Awhile back a person came to me for confession and said she had not been to confession for a year. Then she said that her sin was anger. That was all she said. I asked her if that was getting better or worse. She said it was the same.
If you went to a doctor and said your arm was hurting he would ask you where the hurt was and suggest you try to describe the pain. Was it a lot of pain or a little bit of pain? How long have you had this pain? He would probably examine your arm and he might suggest you get an x-ray of the arm. The question would be, “What is causing the pain and what to do about it?”
The woman in confession was unwilling to give me any more information. She just wanted absolution and be gone. Is that what God’s forgiveness is all about? How can the divine physician begin the healing process if we are not willing to open our hurting heart and guilty conscience?
Can you and I readily admit that we are sinners and in need of healing? How have we sinned? Do we realize that our sin offends God and not just other people?
I God in Israel’s Sacred Writings
In the Jewish religion God is angered by the way people hurt other people; by the way our sins hurt people…
… listen to Jeremiah the prophet preaching to Israel about how their sinfulness offends God…
Thus says the Lord…Your crimes have prevented these things(God’s blessings),your sins have turned back these blessings from you. For there are among my people criminals; like fowlers they set traps, but it is men they catch. Their houses are as full of treachery as a birdcage is of birds; therefore they grow powerful and rich, fat and sleek. They go their wicked way; justice they do not defend by advancing the claim of the fatherless or judging the cause of the poor. Shall I not punish these things? (Jer 5:25-29)
Who of us can say that we have not hurt people?
But we say it so blithely!
But God knows the truth about us.
But there is another side to God… Jeremiah points to God’s love for us…
God says… Is Ehpraim not my favored son, the child in whom I delight? Often as I threaten him, I still remember him with favor. My heart stirs for him. I must show him mercy, says the Lord. (Jer 31:20)
II Our Sinfulness
We must never make light of our sins as if God’s mercy and forgiveness are cheap. As we approach God’s light we begin to see the truth of darkness.
As we experience healing we begin to see the depth of our sinful infections… the residue of our guilt and the ache of our sinfulness.
As we approach the Truth we begin to recognize our need for honesty in asking for healing.
This need not cause us depressive guilt or paralyzing anguish… because we begin to grasp the depth of our Father’s love and care for us.
Now we begin to recognize the depth of our sinfulness.
Now we begin to understand the forgiveness we experience.
This forgiveness takes time to heal us of our sinfulness. Give time time. Don’t rush it. It is not cheap grace. But it is grace! We begin to see that our world is full of grace.
And… we begin to forgive ourselves… God helps us to forgive ourselves.
III “As we forgive those who trespass against us…”
Sometimes it’s hard to forgive someone… How we think about him or her?
If we image someone as an enemy, a dirty rotten scoundrel, a mean spirited, manipulative, self centered dirt bag –if that’s our image, how will we treat that person?
This reminds me of a story…
A Rabbi once asked his students how they could tell when night had ended and the day was on its way back? “
One Student asked, “Could it be when you could see an animal in the distance and tell whether it is a sheep or a dog?”
“No,” answered the teacher.
Another asked, “Could it be when you can look at a tree in the distance and tell whether it is a fig tree or a peach tree?”
“Well then, what is it,” the pupils demanded.
“It is when you look at the face of any man and woman and see that she or he is your sister and brother, because if you cannot do this, then no matter what time it is, it is still night.”
In the Our Father we address God as “Our Father.” We are all sons and daughters of God. How then can we not forgive others who have caused us pain?
“Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.”
However, forgiveness is not always easy…
See the next Conference, Forgiveness On Our Journey