“One of the hardest parts of being a Christian is that when our human weakness leads us to fall from grace, we find it difficult to believe that God forgives us for this failure every time we go to confession. We promise in confession not to sin again, but yet our human weakness leads us to fail once more. This constant pull between loving God and letting Him down, is what makes being a Christian so difficult. We wish we were perfect and then sin and the guilt and fear that come after sinning would be removed from our lives. We wonder also if there is a cut off point for His forgiveness and Mercy. Sometimes we can’t believe that God, who we know is love and mercy, can continuously forgive us for a sin that is offending Him and deserves punishment.
The majority of sins are not criminal actions but basically human weaknesses. But human weakness is what we promise to overcome in order not to offend our Creator. This is the test of life that God has given us. Yet He knows about our human condition. He knows about human weakness and this is why He continuously forgives us. But what we must show Him is our genuine efforts and sincerity to try and overcome these weaknesses.
NEVER STOP PRAYING
This is why we must never stop praying, especially if we feel guilt and shame after sinning. You feel this guilt and shame because you believe in God and you love Him, otherwise these emotions would not affect you. This is why he forgives you because you have feelings of guilt and shame, because you feel bad about letting Him down again. Jesus is your friend, your best friend. Never think that you are offending Him by talking to Him, because that is what prayer is.
LEARNING TO TRUST IN GOD’S MERCY
Through His revelations to St Faustina, God has let us know that He sees our doubt and fear. The more you learn about the Divine Mercy Devotion, the more you realise that God is seeking to address your natural tendency to doubt His mercy. He has set trust between us and Him as the central focus of the devotion. But learning to trust in God’s mercy is not easy and can take a long time. One of our most common reactions is to stop praying because we fear that our prayers are insulting to God. This is a grave mistake. In the Diary of St Faustina, she writes,’In whatever state the soul may be, it ought to pray. A soul which is pure and beautiful must pray, or else it will lose its beauty; a soul which is striving after this purity must pray, or else it will never attain it; a soul which is newly converted must pray, or else it will fall again; a sinful soul, plunged in sins, must pray so it might rise again. There is no soul which is not bound to pray, for every single grace comes to the soul through prayer’ (Diary 146).
SIN IS EXTREMELY DISTRESSING
St Faustina distinguishes four states of the soul but in general most people view themselves as sinners. Even outstanding saints like Padre Pio and St Faustina never really believed that they were ‘pure and beautiful’. Both considered themselves sinners but largely because they were so close to God that any sin, however small, was extremely distressing for them. Of course there are varying degrees of sinfulness but we all know our own sins and temptations best and it is our responsibility to strive for holiness. But we cannot strive for holiness unless we pray, for as St Faustina says, ‘every single grace comes to the soul through prayer’.
ST FAUSTINA’S ADVICE TO SINNERS
What is interesting about St Faustina’s wisdom on prayer is her advice to sinners. There is great hope in her message which is inspired by her complete trust in God’s mercy. She counsels sinners to pray that they may ‘rise again’. We must never fool ourselves into believing that every sin is not serious. This is why we should turn daily to sincere prayer and talk with God in our souls all day long. If we sin, we should go to confession and ask for mercy, promising to try again to attain the holiness God expects from us. It is not good enough to settle for good moral behaviour. Our aim must always be holiness and union with God. God has ways of communicating with us on this journey that corrects and guides us on this path. He has given us His Church, the Sacraments and His constant Presence in the Blessed Sacrament to help us as we work out our problems in life that keep us from achieving a true union with Him.
Padre Pio said, ‘Prayer is the key that unlocks the treasure chest of God’. Sometimes we think of God as an accountant. If we say a certain amount of prayers, and do charitable actions, He will reward us with His grace. This is not how God operates. This is why Jesus told the parable of the Pharisee and the tax collector. The Pharisee played by the rules, but he failed to realise he was proud and ignored the sins he had committed. The tax collector knew his wrong doing and didn’t try to justify his actions. He was ashamed before God. Jesus tells us that the Pharisee was displeasing to God whereas the humility of the tax collector pleased God.
EARNESTLY PRAYING FOR HOLINESS
Prayer must be heartfelt. We are not saying poems, but prayers. If you are a sinner, it is to change, overcome temptations and be a virtuous and holy person, which is what you must pray for. Like the tax collector, we must honestly acknowledge our sinfulness before God but we must pray to become better people with the help of His grace. Even if we are sinners, we must not believe that we cannot pray to God, that He will reject us. On the contrary, God will embrace us, as the parable of the prodigal son demonstrates so vividly.”
– This article by Val Conlon was published in the “Divine Mercy Newsletter” 2013 Vol.71. For subscriptions and information, please visit http://www.divinemercy.org (external link).