The letter below was written by a young priest in the Diocese of Fargo, North Dakota, who is part of their Rachel's Vineyard program.
Underestimating God’s Mercy - Especially in Forgiving Abortion
The Father waits. Grasp for a moment the emotions rooted in the Father’s heart as he waits for his prodigal son to return home from his life of debauchery. All the biblical account tells us in Luke 15:11-32 is his reaction upon the son’s return. To the amazement of many, the Father embraces and kisses him. Does the Father not know of the terrible sin this man has done! The son’s coming to his father and his confession elicit not condemnation and shame but an embrace and kiss. Is such a response possible when we have sinned in grievous ways?
Jesus’ description clearly illustrates that our heavenly Father is eager to pour out his mercy, we just have to return to him. This image of God shatters our concept of God. In our shame of having done terribly bad things, we hide and hurt because we don’t think it is possible to find healing and restoration. In grief, we fail to realize that our heavenly Father waits.
There is a strong parallel to the pain of having suffered an abortion. Years often pass, yet with two intense emotions remaining, one felt by you who, although you may have “moved on,” you still feel your heart ache for a child or guilt of denied motherhood. Yet another heart burns with equaling intensity. God the Father’s heart burns with longing to offer you love and wholeness you so much need but are unable to accept.
God the Father longs to forgive and bring to himself every woman who has had an abortion for no matter what reason. Unfortunately the women and men who have experienced abortion are now victims of the lie that either there was no harm done so just forget about it, or the lie that there is no one to forgive you, no peace to find. Both lies leave you with a tragic moment buried in the past that truly needs healing and grace for you to find true happiness again.
As a new priest I have been deeply struck by God’s mercy and how it is ourselves who limit this love simply because we think God can not or will not forgive us. Maybe we see the unforgiveness in other human beings, maybe in our family, and we think God is the same. NOT! A far greater concern is not the sin itself but the separation and the longing in the Father’s heart for you to be whole and happy again by allowing him to hug and kiss you. I do not believe God meditates on the terrible things his son or daughter has done, but rather the pain of that separation, that desire to embrace once again his beloved child.
While this applies to much of our life, I think it applies specifically to the hurt and hidden pain so many carry around because of an abortion we have committed or allowed to happen. Buried in our society and in our hearts is the grief and unforgiveness. You are not alone in your pain. More than 4 out of every 10 women in the childbearing years have had an abortion. I say this not to condemn but to make aware the enormous amount of pain that is buried and repressed all around us. Compassion must ensue when up to 70% of woman who have abortions do so against their own self-admitted moral principals because of a variety of fears and pressures.
What can you do with your abortion experience? Seek healing. Remember the prodigal son debated whether or not to go back because he didn’t know if his father would accept him back. You know that your heavenly Father has been waiting to reach out in forgiveness and love. As humans we know how it is to wait for someone to come back. How much more profound for our God who loves us so intensely. The sacrament of Reconciliation is a key step. You may also desire the compassion and further help of another through the Project Rachel program or by making a Rachel’s Vineyard retreat attended by others who have had abortion and seek healing.
Along with the prodigal son, our human experience greatly underestimates the mercy and love within our heavenly Father’s heart. This so often stops us from receiving the healing and love our hearts so dearly need after our worst sins. The pain and silence have gone on long enough. Please seek help for yourself or others with whom you are in contact. The Father waits.