2017-07_LT-SelfPunishment

Eucharist and Mass/My Faith/Reconciliation/Sacraments

Healed in His Wounds: Freedom From Becoming Your own Savior

I need the Eucharist.

That was my first thought. I had barely made it out of bed, but already I felt somehow “unclean.” though I couldn’t tell you why. My mind ran over sins that I had confessed the day before, replaying them, fixating on them. I knew that through Reconciliation my sins had been absolved, but I still didn’t feel like I had adequately “paid” for them. I imagined that God was looking down on me in disgust, wanting me to be feel ashamed for my failures.

For a long time, I’ve struggled with the feeling that I need to punish myself for my sins, and if I don’t, then God isn’t pleased with me. I used to entertain these thoughts way too much and let myself get caught up in the anxiety of it all, but over time I’ve learned to give it God. And the main way I learned that is through the Eucharist.

Within Your Wounds, Hide Me

Someone once told me that when we try to punish ourselves for our sins, we are rejecting Christ. We are trying to be our own saviors, and therefore rejecting His saving passion. This forever changed the way I viewed myself and my sin. Once I understood this, I could no longer entertain any ideas about self-punishment. After that, any time that I had a thought about needing to pay for my sins, I knew that I had to turn my attention to the cross.

Just thinking about this, though, usually wasn’t enough. It wasn’t until I turned to the Eucharist that I really found any peace.

There’s this one prayer that I pray all the time—when I wake up, when I’m taking a shower, after Communion…you get the idea. This prayer has been incredibly important to me, and it’s called the Anima Christi. If you don’t know it, the first part of it goes like this:

“Soul of Christ, sanctify me.
Body of Christ, save me.
Blood of Christ, inebriate me.
Water from Christ’s side, wash me.
Passion of Christ, comfort me.
Within Thy wounds, hide me.
Let me never be separated from Thee.”

It’s in those last three lines, in which I ask Christ to place me in His own wounds, that I finally found some peace. You see, when I consume the Eucharist at Mass, I’m making this same prayer in that action. I am asking that Christ and His wounds come into my body and be manifested in me. I am asking that He transform me from the inside out. I am asking that I be so close to Him as to be “within Thy wounds”. When I present myself for Communion, I am begging God, “Let me never be separated from Thee.”

Understanding this, knowing that Christ truly does enter into this union with me, how could I possibly reject Him by trying to save myself? How could I possibly accept Him and His passion into my very body and then turn around and say, “No, I don’t want your sacrifice. I want to do it myself.”?

When I feel those thoughts coming on, I try to go to Mass as soon as possible, because I know that only the memorial of His passion and the sacred meal of the Eucharist can bring me healing. When understood properly, the sacraments bring the certainty of His love and mercy like nothing else could. Seeing the beauty of Communion also helped me better understand another important sacrament: the Sacrament of Penance, also known as Confession.

Love Through Penance

So how are penance and self-punishment different? Aren’t they the same thing? No, not at all!

Let me explain. Self-punishment is directed entirely inwards: it’s all about me, how horrible I am, and what I need to do to pay for it. Penance, on the other hand, is directed outwards: it’s about the greatness of our God, the mercy of our God, and the worship He deserves. Penance is the opposite of self-punishment; it is self-gift.

The catechism tells us that penance is first and foremost about conversion of heart: “Jesus’ call to conversion and penance, like that of the prophets before him, does not aim first at outward works, […] fasting, and mortification, but at the conversion of the heart, interior conversion. Without this, such penances remain sterile and false; however, interior conversion urges expression in visible signs, gestures and works of penance.” (CCC 1430).

The catechism also tells us this: “The human heart is converted by looking upon him whom our sins have pierced.” (CCC 1432).

Sorrow for our sins leads us to the confessional, and, yes, God gives us His mercy… but He doesn’t stop there. Penance is the Father’s way of teaching me His love. He gives me the dignity of participating in His love, of being drawn into Him, of sacrificing with Him. When we receive His grace, it changes us. It transforms us ever more into His image and likeness and makes us able to love the way He loves. It enables us to sacrifice with Him and for Him.

Come Close

Like Jesus Himself said to Saint Faustina, “Come close to My wounds and draw from the Fountain of Life whatever your heart desires. Look at the splendours of My mercy and do not fear the enemies of your salvation.”

Learning to sacrifice with Jesus is not easy, and it’s especially not easy when you’re used to beating yourself up about your every failure. The important thing to remember is that, even when we’re in a state of sin, Jesus wants us to draw close to Him. He has given us the sacrament of Penance for this reason and no other. It is not there to make us feel horrible about ourselves; it is not there as a means of self-punishment.

His sacraments are always about love, healing, and union. In the Eucharist, in Confession and penance, we draw close to Him. And we cannot draw close to Jesus without drawing close to His sacred wounds.

About the Author

Sophia Swinford

I'm a theology student at St. Mary's in London, but I'm still an Arizona girl at heart. I basically live off books, coffee, rainy days, and conversations about Jesus, who has stolen my heart and never given it back!