One thing I’ve realized in writing my way through the Church’s teachings on love and sex and marriage, is how many people out there have found themselves in the oh-so-familiar position of begin on the wrong side of those teachings.
In other words, having sinned.
First off the good news: YOU AND EVERYBODY ELSE WHO EVER INHABITED THE PLANET, the Blessed Mother excluded.
Oh, how very much I belong in this camp. The camp of regret and heartache and anger and remorse and resentment toward God and a Church that would ask me to not do the thing which I had just done, because it would hurt me. And then it did hurt me. And so I was doubly mad.
So where does that leave someone who has sinned?
Well, hopefully, in line for confession.
Honestly, it’s that simple. And it’s that difficult.
The practice of reconciliation is essential for the health and wellbeing of any successful relationship. How much more essential is it to our relationship with God? And how much more effective?
Catholics go to confession to repair the relationship between the Creator and the creature. We go to admit (and this takes humility) “I screwed up. I did the thing you warned me against. And I’m sorry. I’ll try not to do it again. But You have to help me.”
And you know what God says, every time?
I forgive you.
Read the account of the prodigal son in Luke’s gospel and you’ll get a perfect, simple and profound explanation of the Sacrament of Confession.
But, but, you might be thinking…my sin is too great. God can’t handle the magnitude of my screw up.
Yes, He can. The same way He’s handled it for every other sinner and saint (often one and the same) who’ve roamed this earth. There’s nothing He can’t handle.
God can handle abortion.
God can handle a sexual homosexual relationship.
God can handle an extramarital affair.
God can handle prostitution.
God can handle vasectomies and tubal ligations.
God can handle an IUD.
God can handle the Morning After pill.
God can handle sex trafficking.
God can handle a pornography addiction.
God can handle abuse.
God can handle divorce.
God can handle murder.
And God can handle you.
There’s nothing you’ve done He can’t (and won’t) forgive, if you are willing to come to Him and ask for it. And that’s the entire premise of the Gospel right there, isn’t it.
He died for you. And He rose again for you. And He founded His Church to help carry you to Him. And He entrusted the Church with His laws, with His best plan for your life. And every time you stray from that plan, He’s ready to welcome you back.
So if you’ve had an abortion, do not despair.
If you’ve cheated on your spouse, do not give up and walk away.
If you’re addicted to pornography and want so badly to believe the cultural lie that it’s harmless and healthy and completely normal…listen to the small, still voice in the back of your mind that’s telling you differently. And come to Jesus. He longs to rescue us from our sins.
The reason the Church teaches anything about anything at all is out of love. That includes in a particularly powerful way Her teachings about sex and marriage.
The “rules” and the “restrictions” are all there to protect us, and to call us back into relationship with God when we fall short.
And we all do. All.of.us.
That doesn’t mean the Church is wrong.
Pornography reaching epidemic proportions doesn’t mean the Church is wrong.
Birth control being practiced both in the pews and by the culture at large doesn’t mean the Church is wrong.
Abortion on demand available in most places and for any reason doesn’t mean the Church is wrong.
Homosexual relationships being recognized as marriages in 31 out of 50 states in the US doesn’t mean the Church is wrong.
And the idea that you did x or y or z or even all three together and you might as well just accept yourself as “that kind of person” and walk away from Jesus because He doesn’t want you and He doesn’t accept you and His Church sure as hell doesn’t want you around…
That’s dead wrong.
The Church is your home. Jesus Christ crucified and resurrected is your savior.
And if you’ve screwed up a hundred times, He is all the more your savior.
Sometimes the more a soul has suffered, the more a soul is capable of loving. And the more profound the conversion to holiness. Think of St. Paul. Think of St. Augustine.
It’s never too late.
“Catholic doctrine and discipline may be walls; but they are the walls of a playground.” -G.K. Chesterton