Loved Sinners

The Prodigal Son by Hans Thoma

We have not always made choices that lead us to praise, honor, and serve God. We have not always acted as if we believe that we are loved. We have not always treated everything in our lives as a gift.

We come to the humbling awareness that we are sinners, that we have often been ungrateful and unfaithful. We have failed to respond to God’s offer of love by failing to love God and love our neighbor. Sin is the failure to bother to love. Sin is not simply the things we do but also the things we fail to do. Ignatius traces all this to a lack of gratitude—failure to recognize everything as a gift to be cherished, fostered, and shared. For Ignatius, ingratitude is the greatest sin and the root of all sin. It is, in the end, the failure to love as God has loved us.

This realization leads us to sorrow. Ignatius invites us to pray for sorrow and shame, for a deep interior knowledge of our sinfulness, of the disorder in our lives, and of our ingratitude and lack of response to God’s offer of life. This sorrow leads us to contrition and repentance—a turning toward God, whom we have offended. We realize that we have distanced ourselves from the one we most desire.

We are sinners, but we are forgiven. The two are connected. Only when we claim our sinfulness and stand in sorrow before God can we truly experience God’s mercy. We are loved sinners. God loves us even when we are sinners. Only when we know the depth of our sin do we know the depth of God’s mercy. We are not as good as we thought, but we are much more loved than we ever imagined.

—Excerpted from Discovering Your Dream by Gerald M. Fagin, SJ

Image: Hans Thoma, “The Prodigal Son,” 1885

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  1. Thank you for this post and wonderful picture. The link back to gratitude really stood out to me. So simple, and grounding, although not always easy! It’s blessed me especially today after delivering a lecture to two of my bickering children (!), and brought me up a little short with a reminder to me to first be grateful for both of them, and then lead them in the same direction. That will surely be more effective than telling them off for falling out!!


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