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. In his attempt to be totally honest with himself, he had to admit that it had gotten to that point. He tried to stop, but relapsed several times. He didn’t know what to do.
In the midst of feeling all this shame, he happened to be at Mass that Sunday, and heard these words from the priest during the homily. Although these words were used in a different context than what was on Joe’s mind, they still hit him like a ton of bricks—actually for the good. Here’s what the priest said:
“Christ is amazing. You don’t have to earn his love. He just looks at you and wants to do whatever is best for you. He will not desert you and leave you in sin. He will reach out to help you. He will send you the awareness of the right way to live. You will be rescued! Even if you’ve been seeing yourself as a bad person, you are not. I have it on the highest authority: Everything God has made is good. You are the image and likeness of God. You are so valuable and important to Him that He made sure you lived. And even if you make a mess of His plans for you, He offers you a new plan. Through Christ He offers His life for you. He takes away the worst of your sins—He forgives. Christ’s mercy is greater than all the sins of all of us here in His church. He will help you get away from the occasion of sin and all that leads you into it.”
Joe prayed during that Mass that Christ would reveal His help to him. That next Wednesday, Pete, a co-worker, someone who was dealing with the same kind of addiction, told Joe that he got help because he couldn’t stop on his own. That really made Joe take pause and realize that he wanted to stop himself. So he got the name of the counselor and he too eventually 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 God laying the groundwork for Joe to listen to Pete. So God did indeed provide the help that was needed.
It’s never too late to return to God—to return to a faithful and honorable life. Guilt doesn’t have to win. Christ made sure of that. He died for you and continues to do everything he can to save you. God sees our future in the wounds of our past. This is the greatest gift that the Lord gives to all of us. And once we have accepted this as real and true, we can then take these gifts or talents as referred to in the Gospel, and share them with those we see and love. You see in the story how God worked through the circumstances of these ordinary people. A homily that someone needs to hear although the one giving it has no idea how God is using it. A word shared between friends, a suggestion made. All God’s doing. All part of the way God is looking out for each of us!