Todays Readings: Saturday of the Second Week of Lent
Today’s Gospel, the parable of the prodigal son, is a familiar one to most, if not all, of us. The story showcases God’s mercy and unconditional love for us, and how He is always eager to welcome us back when we have fallen away, no matter how far we have fallen. As someone who has, herself, fallen far away from God through my sin of abortion, I find this gospel reading both relevant and comforting.
This time, after I read the parable, I wondered how the prodigal son carried on after the celebration in honor of his return. Was he able to fully accept his father’s forgiveness, and shed his guilt? We can assume that this is what the prodigal son’s father would have wanted for him since it is what God, our Father, wants for us when we confess our sins. He wants us to feel totally free of our forgiven sins with no guilt attached.
Thinking back to the Confession where I confessed the sin of my abortion, I know that afterword I felt relieved, and there was a peace about having been forgiven and “right” with God again. But I did not feel joyful. It did not feel like a festive occasion. Any celebrating going on in heaven was lost on me. Even though I whole-heartedly believed in God’s mercy, I still had a lot of guilt weighing me down. I certainly didn’t feel like I was worthy of being clothed in a fine robe or having a ring put on my finger as the Father in the parable did with his son.
I know this struggle with self-forgiveness is not uncommon. We can know intellectually that God’s forgiveness is absolute, yet we can have trouble moving this truth from our heads to our hearts. The guilt remains and it can seem impossible to let go of. However, all things are possible with God (Matthew 19:26). For me, it took a lot of prayer, it took connecting with other post-abortive women through Project Rachel, and it took some counseling before I could put the guilt and shame to rest. Regret remains, and probably always will, but not guilt, and not self-deprecation.
God does not want us to continue to feel guilty once we have sought and received forgiveness. Just think about how grandly the prodigal son was welcomed back by his father. This is how God welcomes us back. As I re-read this all-to-familiar parable, I allowed myself to soak up the imagery of the scene where the father and son are reunited. I then thought back to that Confession where I was reunited with God, my Father, in the same way after confessing my sin of abortion. I pictured myself leaving the confessional dressed in a luxurious robe with a beautiful ring on my finger, head held high and full of God’s love. That was the reality. I didn’t see it at the time, but now I do.
Going forward I have decided that every time I go to confession, I am going to picture myself coming out clothed in beautiful garments and exquisite jewelry, as a way of reminding myself of how much God cherishes me and how lovingly He welcomes me back every time I fall.
Have you confessed your sin of abortion in the sacrament of Confession? If you have, do you still feel guilty, or struggle with self-forgiveness? Or have you been able to forgive yourself and shed the shame?
Regardless of which category you fall into, I invite you to take a few minutes in prayer today and visualize yourself at that confession where God forgave you for your abortion. Imagine yourself being received by God in the same way the prodigal son was received by his father. Picture God draping you in a fine robe, putting a gorgeous ring on your finger, and calling for all in heaven to sing and rejoice in celebration of your return. Sit in that glory and let the truth of God’s mercy and unconditional love for you sink in.
If you have not been to the sacrament of Confession yet, know this…God is waiting there for you, longing to welcome you back, longing to forgive your sins. He has your robe and your ring ready, and He cannot wait to celebrate your return to Him!