Posted February 04, 2008 in My Dear Family:
The Good News About Guilt

by Catherine Doherty.

We are riddled with guilt. One of the things people are worried about is God’s justice. People shake and say, "Oh, I am a louse. I am a sinner." Of course you are a sinner. But never forget you are a saved sinner.

Why is everyone going around wallowing in his or her past sins? After we go to confession, we say, "Oh, I don’t feel that I am cleansed."

But if we acknowledge our sins, then God who is faithful and just will forgive our sins and cleanse us from everything that is wrong (1 Jn 1:9).

When you really repent, you are as clean as a newborn baby. What’s the score? As far as the east is from the west so far does he remove our sins (Ps 103:12). Why should I worry about what happened to me or the last mortal sin that I committed? God has forgotten it, so why should I remember?

He says, I will forgive their iniquities and never call their sins to mind (Heb 8:12; 10:17).

When we continue to feel guilty, there is something behind it; there is lack of trust in God. Oh yes, we know that God forgives sinners. We believe it, or so we say. But do we? Where is our confidence in God, our love of God, our trust in God, our faith, and our hope? Where are they? If they were there, we would not be racked with guilt.

Christians of the Eastern tradition seldom feel guilty, because, you see, they strongly rely on the mercy of God, and they go to confession. The only time that I feel guilty is the time between when I commit the sin and when I go to confession. But when I’m absolved, I forget that I ever sinned. Why should I remember if God doesn’t?

Think about it.

God is merciful to repentant sinners. Yet, in our society there is this terrible emotional problem of guilt. You can tell people again and again that God forgives, but they refuse to believe it.

In the first place, they refuse to believe that he loves them. And they refuse to believe that he loves them, because they don’t forgive themselves.

They say, "If I cannot forgive myself, how can God?" Again, our little brains want to reduce God to our own stature. It is a tragic situation, because if only we accepted the fact that God forgives us, we would be a laughing, joyous, guiltless, happy generation.

Consider the ways of God with men. To begin with, God loved us first. Now, try to absorb this. Absorb it. Take it into your skin, into your pores, into everything. God loved us first.

Well, we are not very lovable, but somehow or other he manages it. He loved us first. The picture of Christ is one of such gentleness. He looks at us, and he loves us so much. He wants to take us and press us to his heart. But we say, "No, no!"

We don’t want to hear this stuff. Still he loves us. He continues to love us to the very end.

Why don’t we approach God with the utter simplicity of children? Suppose we lived in Nazareth when he lived there. He would have attracted us by his personality. I am sure a lot of young people and old people talked to him. He was wise. And they were peaceful about it and happy.

But we are forever searching our hearts with our little brains. That’s our problem.

God’s way with man is so gentle, so gentle. He was accused of hobnobbing with prostitutes and tax collectors, and he did. When he was speaking, to whom was he talking? Mostly to cooks and waiters—ordinary people.

The big shots were at the back, writing down something on their tablets to condemn him with. Very few of them came to him. The poor, the humble, the unimportant, they came. And that’s the kind of people we all are. God deals with all of us with great gentleness and always with great kindness.

It’s we who attribute to him great severity, the big stick, and so forth.

Why do we go around thinking that we are the lousiest people on earth, with a self-image almost of despair? Why attribute that sort of lousy self-image to ourselves when we have been created by God?

I am an icon of God; he died to save me. I am lovable, and so I cannot have a lousy image of myself unless I have a lousy image of God.

To us are addressed the words in Isaiah, It is I, I, who wipe out, for my own sake, your offenses; your sins I remember no more (Is 43:25). No need to recall the past. No need to think about what was done before (Is 43:18).

On reading that, can anyone have a feeling of guilt left?

How can any Christian feel guilty once he has read the Gospel?

A thief asked Jesus, "Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom". Jesus replied, "Indeed, I promise you, today you will be with me in paradise" (Lk 23:39–43).

This word of a man on a cross, dying for love of humanity, is a consolation for all who feel guilty because of sins. Let guilt be wiped out.

Today you will be with me in paradise.

If anyone of you feels guilty and you know that you deserve to feel guilty, fear not. Look at Jesus Christ. If you say, "Have mercy on me," and look with eyes of faith, you will see an unseen hand wipe out all your sins and misdemeanors.

You will realize that you are already in paradise, because he who is merciful dwells in you, and where he is, there is paradise. It is as simple as that.

Who can feel guilty when the hand of mercy holds him? If I repent, I simply say, "Sorry, Lord," and he has already forgiven me. Place yourself before Jesus Christ, and slowly, fear will leave, and guilt will leave, and we will have left a sinner who has started to love. Look at the prodigal son.

Think about it. Cheer up. There is nothing to worry about.

—From Beginning Again, pp. 41-45 (2004), available from MH Publications


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