Rolling Away The Stone
Years ago I participated in a Catholic lawyers discussion group in downtown Chicago. We’d talk about the struggles of faith and the practice of law. We’d share things on our minds. Once day a woman lawyer joined the group. At only her second meeting, she shared something on her mind. Twenty years earlier, she had an abortion. I was stunned, but not by that news. I was stunned that she was sharing her past with people whom she barely knew. What was happening?
Quite likely, it was a recovery. We need to go backwards to go forward here, back to sin and its effects. We tend to sin quietly, without much fanfare, will little public notice. But while all may seem quiet outside, often all hell has broken loose on the inside. The mere contemplation of sin locks conscience and human nature in battle for control. Temptation eats at us as we try to justify doing what our heart tell us is wrong. Even when rationalization wins, it does not win long. Our consciences again speak. We feel embarrassment, shame, and guilt. Our fear to acknowledge our fault allows the sin to chew on us. We may even feel too ashamed and unworthy to seek forgiveness. By that time, sin is eating us alive. So we try to deaden the pain by killing our consciences. That can be done, but at great price: spiritual death.
Now think of persons, men or women, involved with an abortion. Frightened beyond measure, they may have agonized for weeks, even months, over the decision. Pre-abortion advice received from family or friends may cause the sufferers to withdraw, even before the abortion. They become islands battered by storm.
Any temporary relief provided by the abortion is quickly overcome by the shame and guilt of their sin. Relationships with family and friends become frayed, torn, and pulled apart altogether. Unable to turn to anyone, they live the hell of inner torment ⎯ and live it for years. Feelings of self-loathing, even depression, may discourage the sufferers from finding spiritual and emotional release. Physical and mental health may deteriorate as the aftermath eats away at body and soul. Complicating the situation is the sufferer’s grief over the death of his or her own flesh and blood. An abortion sufferer may die a thousand deaths ⎯ and often does.
But God’s plan is designed for U-turns. Again, we must go backwards. Lazarus went from well to sick to dead in a matter of days, all under Jesus’ watchful eye. Yet his sisters Mary and Mary did not stopped believing that Jesus would give him life. Life on the last day, and even sooner. Always moved by faith, Jesus ordered the stone sealing Lazarus’ tomb to be rolled away. And as the crowd watched, Lazarus came forth, life restored. Think they were stunned? Imagine how Lazarus felt!
It’s easy to fall prey to the notion that we can never recover from our sins. Some even believe that their sin, abortion, is too horrible to be forgiven. Maybe that person is you. Though we cannot undo the past, we need not be controlled by it. Over 140 Catholic dioceses offer the hope of recovery from abortion though the healing ministry Project Rachel. The ministry is open to anyone of any faith suffering in any way from abortion. Skilled clergy, counselors, and therapists offer the confidential and compassionate care needed by those struggling from abortion’s aftermath. The related ministry Rachel’s Vineyard offers weekend retreats where abortion sufferers may find support through the sharing of experiences with others. Many have benefited. Many more can.
Concerned about what you may expose? Martha was, too. She was worried about the stink of decay and death once the stone was moved. But exposing the wound to the air promotes healing and stops the festering of sin’s infection. Besides, even the worst smells dissipate in the fresh air. And this is no ordinary air. It is the air of God’s grace, of His love and mercy. Air that is life renewing, life sustaining.
Abortion is not just an individual problem; it is a societal problem affecting us all. Most people know someone ⎯ and not just the mother⎯ wounded by abortion. And so we have a special role to play: we must help roll away their stones. We do it through prayer, a listening ear, a kind heart, a gentle word of encouragement that directs them to help. Quite literally, we can save others from a lifetime, even an eternity, of suffering.
“I kept it secret and my frame was wasted. I groaned all day long for night and day Your hand was heavy on me. . . . But now I have acknowledged my sins; my guilt I did not hide. . . . And You, Lord, have forgiven the guilt of my sins” (Ps 32:3-6). The effect of sin is age-old. But so is the way to recovery. It starts with faith. With faith in a Savior who died to free us from sin and does not want us to be held captive ever again. With faith in a Church bound and determined to bring all people back to Him. With faith that He will give us wisdom and courage to take that first step forward. For ourselves. For others. Loads of faith are not required. With faith the size of a mustard seed, we can move a mountain (Matt 17:19).
Or roll away a stone.
Paul V. Esposito is a Catholic lawyer who writes on a variety of pro-life topics. He and his wife Kathy live in Elmhurst, Illinois, where they raise their six kids.
© Paul V. Esposito 2006. Culture of Life. Permission to copy and distribute for pro-life purposes is granted. Visit us on the web at http://www.the-culture-of-life.com/