“Ask a Priest: Am I Beyond Hope?”

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Q: I have despaired toward God and feel that he has given up on me and has already decided that I will not make it to heaven. I am very concerned that I am now beyond hope, by fearing that I am guilty of having committed the unpardonable sin. Please let me know whether or not I am beyond hope. As with all my sins, I am sincerely sorry for this despair and I do repent of this sin and dearly love God with all my heart. -D.L.

Answered by Fr. Edward McIlmail, LC

A: First, it is good to remember that you are a beloved son of God. He only wants the best for you, and that means your holiness and happiness. Any thought that he has given up on you is not coming from God – it is coming from the devil.

The only unpardonable sin is when someone stubbornly rejects God’s mercy. The Catechism in No. 1864 says: “’Therefore I tell you, every sin and blasphemy will be forgiven men, but the blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven.’ There are no limits to the mercy of God, but anyone who deliberately refuses to accept his mercy by repenting, rejects the forgiveness of his sins and the salvation offered by the Holy Spirit. Such hardness of heart can lead to final impenitence and eternal loss.”

My guess is that you haven’t committed an unpardonable sin. You might have doubts about the extent of God’s mercy, but that is a different matter.

If you are Catholic, then you might consider just going to confession and leave all your sins in God’s hands. That is what the sacrament of confession is all about: It gives us a tremendous sense of peace to know that our sins have been absolved and that we can move on. Jesus certainly doesn’t want us to spend all our energy lamenting the past. If we need to confess something, we should confess it and move on.

It might help you to simply spend time contemplating God’s goodness and love. This kind of meditative prayer can be hard to get into, but it is essential for our spiritual growth. You might want to explore the retreat guides that we offer here at RCSpirituality.org. These are designed to help people engage in the kind of prayer that not only instructs us about our faith, but also promotes an environment in which the truths of our faith can penetrate our souls more deeply. For example, you may want to look at “Troubled Hearts” and “Trouble with Trust“.

For further reading on the topic of hope, you might consider Pope Benedict XVI’s encyclical Spe Salvi. For further reading on God’s mercy, see Pope St. John Paul II’s encyclical Dives in Misericordia.

I hope some of this helps. Count on being included in one of my Mass intentions.

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