I remember a pretty comedic Confession experience from college. I was probably a Sophomore and my experience with face-to-face Confessions was still in the “newbie” category. Simply put: I was usually nervous and intimidated. So, sometimes, the things I said weren’t thought through very well. One of those things that I always seems to struggle with was the transition from “Forgive me Father, for I have sinned…” to the part where I dive into my sins. This day in particular I came up with something that I thought would make sense but indeed did not: “… it has been one month since my last Confession. The things I have done that has kept God from giving me grace is…”
What the? Did the? The priest totally whacked me in the arm after those words came out of my mouth. My startled ears (and wounded pride) reluctantly heard his explanation,
“God never holds back His grace from us; we are the ones who refuse to receive it.”
These words from this priest so long ago came to mind as I read what St. Paul has to say in this section of Romans:
“What shall separate us from the love of Christ?”
Not death or life,
Not angels, or principalities,
Not things present or things to come,
Not powers, or height or depth,
Not ANYTHING else in all creation will be able to separate us from the love of Christ…
Except ourselves – our own darn wills.
St. Paul doesn’t explicitly state our fallen nature right here in his declaration of God’s love, but he does comment pretty heavily throughout the rest of Scripture, specifically 1 Corinthians 6:9-10.
“Do not be deceived,” he says, the “wrongdoers will not inherit the kingdom of God.”
So, here we sit with the joyful excitement that nothing can keep us from the love of God, yet the sobering reality that we can be our own worst enemies. That can be scary and altogether frustrating, but here’s the final reality: We’re not meant to fight sin on our own. And I really think that is what St. Paul means when he says,
“not ANYTHING else in creation can separate us”
because God will never stop loving us regardless of our choices, and He is there to help us every step of the way. That is the beauty of grace. The more we receive it, the more we are strengthened to fight sin and the stronger we become.
Today, I invite you to stop being so stubborn. I am the first to admit that I struggle whole-heartedly with this one. The roots of our sins are always pride and selfishness. So, the antidote to our sins will always be humility and selflessness. Selflessly and humbly give your struggles and frustrations to Christ today, and strengthen yourself with grace through the Sacraments. Go to Mass, Adoration, or Confession, or all three! Envelop yourself in His grace so that the next time you are tempted to sin, you are protected by the armor that is His strength.