Last week I met two amazing women dedicated to healing the broken. They were from Rachel’s Vineyard, an apostolate that holds retreats for men and women who have experienced the tragic consequences of choosing abortion.
During our meeting I heard something that surprised me. I learned that sometimes people in parishes question the need for retreats for those who have aborted their children. The fact that these retreats are being questioned is revealing.
It shows that some people have failed to grasp the power and depth of God’s mercy, which is able to wipe away every sin. Abortion is undeniably a grave sin, but it is by no means a sin beyond God’s mercy.
It also demonstrates that it is not widely known that abortion not only takes an innocent life but also inflicts deep wounds on the mother and father. Christ longs to forgive and heal those who have sinned, no matter what the sin, and he desires to do so through his Church.
Benedict XVI reflected on this truth in a 2008 address to priests on the importance of the sacrament of confession in our day. To illustrate his point, he recalled the passage from Luke’s Gospel (7:36-50) in which a well-known prostitute walks into the house of Simon the Pharisee, while he is hosting Jesus for dinner.
The sinful woman expressed her repentance by bathing Jesus’ feet with her tears, drying them with her hair and anointing them with oil. In contrast, Simon presumed that he was righteous and that he had nothing serious to be forgiven for.
Then-Pope Benedict explained, the “message that shines out from this Gospel passage is eloquent: God forgives all to those who love much. Those who trust in themselves and in their own merits are … blinded by their ego and their heart is hardened in sin.”
Every one of us is a sinner, and we must pray for the ongoing conversion of our hearts, so we are convicted that, in the words of the former pontiff, “God’s mercy … is infinitely greater than any guilt of ours.” This is the message men and women receive during Rachel’s Vineyard retreats.
A woman named Amee said that before the retreat her guilt and pain were so great that she could not say the word “abortion.” But through the healing that took place on the weekend, she re-established her relationship with Jesus Christ and fell in love with the Church. Her encounter with Jesus, his mercy and compassion, brought her to repent and receive the healing mercy of Jesus. After the retreat she said, “I understand the power of God’s forgiveness and love. I have been able to grieve the loss of my daughter and honor her life with the gift of service to help others experience God’s healing love.”
One dad who attended a Rachel’s Vineyard retreat also spoke about how he was transformed by the weekend. “I never realized what a need there was in my life for this healing. I needed to consider that men need to heal also.”
In her diary “Divine Mercy in My Soul,” St. Faustina Kowalska recounted a conversation she had with Christ that beautifully describes his willingness to forgive and heal the broken.
Jesus told St. Faustina: “Let the greatest sinners place their trust in my mercy. They have the right before others to trust in the abyss of my mercy. My daughter, write about my mercy toward tormented souls. Souls that make an appeal to my mercy delight me. To such souls I grant even more graces than asked. I cannot punish even the greatest sinner if he makes an appeal to my compassion, but on the contrary, I justify him in my unfathomable and inscrutable mercy.”
This is a truth that can change our lives, our parishes and our world. Let us not stand in the way of God’s mercy, but open the doors to it! Let us bring sinners to Jesus Christ and his Church and not judge them harshly.
I pray that Rachel’s Vineyard will spread throughout our archdiocese, bringing healing to all those who have been wounded by abortion and new life in Christ to those who are far from him. I pray too for those who want to limit the mercy of Jesus by their harshness toward women who have had abortions. May all of us receive in our hearts the “unfathomable and inscrutable mercy” of Jesus and proclaim it to a world that so desperately needs it!
To learn more about Rachel’s Vineyard, visit: www.rvrcolorado.org.