By Mary McClusky
March 11, 2016
Although Easter is a time of great
joy for many, it can also be a painful season. Imagine a woman who has had an
abortion watching children frolic through the grass at an Easter egg hunt. She
may silently ache for the child she'll never carry in her arms. Her focus is on
the tomb, not on Jesus' victory over sin and death and the joy of the
Resurrection. Those who mourn the loss of their children to abortion may feel
they are not worthy of God's love. How can
the Church help suffering mothers, as well as fathers, move from silent suffering
into healing, peace, and even Easter joy?
Many healing journeys begin with the
sacrament of reconciliation. Through what the Vatican's Congregation for the
Clergy calls the "sacrament of Divine Mercy," we have a two-sided, real
encounter with Jesus, present through his priest. We receive mercy, pardon, and
grace to strengthen us. If you know someone hesitant to approach the sacrament
because of a past abortion, assure them that Jesus, who never tires of
forgiving, is eagerly awaiting them. Many diocesan parishes participate in "The
Light is On for You" or similar programs that open all Catholic churches for
confession on certain weekdays during Lent.
When you encounter those who avoid
returning to the Church because they fear judgment, it may be helpful to remind
them of all whom Jesus forgave and healed. The woman caught in adultery. The
good thief on the cross next to him at the Crucifixion. The woman of many sins who
washed Jesus' feet with her tears. St. Paul had been dedicated to the killing
and persecution of the early Christians until Jesus appeared to him. Even St.
Peter, our first Pope, denied Jesus three times after knowing that he was the
Christ. Pope Francis has written: "It might seem shocking but I derive
comfort from Peter: he betrayed Jesus and even so he was chosen" (The Name of God is Mercy, 41–42).
Remember that Jesus said: "there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who
repents than over ninety-nine righteous people who have no need of repentance"
How can we, as faithful members of
the Church, be bridges to God's mercy and, as Pope Francis says, make our
parishes "islands of mercy in a sea of indifference"? How can we live out the
spiritual and corporal works of mercy? If someone confides in you about a
previous abortion, listen to his or her story with compassion and patience. Comfort
the sorrowful, pray for the living and the dead, and bury the dead. We may not be able to physically bury the
child who was aborted, but he or she can be commemorated at memorial shrines
and sites dedicated to unborn children. Local Catholic cemeteries often have memorials
dedicated to unborn children.
Our celebration of life given to us
by Christ's victory over sin and death continues long beyond the Easter season
through the sacraments. Sometimes called a "mini-Easter," every Sunday's Mass is
a celebration of life together in Christ. Through baptism, we share in the
power of Christ's victory over sin and death. May God's grace help each of us
become channels of healing mercy, so all who suffer from abortion find peace in
Jesus, the Church he founded, and the joy of the Resurrection.
Locate the nearest diocesan Project
Rachel Ministry by visiting the "Find Help" map at www.hopeafterabortion.com or www.esperanzaposaborto.com. And please pray that many will receive
the gift of God's infinite mercy.
McClusky is Assistant Director for Project Rachel Ministry Development at the
Secretariat of Pro-Life Activities, U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. For confidential
help after abortion, visit www.hopeafterabortion.com or www.esperanzaposaborto.com.