When I first returned to Catholicism from Buddhism, I struggled mightily with forgiveness. I felt I had turned my back on God for all those years and that somehow I had to do something – suffer some penalty of some sort – in order to be forgiven. (It took me a very long time before I could see my years as a Buddhist as a part – a necessary part – of my spiritual journey with and to God.)
Shortly thereafter, I did my first silent directed retreat. It was an experience of tremendous healing in so many ways. There was one experience in particular that comes to mind. I had had an amazing day with God, including a powerful experience of the healing love of Christ during Eucharist that day. By early evening I was feeling overwhelmed by God’s love. I sat in the chapel and said a prayer of thanksgiving. What I felt, as I wrote in my journal that night, was a sense of gratitude “for being given so much more than I deserve.”
As I sat there expressing to God my wonder that He lavished so much love on me that I didn’t deserve, questioning how He could be so good to me, what appeared to me was the image of the Prodigal Son bring wrapped in the loving arms of his father. You get all this, I heard God say to me, just because you are here. My turning my face to God was enough. There was no necessary act of expiation I had to accomplish. Nothing more was needed for me to be showered with God’s grace, to feel completely embraced by God.
There is a colloquy between God and the main character in The Shack (about which I have written before and some of the passages in which I keep coming back to) where God tries to get him to understand reconciliation. God says, “There has never been a question that what I wanted from the beginning I will get. …Honey, you asked me what Jesus accomplished on the cross; so now listen to me carefully: through his death and resurrection, I am now fully reconciled to the world. … The whole world, Mack. All I’m telling you is that reconciliation is a two way street, and I have done my part, totally, completely, finally.”
God is already fully reconciled with us. There is nothing for us to earn…nothing we can do to deserve it. All we need to do is accept it.