Don't be discouraged by your faults

July 11, 2021

In his Confessions, St. Augustine describes the struggle of memories and illusions that pervade on his soul from his life of fornication and debauchery. The strength of these memories become so intense that he could no longer engage this lifestyle and thus submits himself to the will of God the Father to free him from the hold of concupiscence.[1]  

His unique and vivid description of these memories reveals an active and passive conversion to Jesus Christ through a denunciation of his former self, a realization that he is a sinner, and finally a desire to be healed of his infirmities. There is a reckoning that takes place where St. Augustine condemns the actions of his past and understands that his previous life was incompatible with the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Further, he affirms the significance of Christ’s merciful embrace in his life;

You have curbed my pride with Your fear and tamed my neck to Your yoke. I now bear Your yoke and it is light on me, for so You have promised, so you have done, and indeed it was always light, but I did not know it in the days when I feared to take it on me. But tell me Lord you who alone reign without arrogance, because You alone are the true Lord who have no Lord . . .[2]

The release of the scales of sin from his soul does not produce acts of discouragement in his journey toward Catholicism. On the contrary he affirms his redemptive suffering because of the mercy and healing that he recognizes awaits him;

I am better when with anguish of soul I see myself as hateful and seek your mercy. Till what is damaged in me is repaired and made perfect[3]   

Abandonment to God

When you attempt to describe God’s mercy to any group of people especially high school students, there is an immediate sense of incredulity because for most teens, their vision of God oscillates between a deity that punishes, doesn’t listen to your prayer requests, or is simply impossible to reach. Many young and old tend to overlook the fact that Jesus Christ is God. One of the most common questions I encountered in the classroom is whether God actually listens to our cries for help, or as one student told me, “It feels like God abandons us, and doesn’t care.”

If God is omnipotent and all-powerful, how could he not answer our petitions? Because God is love, He is faithful to His people. Any perceived act of abandonment would be a contradiction to who God is as Infinite love. God answers our petition by His own accord and not our own. When we must be careful not to get caught in the following scenario; “When I pray to God, I expect Him to answer my prayer because He is God.” When our plea for help goes unheard a sense of discouragement and possibly anger is directed toward God as a justified response to God’s supposed lack of love. This behavior may also lead to a sense of doubt-loss of hope in God’s love. A ray of hope that shuns the sin of discouragement is our blessed Mother Mary’s response to the archangel Gabriel; “Let it be done according to thy Word.”[4]  Mary’s response to the will of God is an act of holy abandonment. She honors and fulfills God’s request to be the Mother of God and bear His son Jesus Christ.

It is her faith that enables her to become the mother of the Savior: Mary is more blessed because she embraces faith in Christ than because she conceives the flesh of Christ.[5]

As Mary serves as our model of holiness and obedience, St. Peter encourages us to exercise our free will and cast all our anxieties on him, for he cares about you.[6] The last point in St. Peter’s discourse I argue is the most important point in renouncing any form of discouragement; “he cares about you.”

Confronting our own discouragement

Any form of discouragement whether intentional or not proposes that God does not or could not possibly care about you because of your sins. This is fundamentally untrue since God is the author of life and created us out of love. Because God does indeed care about his children, this act of love is also synonymous with His mercy. The challenge is whether we trust in God’s love and that His love is never ending. If we take the time to investigate the relationship of the Father, Son, and Holy we may come to the conclusion that God never ceases to speak with us as evident by the Holy Spirit’s communication to Abraham, Jacob, Elijah, David through Nathan and the Annunciation between Mary and the archangel Gabriel.

God never hesitates to express His love to us, because His mercy and love is never ending, He brought forth His only-begotten Son Jesus Christ who is also Divine into the world. Possessing both a fully human and Divine nature, Jesus Christ represents the means by which any discouragement due to sin is destroyed. In the Psalms, we encounter King David at his lowest point seeking the Lord’s mercy from those who desire to destroy him;

Have mercy on me, O God, for men trample upon me; all day long foes oppress men; my enemies trample upon me all day long, for many fight against me proudly. When I am afraid, I put my trust in you. In God, whose word I praise, In God I trust without a fear. What can flesh do to me?[7]

Understanding the gift of mercy is the antidote against any spiritual discouragement due to sin. Jesus came to reveal the Father’s mercy just like He came to destroy the works of the devil, both go hand in hand. Jesus invites sinners to the table of the kingdom that requires a conversion of faith toward Jesus Christ. He reveals in Word and Deed the Father’s boundless mercy for us and the vast joy in heaven over one sinner who repents.[8] The supreme proof of mercy is Jesus’s sacrifice of His own life for the forgiveness of sins.[9]

The story of the Prodigal Son serves as beautiful example of mercy and love conquering discouragement, shame, and loss of hope. There is a specific line in this parable where the son after he had squandered his inheritance came to himself and went to seek his father’s mercy. Upon seeing his son, the father stops everything and immediately runs to embrace him and love him as only a father could. This beautiful parable demonstrates the importance of conquering the sin of discouragement through the sacrament of penance. Every time we address our sins and journey toward Jesus’ healing in the sacrament of penance Jesus is waiting to welcome us back home in love and mercy. We should never be ashamed of what we bring to the confessional nor underestimate the healing power of the sacrament of reconciliation.

Keep in mind when Jesus sent His Apostles to begin their Apostolic ministry in the name of Christ, of the many directives given by Jesus to the Apostles to anoint, deliver people from evil spirits was to preach so that men should repent.[10]

The following excerpt from St. Faustina’s diary proves that no matter how discouraged you may be because of your faults (sins), God’s love and healing mercy is greater:    

As I was meditating on the sin of the Angels and their immediate punishment, I asked Jesus why the Angels had been punished as soon as they had sinned. I heard a voice: Because of their profound knowledge of God. No person on earth, even though a great saint, has such knowledge of God as an Angel has. Nevertheless, to me who am so miserable, You have shown Your mercy, O God, and this, time and time again. You carry me in the bosom of Your mercy and forgive me every time that I ask Your forgiveness with a contrite heart.

Diary 1332

 

 

[1] St. Augustine, Confessions Second Ed., Book X, Ch. XXX, Translated by Frank Sheed, (Indianapolis, Hacket publications, 2006), p. 212

[2] Ibid, Book Ten, Ch. XXXVI, p. 221

[3] Ibid, Book Ten, Ch. XXXVIII, p. 224

[4] Lk 1:43

[5] CCC 506

[6] 1 Pet 5:7

[7] Psalm 56: 1-4

[8] CCC 545

[9] Mt 26:28; CCC 545

[10] Mk 6:7-13

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