Fifth Lent: Crippled by Sin, But Overwhelmed by Love
Have you ever gotten caught? Have you ever gotten busted for doing something you know was wrong? Is there any one who hasn’t? How do we feel when we know we have been doing something wrong, and now others know this too? When this has happened to me, and it has, I felt very much ashamed of myself. I’m sure you have felt the same way.
Can you imagine how that woman felt, the one who was dragged before Jesus. She was caught breaking the sixth commandment. Yes, she was just a pawn in the diabolical determination of the scribes and Pharisees to discredit Jesus. And yes, she was only one of the two sinners involved. Where was the man? Still, she was forced to face the results of her sins. She was ashamed of herself. She expected to die. She probably wanted to die.
There she was, ridiculed by the religious leaders of her society. As far as they were concerned, she was dirt. She probably agreed. They would considered themselves defiled by just being in her presence. They would have to go to the Temple priests and make a sacrifice because they were so close to such a horrible person. There is no way that she would have thought that they, like her, were also sinners. So there she was, standing in front of the Teacher, standing in shame.
And Jesus bent down and began to write on the ground with his finger. He put himself in a position where He would not see either her or her accusers. And the woman, standing in her shame, experienced the Compassion and Mercy of Our God. With the awe-inspiring dynamism of His Presence, with the sheer power of His Love, He caused the Scribes and Pharisees to back down. Jesus saved the woman’s physical life and then told her to preserve her spiritual life. “Neither do I accuse you, go and sin no more.” The loving dynamism that defused that murderous mob had to overwhelm this woman. Tradition says that she was Mary Magdeline. If this is true, then there is a beautiful divine irony in the fact that the first to join Jesus in heaven would be Dismis, the converted thief on the cross next to the Lord, and the first to see the Resurrected Christ would be Mary Magdeline, the converted sinner who owed her life to the compassion of the Lord.
Like this woman, full of shame, full of sin, we depend on the Healing Power of our Merciful and Compassionate Lord. There are none of us who can say unequivocally that we have never sinned. At least none of us that have any semblance of a conscience. All of us, though, can say, that we are forgiven. And we can stand before the Lord, not in the hypocritical arrogance of the scribes and Pharisees, but in the humility of the woman who had been forgiven.
God loves us too much for us to continue to destroy ourselves with our self deprecation. What is it that each of us is ashamed of? We need to just go before the Lord, and recognize that He will forgive us as long as we are determined to sin no more. The Lord does not want us to focus in on ourselves. He wants us to bring His Presence to others. I have told you time and again about the three prayers that Fr. John Fullenbach gave me several years ago. The second comes in here. If you remember, the first is “God loves me unconditionally.” The second is that “God forgives me,” and as I often tell people, He doesn’t see us as a heap of forgiven stuff, He sees each of us as a person He loves and has a plan for. And then the third makes
sense, “God is with me.”
He forgives us because He loves each of us and because He has a plan for each of us. If you love someone you cannot bear seeing that person in pain. The pain of the soul hurts much more than physical pain. Jesus knows that. He suffers with us when we ache inside ourselves, when we realize what our sins have done to others, and, ultimately, to ourselves. He gave the apostles and through them the Church the power to absolve sinners, to cleanse us from our sins, the power to free us from our pain.
And then, when we are forgiven by the Lord, we don’t really care if there are people standing behind us holding stones. The only thing that matters is our love relationship with the Lord has been restored.
He forgives us because He has a plan for each of us. Each of us has a unique role to play in the work that Jesus began 2000 years ago. Each of us has the ability to design and construct a new detail, a new facet in the Kingdom of God. But we cannot do this when our sins and our shame force us to focus in on ourselves. His healing mercy leads us out of ourselves, leads us to look for ways to bring His Love to others.
Perhaps there are some here or some you know who are crippled by sin. Perhaps there are some of us who see ourselves as dirt, just like the scribes and Pharisees saw that woman as dirt. But she was not dirt, nor are we, or are any who have sinned. We are children of God. We cannot allow our sins to cripple us. We have to allow His Love to overwhelm us.
“Jesus Christ died on the cross to forgive sins.” He took upon Himself all sin, including my sins, and including your sins.
We need strength and courage, folks. We pray for the courage to seek forgiveness from the Divine Healer and the strength to deepen our commitment to the Lord. We pray for the strength to “go and sin no more.” During these last weeks of Lent, and, really throughout our lives, we pray for the strength to lead other to Him, the strength to fulfill our unique role in His Kingdom.
Crippled by sin, but overwhelmed by Love, we can join Mary Magdeline and experience the wonders of our Resurrected Lord.