I have struggled lately to trust in God's mercy. Since I was a little girl I have been haunted by the terror springing from an idea that I may do something in my life to irrevocably offend God, and, then, no matter how diligently I seek him, no matter how greatly I love him (with all my heart and mind and strength), I will never draw nearer to him because of the burden of my own selfishness, foolishness, ignorance, and laziness and all the sin inherent to those weaknesses.
I try. I fight to remember that for freedom Christ set us free; as St. Paul tells us, "For you did not receive a spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you received a spirit of adoption through which we cry, 'Abba, Father!' (Romans 8:15)."
My dad has often told me that I cannot take Christ down from the cross and put myself up there. And recently a priest told me very much the same thing. No, we cannot do it ourselves; there is no way we can earn it. I read a piece by A Lady in France in which she described the gulf between us and God as being Grand Canyon-like, and I thought, Yes! We cannot bridge it ourselves. No. It is a gift of mercy, and by faith in this great gift of God's Son on the cross we are justified. (And that Mercy is Love, as Colleen Spiro briefly reminds us today.)
On Sunday's feast of Christ the King, we read the Gospel story about the Good Thief. He knew what he was - a sinner - but he turned and recognized God's sacrifice on a tree and was justified. If we sincerely turn back to God in contrition, we are also forgiven. We, too, recognize our Savior, and the truth will set us free.
"Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access [by faith] to this grace in which we stand, and we boast in hope of the glory of God (Romans 5:1-2)."