Eleventh Sunday: A Love Infinitely More Powerful than Our Sins
AARP just won’t give me a break! Every few weeks I get notices taking it for granted that I should be joining them. I neither need nor want their rotten Modern Maturity magazine. And they can keep their lousy discounts because I don’t follow most of their politics and don’t want to be numbered with them. Besides, I’m not that old yet. If you consider the life spans of giant turtles, I’m only early middle-aged. Granted, there are a lot of things that I can’t do anymore, like scuba dive, or play tennis, or run, but I still am young enough to do a lot of other things. I can change the TV channel without even using a remote. I am also adroit at putting DVD’s into the player. AARP needs to leave me alone.
Still, old age is creeping up on me. A while back, I was chairing a meeting of the priests’ council. The bishop was recovering from surgery; so he couldn’t attend. Now, he would normally lead the blessing before lunch, but he wasn’t there. So, when it was time for lunch, I announced that the oldest member of the priest council should lead the grace. And then I looked around and said, “Oh no!......Bless us O Lord....”
Aside from the deterioration of the body and brain, one of the things I’ve noticed is that as I get older I tend to dwell on the past way too much. This can be upsetting, particularly when I start thinking about the times in my life when I was far from my best in my living my Christianity and ministering as a priest. I might be wrong but I think that the older you get the more you say, “I can’t believe that I was that dumb!” (I would appreciate it if you do not respond, “Sure, Father, I can believe that you were that dumb.”)
Maybe some of you feel the same way when you reflect on your lives. I am sure that everyone here goes through periods of feeling very upset over their past sins.
The readings today are meant for all of us. They are telling us that God’s love is far more powerful than our sins. Our focus needs to be on God, not on our past sins, not on ourselves.
Consider that first reading from the Second Book of Samuel. David had sinned horribly. He thought he had covered it up well. But in the reading we learn that David’s sin was no longer secret. Nathan told him that God knew what he did to Uriah, committing adultery with his faithful soldier’s wife and then sending word for Uriah to be deserted by his comrades during a skirmish so he could be killed. David thought he had outsmarted everyone. But God saw. And God knew. David was the leader of the Chosen People. He was hand picked by God and promised a progeny that would last forever. His sins were so much worse than anyone else’s sins due to his position and the blessings God gave him. And yet, in today’s reading when David seeks forgiveness, God immediately forgives him.
Consider that woman who washed Jesus’ feet. She was a known sinner. She was probably a prostitute. Perhaps she was just a loose woman who had no respect for herself and easily gave herself to others. She certainly was not a woman of virtue. But she was repentant. And she was forgiven.
Their sins and our sins are not what matters. God’s forgiveness is what matters. God’s love is what matters. When we feel overwhelmed by our past sins, sins that we have confessed and received absolution for, we are acting as though God did not forgive us. That is wrong. We have been forgiven. Are we doubting God’s power, or His compassion and His mercy? Do we think that we could possibly have done something that was so evil that even God could not forgive it?
Wouldn’t that be incredible arrogance on our part?
If we live in our past, we will be ignoring our present and eliminating the possibility of having a future. If we are so concerned about our past sins that we continue to focus on them, then we will miss what is happening around us. We will miss the opportunities to bring the mercy and compassion of God that we have received to others. God forgives us out of love, but His love is not just meant for forgiven sinners. He forgives us because He loves others. He knows that there are others we can lead to Him by providing them with Christian compassion and mercy. We can’t do that if we are all wrapped up in our own self pity. We can’t do that if we refuse to recognize that we have received God’s love. That is why I said that if we are bogged down in our past we will miss our present, what is happening around us right now. A lot of people do this. I’ve done this. We say, “I’m not good enough to speak about God to others.” He has made us good enough. He has made us good enough by forgiving us; all so we can proclaim is compassion and love to others.
Have our lives come to an end? Do we have no future? I certainly hope we all have a future, particularly an eternal future. But how can we prepare for our own participation in the Kingdom of God in heaven if we refuse to be active members of this Kingdom right now? We need to recognize the infinite power of God’s forgiveness, the fact that we live under His mercy, and allow this mercy to flow through us to others.
AARP has gotten nowhere with me because I refuse to let them into my life. Sometimes being stubborn is a good thing. But sometimes it is not. It is never a good thing to be stubborn when it comes to our relationship with God. We need to let Him into our lives by acknowledging and accepting His forgiveness. St. Paul told the Galatians and us in today’s second reading, “I live by faith in the Son of God who has loved me and given himself up for me.” St. Paul, quite a sinner in his past life, went on to convert people all over the Western part of the Roman Empire. He did this because he was forgiven.
And so are we.