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A Broken and Contrite Heart, O God, You Will Not Despise

And when the doors were closed I heard no “I told you so’s” I said the words I knew you knew Oh God, Oh God, I needed you God, all this time I needed you I needed you

These are the closing lines from a very powerful song called “I So Hate Consequences” by my favorite band, a Christian yet mainstream rock group called Relient K. The song, off there album entitled “Mmhmm”, is largely about how we deal with the reality of sin in our lives. As Christians, we know that original sin is an inevitable reality that has been passed on to all humans due to the choice of our first parents to turn from God. Although we have a remarkable gift in the sacrament of baptism, which washes away original sin and transforms our soul to a child of God in Jesus Christ, the temptation and ability to sin (called concupiscence) is nonetheless still a part of the life of every Christian. Simply put, the reality of sin in our world is proven by the fact that every person has some kind of moral standard that he or she would like to live up to, but fails to do this consistently. As human beings, we’re designed to want to give and receive love, yet we somehow find ourselves at times choosing selfishness instead. St. Paul describes this paradox well in Romans 7: 19 when he says “For the good that I want, I do not do, but I practice the very evil that I do not want.” Indeed, the testimony of even this great saint indicates that sin is an inevitable aspect of the human experience.

The funny thing, however, is that sometimes the way in which we deal with sin can be more important than even the sin itself! St. Paul also makes another very prominent point when he says “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” If you are a human being, you are imperfect and have undoubtedly succumbed to sin, mortal or venial, in your life. This is why Jesus Christ died for us, so that the opportunity of forgiveness and repentance could be extended to a sinful humanity. The big question for us, though, is will we take Jesus up on this offer?

Most of us can probably think of a friend or relative who is struggling with some kind of shame due to past or present sins they have committed. This individual might avoid Church, avoid prayer, or become intimidated around others who may be living holy lives, causing he or she to lose motivation for the good things in life and simply stay enslaved to the sinful lifestyle, or despair, in which they are engulfed. This individual might be you. However, this loss of hope, this thought that one is unworthy of the love of God, is a lie! We have all fallen short of perfection, and it does not matter how far we have fallen, as long as one condition is present: that we take Jesus up on his offer. God is our Father and loves–loves–to forgive us. In the words of Pope Francis, God does not grow tired of forgiving us, but we grow tired of asking for forgiveness. God is touched when we, instead of feeling excessive shame or hopelessness, come to him with humility, begging Him to blot out our sins and renew our souls with grace. God took on human flesh and died a vicious death to show us that this feeling of hopeful contrition is beautiful. The desire to change and to turn from our sin touches him so deeply that he will never deny us if we approach him this way. He will offer us new life, free of sin and full of hope, each time we take Him up on His offer of forgiveness.

For Catholics, taking Jesus up on His offer of forgiveness involves going to the beautiful sacrament of confession, finding an understanding friend or spiritual director who will gently hold you accountable for your actions and continuously encourage you to overcome your sins, developing a disciplined prayer life, attending Mass often, and persistently asking for the grace to avoid giving up on God’s plan for your life. It is only when we have given up, turned our gaze from Jesus, and given sin permission to reign over us that we have placed our souls in danger. On the other hand, if we constantly ask God for forgiveness, trust in His mercy, and pray hard, we will be given the hope and grace necessary to continue fighting the good fight. We will even see ourselves growing holier and overcoming the sins that once caused us so much shame, but now have no more jurisdiction over us, because “A broken and contrite heart, Oh God, you will not despise” (Psalm 51:17)

Daniel Palmieri

Daniel Palmieri

2nd Theology
Daniel Palmieri attends Immaculate Conception Seminary at Seton Hall University in South Orange, NJ.
Daniel Palmieri

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