There is a beautiful Eucharist Prayer in our faith that says this: “God of love and mercy, You are always ready to forgive, we are sinners and You invite us to trust in Your mercy.” He does not force us, He tells us it is there for us and extends an invitation. It is up to us if we accept it or not.
Mary had been to confession multiple times before she came to our “Entering Canaan” post abortion ministry retreat, she often shared, “I have confessed my abortion so many times, but I just do not feel forgiven.” It is not unusual for someone who has been involved in an abortion to voice those feelings despite having gone to confession. They do not feel the forgiveness, or the “mercy” of God. In fact, more often than not, an abortion will be confessed over and over again.
As human beings, so much of what we believe is based on our feelings which very often may not reflect truth. Being forgiven and “feeling” forgiven are two very different things. Part of the problem is being unable to forgive yourself, the other, I believe, is an inability to accept that walking into a confessional and telling a priest about your abortion, and then receiving a penance of three or three thousand Hail Mary’s ,will somehow equate to forgiveness for participating in the death of your own child. It just seems way too easy, and it is.
We can never make up for our abortions, and three or three thousand Hail Mary’s is not going to do it. Neither is speaking out, working in ministry or praying in front of clinics, (which does not mean any of these should not be done, or make any of them bad). There is only one thing that atones for the sin of abortion (or for that matter, any sin), and that is the death, resurrection and ascension of Jesus Christ, and the healing we receive through His gift of mercy freely given to us.
Mary Ellen says it this way, “At first “mercy” was just a word, an idea, which in my mind vaguely was synonymous with compassion and forgiveness. I heard it in the prayers and blessings at the Gatherings I attended. But, I heard it constantly. Every piece of writing from the “Entering Canaan” post abortion ministry echoed the word Mercy. Over the years, without my knowing it, the word Mercy became for me a kind of mantra, something to hold onto in the dark. It began to work on me without my knowing it.”
“Something to hold onto in the dark”, avoid of feelings. A trusting, and a knowing, a choosing to believe in this mercy we have been invited to trust in. Believing that somehow our “feelings” are a gage of our forgiveness can be misleading. Someone can go on a retreat and feel totally forgiven because they are experiencing a spiritual high, however, as the days go on and the old familiar tapes of despair begin to play again the stinking thinking of abortion can once again begin. “Oh, He healed everyone else on that weekend but not me. My sin must be worse, or He loves and forgave her but not me.” The truth however, is that if you went to confession and received forgiveness, you are forgiven!
As Mary Ellen says so well, “I am learning Mercy, because it is a process and a journey into the kind of deep love and forgiveness of myself — and others — that I can only begin to grasp. From my beginning, almost neutral experience with Mercy as a simple word, it has evolved in my life experience as a tangible and effective tool, an action verb that I have learned can more quickly than I ever imagined, bring a swift conclusion to the obsessive dark voice that would grind my spirit with self-recrimination and unbelief. Be gone Satan!” “Mercy is a way of life, and it is life changing. Now whenever darkness calls, I choose Mercy and life.”