Today’s guest blogger is Nick Luken, a fourth-year student at The Ohio State University, majoring in English and minoring in professional writing. Nick graduated from Roger Bacon, a Franciscan high school in Cincinnati, in 2012.
When I found out about Pope Francis' recent announcement that priests would be able to grant absolution to women who had gotten abortions, I was shocked.
It wasn't because the news itself was shocking, though; I was shocked that the mere notion of the Church forgiving people's sins came as a surprise to people. The Church has been forgiving sins of all kinds for 2,000 years.
I think that many people outside the Church (and possibly some people within the Church) have a warped understanding of the nature of sin and forgiveness. Lots of people, especially young adults, seem to think that the Church's acknowledgement of something as a sin serves as a personal condemnation of anyone who commits that sin. People who think this way appear to believe that since the Church teaches abortion is wrong, the Church must teach that anyone who has an abortion will be doomed to spend an eternity in hell. That's quite a jump.
The truth is, of course, that the word "sin" simply refers to any deed that leads a person away from God, whether that deed involves speech, thought, or action. That's where forgiveness comes into play.
No matter what we may deserve, if we simply ask the Lord to forgive us for any sins for which we are truly sorry, we will be forgiven. This is especially true if we seek out the sacrament of Reconciliation, which gives us total assurance that we receive forgiveness from God and our fellow human beings. It's been that way since Jesus said to his disciples in John 20:23: "Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them, and whose sins you retain are retained."
It saddens me that people have a hard time seeing how willing God is to forgive us all for our sins. I can only hope that through the Year of Mercy that Pope Francis has declared for the upcoming liturgical year, people of all walks of life may come to see that God's mercy is endless, and that sin has no power over his eternal love.