Over the course of my time in ministry, I’ve noticed something that has never sat well with me. I get to meet all sorts of people, weekly church-going people, and others who used to be involved at their Church but have drifted away. No matter where people are in their faith walk, so many people have trouble sustaining their faith and growing closer to the Lord. Many have at some point gone to a conference, retreat or have some fantastic thing happen in their life and they feel so close to the Lord. But over the next few days, weeks or months, that excitement begins to fade as well as their desire to continue striving after the Lord.
So what happens?
I think for many of us, it is that we get caught up in sin and walk around in DEFEAT way too often. As Catholics, we focus so much on sin that we even have a term built just for us: “Catholic guilt.” This “Catholic guilt” can simply be defined as the paralyzing or numbing feeling we get when we slip up and then, instead of running to our forgiving, loving and affectionate God, we beat ourselves up and try to fix the problem on our own. Now I’m not saying that we shouldn’t feel sorry for our sins, but I am saying that we shouldn’t wallow in them. This is because there is another side of the coin that we too often forget: Christ’s VICTORY over sin and death! We can’t talk about one without the other, but so often we focus way too much of our attention on our sin problem and not on the One who delivers us from Sin!
Jesus has already broken the chains,
so stop clinging to them
We see these two realities side by side during the Eucharistic Prayer at Mass as the priest holds up the Body and Blood of Christ and we respond, “Lord I am not worthy, but only say the word and my soul shall be healed.” The Church proclaims this every day, but do we live in the Victory that God provides over our sin? Here is the reality of our sin in light of God: Sin tries it’s best to defeat us, but Jesus came to defeat that sin. Jesus came to set us free! So why do we mope around like we are still in chains when we fall in to sin? Jesus has already broken the chains, so stop clinging to them. As one of my favorite Disney princesses would say, “Let it go.”
I am not the only one who has noticed that people are struggling with this. There is at least one other person: an Argentinian of Italian descent who now lives next to a big Church in Rome…you may know him as Pope Francis. In Evangelii Gaudium, he writes “There are many Christians whose lives seem like Lent without Easter.” Bam! Smile! Rejoice that you are a Christ follower! The Gospel is good news, joyful news. The good news is that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us! Rejoice that Christ has power over sin and death and we as Christians are able to share in His victory.
He wants to meet you,
especially in times of sin and defeat
We hear in the Scriptures that Christ is the Good Shepherd. God knows that his sheep are going to wonder around and not focus on Him sometimes. But that’s the reason Christ our Good Shepherd came! He wants to guide us by His voice, protect us, provide for us. When we are lost, he wants to bring us back to Him. So whenever you feel like you are wandering or struggling in your faith, remember that God sent His Son into the human condition, to be one of us, and that He is there for you in that moment. He wants to meet you wherever you are, especially in your times of sin, struggle and defeat. Christ came to deliver us from Sin and Death, so run TOWARDS Him. He is always there ready and waiting for you to return to Him.
I encourage you to dive into the Psalms. There are so many great promises that God has for us found in their pages that can help us in any situation. I pray that God’s word will dispel the lies we too often tell ourselves about being defeated and inspire us to live in the victory Christ gained for us.