to us, to provide us the opportunities to encounter Him directly.  This is of great importance in our struggle with sin. The Church’s role isn’t to condemn, it is to let the penitent know of God’s great love and desire for them, and through the Sacrament of Reconciliation, Christ not only forgives, but rather gives us the help we need to persevere in our relationship with Him.

I’ll admit the Sacrament of Reconciliation isn’t my favorite activity. In high school, college and in my 20s I avoided it as much as I could. In hindsight I realize that all I did in reality was give myself more headaches and stress. I have discovered the need for regular participation in the Sacrament. The Sacrament of Reconciliation prevents us from becoming frustrated with ourselves, it gives us the graces we need to be true to ourselves as we continue to grow to a deeper understanding of who we are.

I have been impressed by the number of younger people whom I encounter in the celebration of the Sacrament of Reconciliation, in the parish and at the college. It is because of this that I have great hope for our future. 

Never tire of asking God for forgiveness, He loves you too much not to forgive you.

Anchor columnist Father Frederici is pastor of St. John the Evangelist Parish in Pocasset and diocesan director of Campus Ministry and Chaplain at UMass Dartmouth and Bristol Community College.

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