Giving it all up for love

“O my God, I am sorry for my sins, in choosing to sin and failing to do good. I have sinned against You and Your Church. I firmly intend, with the help of Your Son, to make up for my sins and to love as I should.” 

I have prayed many versions of the Act of Contrition, but this version not only speaks of the simplicity of God’s forgiveness and mercy, but also the awesomeness of His love. The words, “with the help of Your Son,” say it all. We need Jesus!

Giving up something for Lent is great, as long as that something helps another person in some need and helps you become all the better for it. But, have you thought about giving up your sins during this Lenten season? What a wonderful opportunity we have these 40 days to give up all our sins for the sake of love, God’s love — the love He so desires to give us.

Earlier this month I was blessed to witness, share and take part in our parish’s Lenten Mission and our Confirmation retreat. The theme was all about God’s love for us. For almost an entire week (six days to be exact) 42 young men and women, preparing to receive the Sacrament of Confirmation, participated in the mission and their retreat. God’s blessing came to all of us on the Friday night during the Reconciliation talk and the Sacrament of Confession that followed. 

Husband-and-wife team, Nate and Ashley, spoke to all of us on retreat about this Sacrament of love and shared their personal experience. With their permission I share a part of their talk:

“The pain of a broken heart, hurt feelings, abuse or betrayal hangs onto our heart and body. Each day we remember that someone we care about or maybe even nobody we care about at all, did us wrong or vice-versa. It is difficult to forgive and I think some people do not forgive because in their mind they believe they are getting even with the person who hurt them. By not forgiving, they feel that they are in control and in some way have the power to punish those who have hurt them (Like when you try to make someone feel bad about something they did to you by ‘teaching them a lesson’). All of the anger and resentment is a huge burden to bear. 

“One of my best friends from high school, who was also part of my family, died by suicide almost six years ago. His heart was filled with so much resentment and un-forgiveness that the feeling became too much for him to bear. As a child he was abused, and after years of this abuse, he was taken from his parents where he then spent years in foster care. When he was 11, my extended family adopted both him and his older sister. He lived a pretty normal life. He was a great soccer and baseball player, had many friends and everyone loved him. He and I had our own indoor soccer team and softball team together. It was not until after he passed away that I realized his inability to forgive or be forgiven. He was not close to God and didn’t think that prayer was an option. For some reason, he thought that he had to go through it alone and the burden of not knowing how to forgive ultimately became too heavy. 

“When we think of forgiveness we often associate it with forgiving others. But sometimes, we have to forgive ourselves before we can forgive others.”

The result of Nate’s and Ashley’s talk was positive, and obvious, when we got back to the parish, after the retreat, and a personal witness was shared. All the Confirmation candidates felt closest to God and His awesome love during the Sacrament of Reconciliation. What a beautiful thing to witness and experience conversion! 

So what are you waiting for? Isn’t it time for you to lay all of your burdens down. Don’t be afraid! Vinny Flynn, in his book “Seven Secrets of Confession” says, “I remember how often I used to go to Confession kind of cringing inside, almost afraid to dare to ask for forgiveness. I was so cowed Spiritually: ‘Oh, please God, I know I don’t deserve it, but please forgive me.’ It was as if I thought He might not forgive me, as if were trying to wring forgiveness out of Him. How silly! Christ isn’t forgiving me now in the confessional. He forgave me 2,000 years ago! I’m just receiving it now.”

Giving it all up for love simply means to give all our sins to Jesus. He doesn’t want us burdened by them. He wants us to be free. And then only in that freedom can we recognize the depth of God’s love for us.

God bless!

Anchor columnist Ozzie Pacheco is Faith Formation director at Santo Christo Parish, Fall River.

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