Karen called me because of an abortion she had 30 plus years ago. It was evident that she was suffering greatly and did not believe God could forgive her for such a sin, nor was she able to forgive herself. This was something she accepted, because she felt she deserved a life of suffering.
“There is no healing for this,” she told me. “It is impossible.”
As our conversation progressed, and I tried to speak to her of forgiveness through Christ, it became clear that she had made up her mind that the rest of her days were to be spent torturing herself with no hope of forgiveness. She lived a life of despair.
Karen was caught up in “self” which is so prevalent in the face of serious sin. She was continually focused on what she had done, unable to move forward. She did not want to hear about God’s mercy, because she could not allow herself to accept it. She had even become comfortable in her misery, except for the rare occasion when she would reach out, but be deaf to anything that was said to her that would give her any hope of change.
Not only did Karen refuse to believe in mercy for herself, but she also refused to believe in it for anyone else. “I don’t care what anyone says, no one can heal from an abortion,” she told me. Her determination to suffer for taking the life of her unborn child was cemented in her heart of stone, which was the only way she had been able to survive all these years.
She also believed that if abortion was forgivable, somehow we were saying it was okay.
Karen was stuck in the lies of the devil. The truth however, is that there is healing from abortion, or any other serious sin. The key is taking our eyes off “self” and what we have done, and placing them on Jesus Christ and what he has done for us.
Replacing false humility, or pride, with the true humility of Jesus Christ. Seeing in truth.
1) Healing does not mean forgetting.
Very often there is a resistance to healing because people believe if they heal they will forget their child, but healing does not mean forgetting. Healing means developing a spiritual relationship with your child who is now, “living in the Lord”, (Gospel of Life, Pope JPII).
Of course you do not want to forget your child! But there is a new way of looking at it. A hope of being united in heaven with Christ, and having an intercessor before God. Instead of the ugliness of abortion, you can embrace the truths of our faith, meeting your child through the Eucharist, connecting you to heaven where your child dwells with Christ. A source of hope, instead of despair.
2) You can be forgiven but it never means abortion is ok.
“The Church is aware of the many factors which may have influenced your decision, and she does not doubt that in many cases it was a painful and even shattering decision. The wound in your heart may not yet have healed. Certainly what happened was and remains terribly wrong. But do not give in to discouragement and do not lose hope. Try rather to understand what happened and face it honestly. If you have not already done so, give yourselves over with humility and trust to repentance. The Father of mercies is ready to give you his forgiveness and his peace in the Sacrament of Reconciliation.” (Gospel of Life, Pope JPII).
In order to be forgiven through the Sacrament of Reconciliation, true contrition and firm purpose of amendment must be present. Never does the church state that in any circumstance abortion is an acceptable solution. Certainly, even after the forgiveness of Christ there are many psychological issues to work through surrounding an abortion, but the grace of the sacrament, and the truth of forgiveness by Christ, which must be claimed in the face of any obstacles, aides in the process of healing.
3) Not forgiving yourself means you think you know better than God, and that Christ died for nothing.
In some ways this can be as grievous as the actual abortion. A refusal to believe in the mercy of God. In spite of his saying our sins are forgiven, you reject this truth relying instead on your own thoughts and feelings. Trusting yourself instead of him, which is what happened when abortion was chosen in the first place.
“He who was delivered over because of our transgressions, and was raised because of our justification.” (Romans 4 :25)
4) Lastly, we do deserve to suffer.
That is the beauty and paradox of our faith. That Christ died for us. That he loves us so much, he took on our suffering so that we could be with him in heaven. It is this truth, this life-changing reality, this total unconditional love, that changes us. That calls us out of ourselves into life with him. This truth, that makes seeing ourselves in truth okay, because we now know him and trust he is always there for us as we try to grow in his life and love. Christ suffered, died and rose again for our salvation and for the forgiveness of sin, even the sin of abortion.
“And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins.” (1 Corinthians 15:17)
Refusing to believe in the mercy of God is a futile faith, hence, suffering for a lifetime, but it does not need to be so. Healing is possible. May we each cast off our sins whatever they may be, with true contrition, firm purpose of amendment, and trust in the truth of the only one who can heal us, Jesus Christ.