Joe was very discouraged. His addiction was making him feel terrible about himself. Only recently had he been even willing to acknowledge that it was an addiction! But, in his attempt to be totally honest with himself he had to admit that things had gotten to that point. He was determined to stop, but ended up relapsing several more times. This struggle was filling with feelings of guilt and shame.
In the midst of this struggle, Joe happened to be at Mass one Sunday and these words during the homily grabbed his attention. Although the words were used in a different context than what was on Joe’s mind, they still hit him like a ton of bricks. Here’s what the priest said:
“Christ is truly amazing! Think of this, you don’t have to earn his love. In fact, no one can earn God’s love. He just looks at you and wants to do whatever is best for you. He will never desert you and leave you in sin. He will reach out to you and help you. Christ will give you the grace and the desire to live your life the right way. To sum it all up, you will be rescued! Even if you see yourself as a bad person—-you are not. Everything God made is good, and you are made in the image and likeness of God. You are so valuable and important to God that he made sure you lived. And even if you have made a mess of the plans that God had in mind for you, he offers you a new plan, a new opportunity. Why all these chances? Because he wants to save you. But somewhere along the journey, you have to say yes to God and his purpose for you.
But remember, Christ’s mercy is greater than all the sins of everyone here in this church. He will help you to get away from the occasion of sin and all that leads you to it.”
Joe prayed during that Mass that Christ would make clear the way that God would help him. That Wednesday, Peter, a co-worker and friend, and Joe, ended up having lunch. It turns out that Peter was struggling with the same kind of addiction that Joe was struggling with. Peter told Joe that he got help because he couldn’t stop on his own. That really made Joe want to stop as well. So he got the name of the counselor and eventually he too was free of that burden and shame.
But something else happened as well. He saw a connection that made all the difference in his life. He saw God’s hand in the whole thing. The priest’s homily was really laying the ground work for Joe to listen to Peter. God did indeed provide the help that was needed.
It’s never too late to return to God. It’s never too late to return to a faithful and honorable life. Guilt doesn’t have to win. Christ made sure of that! What’s the line from the Gospel today: “When you see these things happening, know that he is near”. Know that God is here! His Son died for you and he continues to do everything he can to save you.