When I was first experiencing the effects of my abortion, I began to write down and memorize scripture verses about guilt, hope, forgiveness, and faith. One of the verses I wrote down about faith read, “Faith is the realization of what’s hoped for and evidence of things not seen.” I really liked this verse and it mentioned hope and faith, two things I was desperate to have.
I needed faith to strengthen me to keep me going, and hope that God would get me through this pain. This “definition” of faith however, seemed more like a concept to me. Since then, I’ve learned that faith is not a concept. Faith is a Gift, and that gift is a Person, Jesus Christ!
Because I didn’t really know who Jesus was, it was hard for me to understand and accept that someone could love me so much to forgive me for what I had done. I’ve learned that not accepting this gift of faith, this grace of God’s forgiveness, is to not accept that Jesus died for sinners, including me.
I first started feeling the effects of my abortion in 1989 after my son was born. I wasn’t forced by my boyfriend or threatened to be abandoned by my parents. I chose abortion because I thought it would be the best solution to my “problem.” I was very insecure and worried about what others would say and think about me and the abilities the father and I had to take care of a child.
For the next few years after my abortion I was in denial. After giving birth to my son, all the denial that I had built up crumbled and I was left with the realization that abortion had ended the life of my first child. The guilt and remorse made life unbearable.
Although I had not been attending Mass for years, I knew that I needed to go to confession. The priest I spoke with was very kind and compassionate and assured me of God’s love and forgiveness for me. I left the rectory after confession thinking that I would feel enormous relief. However, that’s not what I felt. As a matter of fact, I began to feel worse.
This same priest eventually gave me information about post abortion counselors. So, I started to go to counseling and Mass not just on the weekends, but during the week. I started saying the rosary, memorizing scripture verses about forgiveness and how God washes away our guilt. Yet, still, I felt consumed with guilt and regret. How could I have done something like this ?All those reasons for having an abortion seemed now to be things that I could have dealt with or that were not that important.
I thought that one of the reasons I had for not gaining peace from confession was because I really did not accept God’s forgiveness. So, I kept going to confession, not to confess my sin of abortion but for not accepting God’s forgiveness. I thought I was doing something wrong. Priests in the confessionals would tell me, “you need to accept God’s forgiveness.” But, how do you do that? I began to think I was still offending God after He had forgiven me, because I was not feeling at peace.
Well my “confessing” took me to many different churches and priests. One afternoon as I was driving home from a church quite a way from my home after confessing again, I felt worse then I ever had before. The blackness of despair engulfed me, and I felt completely helpless and alone. It was like looking into a black abyss of nothing. How could this be when I go to church and cry out to God all the time for help. How could He not be here?
When I got home I lay on the bed and felt this nothingness that was more frightening then even the guilt and grief I felt about my abortion.
In the midst of this, as I looked up at the ceiling, I heard a voice say,“your faith has saved you.” Those words have since meant a great deal to me, but at the time, quite frankly, they only startled me enough to think, “excuse me.. what’s that supposed to mean?” As far as I knew, I had no faith! In fact, that was my problem!! How could my faith save me if I had none?
Well, that was over 20 years ago and through God’s grace and the help of people He has sent into my life I have been able to heal, and attain that peace that I was so desperately looking for. I do know now, that the graces I received through the sacraments of Confession and Eucharist did sustain and strengthen me. I’ve come to know that those words are actually words spoken by Jesus in the Gospel to at least four people.
When I looked at each one of these encounters these people had with Jesus, I began to see how meaningful those words were then and now.
- The blind man named Bartimaues, who screams out to Jesus saying, “have pity on me.” Jesus calls him to come to Him and He asks what he wants. The blind man replies, “Lord that I may see.” Jesus replies,“Go your way. Your faith has saved you.”
- The woman who suffered with a hemorrhage thought that if she could just touch the hem of his garment she would be healed. Jesus felt the power of his healing flow from him and He asked, “Who is it that touched me?” The woman fell down at his knees and poured out her troubles. Jesus replied “Daughter, Your faith has saved you…”
- The ten lepers who cried out to Him, “Jesus have pity on us!” Jesus said to them, “go show yourselves to the priest,” and on their way they noticed they were healed. Only 1 of the 10 returned fell on his knees to thank Jesus. Jesus said, “were there not 10 who were healed.” Then He said, “Stand up and go. Your Faith has saved you.”
- And the sinful woman, who barged into a party Jesus was at and stood behind him and wept so hard the tears were covering his feet and she knelt before him and dried them with her hair. The Pharisee hosting the party thought to himself, “ If only Jesus knew who this sinful woman was, who was touching Him.” Jesus knowing his thoughts asked him, “If 2 people are forgiven a debt and one of them has a greater debt to be paid who of the two would be the most grateful?” The Pharisee replied, “The one who has been forgiven much.” Jesus said, “So I tell you her many sins have been forgiven. Hence she has shown great love.” And He said to the woman, “Your sins are forgiven. Your faith has saved you go in peace.”
So, I wondered: Was I like the blind man in complete darkness? Yes. Was I desperate like the hemorrhaging woman? Yes. Did I feel like a leper filled with shame? Yes. And, was I like the woman in the Gospel who wept tears of repentance at the feet of Jesus? Yes.
Jesus didn’t push me away but, held me up as one who was praised by Him for her tears of repentance and great Love. I used to think when hearing some of the Gospel stories that I had to have a great faith in order to be healed, but these encounters with Jesus in the Gospels taught me otherwise. Like those people in the gospels who heard the same words spoken to them, I had the faith the size of a small MAYBE. Maybe if I cry loud enough he’ll hear me and have pity on me. Maybe if I can just touch Him a little it will be enough to make me feel better. Maybe if I stretch out my hand He can grab hold of me and pull me out of the darkness. Just maybe He can heal me of this. He’s my hope. That’s all I had then. Just a maybe, but that’s all I needed That faith, that gift, became trust. I know now I am a beloved daughter of God. Where once my understanding was no more then a MAYBE, it has become an acceptance of the gift of God. I know now what those words mean: “Your Faith Has Saved You.”
That Faith which is a GIFT. And that Gift Who is JESUS.