In a fit of frustration and anguish (due to my own actions, or lack thereof), my husband did something drastic that he had never done before and immediately regretted, and he was wracked with grief at the thought that he had caused me emotional pain. “I am afraid that you’ll wake up looking at me and all you’ll see is what I’ve done,” he said. “How can you still love me?”
Naturally, I did feel some pain and sorrow at the beginning despite forgiving him at once, but it has subsided into peace again; in fact, our relationship may be even stronger, having recovered from this blow. I have been mulling over his question and a tad surprised at my equilibrium. But I believe I have hit upon the answer.
The thing is, Satan wants you to be identified with your sin. He wants you to feel irredeemably damned, cast out, worthless, destroyed.
Jesus reverses all that. He sees the adulterous woman at the well; He has the other adulteress cast before Him, ready to be stoned. He acknowledges their sin, but He does not stop there as men like the Pharisees and scribes do. He calls them to repentance, and sets them free, having reconciled them to God, humanity and themselves. He sees them as they were created to be, in the image and likeness of God, and by forgiving their sins, He enables them to become holy messengers of the Gospel, the Good News of salvation. The Samaritan woman runs to the city, declaring that she has seen the Messiah and exhorting the citizens to meet Him too. After listening to Jesus,
“… many more believed in Him because of His own word. And they said to the woman: We now believe, not for thy saying: for we ourselves have heard Him, and know that this is indeed the Savior of the world.”
— John 4:41-42
Likewise, the Prodigal Father welcomes home his straying son without hesitation. He knows what his son has done, doing his own father the insult of treating him as if he were already dead by having the audacity to ask for his inheritance beforehand, and then compounding his sin by wasting his gift. Yet, he sees and hears that his son has returned with a repentant heart, saying,
“Father, I have sinned against heaven, and before thee, I am not now worthy to be called thy son.”
— Luke 15:21
The father interrupts his son’s rehearsed spiel before he has come to its end, not permitting him to ask, “make me as one of thy hired servants” (Luke 15:19), but reinstating him as his family member and heir, clothing him and feeding him with great celebration. So do the angels in Heaven rejoice over one sinner who repents (Luke 15:10). By sin, we sunder ourselves from the family of God, but in auricular Confession we are restored at the foot of the Cross to new life in Christ.
“The Lady told me,” said Claude, “that when we go to Confession we are kneeling down not before a priest, but we’re kneeling down by the Cross of Her Son. And that when we are truly sorry for our sins, and we confess our sins, the Blood He shed flows down over us and washes us free from all sins.”
— The True Account of Prisoner Claude Newman (1944)
We see this blueprint of salvation manifested in the stories of the Pulse shooting survivors who attended the Freedom March. Casting aside the limiting labels which had once defined them solely by their sexual proclivities, they found new life and their true identities in the Living God.
“The world told me I was gay, that my new identity was in the LGBT community, but at my heart, I missed worshipping the Lord. I was so consumed with drugs, alcohol and, most of all, homosexuality, that it took one of the worst massacres in U.S. history—and the power of a praying mother—for me to repent of my sin.”
— Angel Colon
We are all weak, all prey to temptation. God alone can judge our hearts when we fall into sin, and God alone sets us free, healing us from the decaying touch of sin.
“You know, you don’t get to choose your temptation. But you do get to choose how you respond to it.”
— Luis Javier Ruiz
Whenever we may fall, let us hold fast to the promise of redemption in Christ Jesus, trusting in His Divine Mercy, and get up once more with the everlasting aid of the Holy Spirit! Thus are our wayward hearts slowly but surely reconfigured to the Sacred Heart of Jesus.