Have you ever encountered someone who feels the Catholic Church is all about guilt? They ask: “Why do I have to go to Mass every Sunday? Why can’t I the receive the Eucharist if I missed Mass? Why do I have to go to confession?” Blaming the Church is an excuse people use to diminish the responsibility they must take regarding their own sinful actions. If we are honest with ourselves, we have to admit that we all participate in sin. We choose to act on these temptations, and then we try to justify those actions in an attempt to alleviate the severity of the sin. But a sin is a sin, and until we are able to see that truth and love God enough to convict ourselves, we will not be able to fully experience the great mercies, and graces, our Lord wishes to bestow upon us through the Church and the sacraments. Jesus died to give us life everlasting. He wants to take the weight of sin off of us. Jesus wants to free us, but He will not force His mercy upon us; we must willing choose to receive it.
We Must Choose His Mercy
Jesus dispenses His mercy through the Church and the sacraments. The Church is always serving the people, always seeking to bring us to Christ, so that He can live in, with, and through us. God is not in the business of making people feel guilty. Rather, Jesus gently urges us toward His merciful heart, always waiting for us to return to Him. The Church gives us every opportunity to do just that. Our venial sins are forgiven when we pray the Confiteor:
I confess to almighty God, and to you, my brothers and sisters, that I have greatly sinned, in my thoughts and in my words, in what I have done and what I have failed to do, through my fault, through my fault, through my most grievous fault; therefore, I ask blessed Mary ever-Virgin, all the angels and Saints, and you, my brothers and sisters, to pray for me to the Lord our God.
This is an incredibly merciful act on the part of our Lord. It shows His profound love for each of us and His compassion and desire to forgive our human weaknesses. This does not mean we shouldn’t confess our venial sins; it is a good practice that we do, especially if we persistently fall into the same sin. The Confiteor does not rescind any mortal sin we may have on our souls, which must be confessed through the Sacrament of Reconciliation. For the sake of clarity, mortal sin totally separates us from God and His grace. When Confession is rejected or delayed, we are saying “no” to Jesus and His mercy. God does not promise us unlimited time for repentance but tells us in Mathew 25:13: “Therefore, stay awake, for you know neither the day nor the hour.” The Church teaches that any grave, or mortal sin, should be confessed as soon as possible. People often fear the confessional, but eternal damnation and total separation from God should be the bigger fear.
God Is Just
God loves us so much He gave us the Ten Commandments, and if we love God, then they are not that hard to follow. Yet, people today want to live the way they want to live without any rules or repercussions. They put themselves before love of God, and that is why we see such great sin in the world today. Many people believe even if they commit a mortal sin, if they are “good people,” God will forgive them. As a result, they continue on with life, pushing that mortal sin further and further away until it is forgotten all together. Meanwhile, they are piling sin upon sin on themselves.
There is an emptiness there; a darkness that pervades the soul. Deep down people know this darkness exists because they feel it, yet they still choose to suppress it. Some end up walking away from their religion all together. Whereas others continue to attend Mass, which is right and good, but they also receive Jesus in the Eucharist while no longer in a state of grace. This is very offensive to God. Scripture tells us in 1 Corinthians 11:29: “For anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body, eats and drinks judgment on himself.”
God is a just God; we are all going to leave this world one day and stand before our Lord to give an account of our lives. I think people forget that. They live for now, and not for the next life. In Mathew 25:41, Jesus says, “Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you accursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels.” Scripture is very clear: Hell is a possibility for all of us; we choose where we will spend eternity.
The Holy Spirit Inspires Prayer
Several years ago, God gave me an understanding of what we do to Him, when we receive Jesus unworthily. I joined the Universal Living Rosary Association, which is a promise to pray one decade of the rosary for the world every day for the rest of your life. I received my specific mystery (the resurrection) along with an additional prayer card in the mail a few weeks later.
When I went to Mass the following morning, I saw an image of Jesus in my mind. He was lying on a stone slab in the tomb, as if He were dead. He was beautiful, not wrapped in “linen” as Scripture states in Mark 15:46, but instead He was dressed in a white robe. His whole body radiated a bright white light as He lay there motionless. I immediately knew that when we receive Jesus unworthily, we render Him powerless (or dead) to work in, and through us. I started to cry at the thought of how many people hold Jesus captive within themselves, and they don’t even realize it.
When we receive Jesus in the Eucharist, we receive Him into our own bodies. The Eucharist is not a piece of bread, it is actually the body, blood, soul, and divinity of our Lord Jesus Christ. That has to mean something to us; it is not just a frivolous act. 1 Corinthians 3:16 says, “Do you not know that you are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwells in you?” Our hearts should be a home for Jesus, not a prison. I knew the Lord showed me this image for a reason.
Then, the Holy Spirit inspired a prayer I added to my decade. I simply pray for all those who receive Jesus unworthily to have repentant hearts, go to Confession, and release Jesus so He can live vibrantly through each one of them. It is a prayer I hope will bring many back to the Sacrament of Confession, and closer to the heart of Jesus, who asks us in John 15:4-5 to, “Remain in me, as I remain in you. Just as a branch cannot bear fruit on its own unless it remains on the vine, so neither can you unless you remain in me. I am the vine, you are the branches. Whoever remains in me and I in him will bear much fruit, because without me you can do nothing.” Jesus came to bring us peace; all we have to do is accept it.