Saturday, June 12, 2010

We all need forgiveness

11th Sunday of OT, year C

Today's readings tell us the importance of forgiveness. All of us should see ourselves in the gospel parable. We are all in debt, we have all sinned. It doesn't matter if we see ourselves as the debtor of a huge sum, or a small one: we are all in need of God's mercy, we are all in need of God's grace. All of us have sinned.

Have you ever wondered why it seems like we talk about sin and virtue so often? Why is the moral life so central? At the heart of the very proclamation of the good news comes a moral command: repent and believe in the gospel. Isn't it important just to believe in God? Why does it matter what we do? Why is the moral life important?

If we are honest, we have all asked ourselves these questions. I would answer that the moral life is important for 2 reasons. First, it is the only path to happiness. The moral law is really a gift from God. It is like the instruction manual for the human person. If you want to be happy, do this. Virtue is its own reward and sin is its own punishment. If we are honest, we can recognize this fact. Our sins do not make us happy, they don't satisfy us. Second, the moral life is important because our actions make us who we are.

Before he was elected pope, John Paul II wrote a philosophical book on human action. This book, The Acting Person, is a dense account of the working of human acts. I studied this book when I was first in seminary. I remember it being a very difficult book, but I also remember this profound truth: We are what we are when we do what we do. Think about it for a minute. How does a thief become a thief? By stealing. How does a gossip become a gossip? By gossiping. How does a volunteer become a volunteer? By volunteering. How does a doctor become a doctor? By learning and practicing medicine. You see for either good or ill our actions make us the kind of people we are. Liars, cheaters, thieves, drug dealers, all become so by their sins. Their sins make them these bad things. Doctors, lawyers, volunteers, peace-makers, saints all become so by their good works. So, the kind of people we are depends on the kinds of things we do.

What kind of person are you? If we took a long hard look at ourselves, most of us would see things we don't like, things we are not proud of. Look at Kind David for example. David committed adultery with Bathsheba, and to make matters worse he murdered Uriah, her husband. David the adulterer and murderer. Sometimes I feel bad for David. Could you imagine your worst sins written in the Bible for people to read for the next 3000 years! It makes me shudder. But, there is something more to the story. Have you ever noticed that David is not remembered as an adulterer and murderer? It is certainly true that David committed these horrible things, but that is not how he is remembered. He is remembered as the faithful king of Israel. To him God promised to raise up an heir. We see Jesus as this heir. David is remembered as the predecessor of Jesus. Why isn't David remembered as a sinner? Because he asked for forgiveness, because he repented.

No matter what our sins, we always have the freedom to repent. We always have the freedom to change. In fact, God helps us to change, he helps us to repent. We have within us the power of God that helps us to be holy. This is what St. Paul is talking about. Christ lives within us. If we don't like the people we have become. If find ourselves unhappy and stuck in our sins, we need to turn to God. Like the woman in the gospel, we need to come to Jesus and ask for forgiveness. We get to do this in the sacrament of confession. We are what we are when we do what we do; but, if we don't like who we are or if we don't like what we do, we can call on the help of God.

Today as we receive this holy Eucharist we recognize our sinfulness. We recognize our weakness. Let us ask Christ to make us strong, to help us overcome our sinfulness by relying on his grace and his mercy. For we have all sinned and stand in need of God's mercy, his forgiveness.

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