“Ask a Priest: Why Do Some Biblical Lines Make Us Feel So Miserable?”

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Q: I have a question that bothers me a lot. How can God say he loves us, if he says things sometimes to make us feel miserable, such as “When you have done all you have been commanded, say, ‘We are unprofitable servants; we have done what we were obliged to do'” (Luke 17:10)? And how can we accept ourselves as sinners when I sometimes get the impression that the Catholic Church keeps harping over us for being so sinful and terrible? Every time you fall into sin, you feel so guilty and hardly ever have the grace to accept yourself and your sinfulness such that you can repent. Often I feel that the Church (and maybe I am just misunderstanding) cannot accept that you are a sinner. All the time you hear frightening things about how the wages of sin is death and that we should never sin. But unless a person repents, which is not so often, he is stuck in the sin for years. Why are we made to feel frightened of sin? Thank you. — P.M.

Answered by Fr. Edward McIlmail, LC

A: I’m sorry to hear that you have such a dark view of the Church’s attitude. The Church, like Jesus himself, hates sin but loves sinners.

Regarding that passage from Luke: it is always good to read biblical passages within the whole context of Scripture.

One strong theme that comes through the Bible is how often God has shown patience and mercy with us.

Looking at the cross should remind us of the seriousness of sin as well as the love of God who wants to save us from perdition.

It’s true, of course, that some biblical passages are very sobering. The words of Jesus that you cite remind us that we shouldn’t presume too much about our own righteousness. Our Lord’s words are meant to keep us humble, not discouraged.

As for the Catholic Church “harping” about our sinfulness: I’m not sure what your experience of the Church is. Pope Francis called for a Year of Mercy a while back. I don’t recall any popes announcing a Year of Condemnation.

In any case, sin is something that a person freely chooses. And a person who sins or who is stuck in sin might be tempted to shift the blame.

We want to be honest with ourselves. If we have weaknesses and failings, we want to confront that truth and bring it to Jesus in the confessional. This takes humility, no doubt. But Our Lord never turns away a repentant soul.

Perhaps there is something happening in your life that prevents you from seeing the message of mercy and hope offered by Christ through the Church.

You want to be sure that you are a beloved daughter of God. He only wants your holiness, and he is ready to offer his grace.

It might help you to seek out a solid, regular confessor and/or spiritual director who can guide you. There is no need to beat up on yourself.

Some reading might be helpful. Pope St. John Paul II’s encyclical Dives in Misericordia is worthwhile might be worth reading, as is Sister Faustina’s diary and her experience with Divine Mercy. You might also enjoy and find helpful our series of Retreat Guides (do-it-yourself online retreats) on mercy, at https://rcspirituality.org/retreat_guide/.

The Church is serious about sin because God is serious about sin. The Church is also serious about extending his mercy, for mercy was a big reason why Jesus was willing to suffer and die for us.

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One Comment
  1. God wants to protect us from all that is evil. However, we have free will here on earth, and evil can be manipulative, deceiving and can disguise itself and convince people that it is right.
    God loves us with all his heart, he wants us to stay with him, he is our Father.
    Being strict about sin and for the Catholic Church to be strict about it is a good thing as it is following Gods will.
    You see if we were not put off sin then more and more sins would be committed meaning that more and more people would be walking away from God.
    Therefore, although all of us are sinners these teachings of the Church help to stop us sinning. It means we think about any sins we have done and we try to not do them again meaning that others wont get hurt and we wont get hurt. God is trying to safeguard us. He is a loving and kind father.
    He wants us to be as good as we can, he understands that sometimes we slip up maybe tell a lie for example but then as we say sorry to him by confession, and saying sorry to the ones we might have lied to we can then feel closer to God and feel that we have made a step back to him.

    It is a way to stop very very very bad sins happening, if everyone did not fear sin then milder sins would soon lead onto horrible sins (mortal sins etc).

    There is nothing to to be afraid of in God’s love, and when we do not sin and try our best to be good then we are at our closest to God. But if we do slip a little then we can still return to him. Therefore the teachings of the Church is in order to protect us from falling into more and more sin or even mortal sins.

    It is our loving Father who wants the best for us.
    It is out loving brother who died for our sins. I also think that because Lord Jesus died for us, and suffered greatly for us in such pain and agony that we need to do our best not to sin.

    Think of it: God wants us to be close to him and Jesus wants us to not sin so much so that he saved us.
    They are trying to stop us from following the path of evil .

    God love us all. And that is truly the most beautiful love ever.

    If a child goes to run onto the road and its mother stops him/her and shouts out “why did you do that you could have got killed” and the mum is very angry so the child cries. But next time the child remembers that and does not run onto the road thinking how angry the mum was. The mother has done a loving thing to protect the child as she feared that he/she would do it again so had to be strict .
    This is what God is doing for us :protecting us.

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