Going to try something new today. I’m going to mention the list of sins in the Gospel and you will raise your hand if you are guilty. Ok, here we go: evil thoughts, greed, theft. No hands. How about just wink at me or smile. Ah ha, I knew it! Don’t look around. We hear the list of sins in a different way when we have to apply them to our life.
Usually other people come to mind when we think about negative stuff. I purposefully did not mention adultery because everybody’s watching and we might not make it out of Church alive. Fact is that we are all guilty of the list to some degree. Sins are like pollution—none of us are willing to admit our participation in damaging our air, but in essence we all contribute. In order to breath in a contaminated world we need God’s grace. God’s grace cannot be earned. Grace is a gift, just because God loves us. For many centuries people did not believe that God loves us. Therefore they were into the “Reward and Punishment” mentality of salvation. They thought that if they followed the law to the letter then a reward was in store. If they disobeyed the law then punishment awaited. Along came Jesus with a totally counter-cultural idea. Since humans have never been able to keep the Covenant, “My Blood is the New Covenant, shed for you and for many.” He paid the price for all sinners because every person needs to be saved. We cannot save ourselves. Jesus turned tradition upside down—because they were traditions that were not essential for salvation. Our Lord touched women; associated with sinners; cured lepers. Over and over Jesus disregarded the law to show that people were more important than tradition. He helped us to better understand the true meaning of sin, forgiveness, mercy.
Folks were worried about outside appearances. Jesus brought importance to what is inside the soul. Touching unclean people meant nothing to Our Lord. The greater sin was not taking care of unclean people, discriminating against them, ignoring them. The majority of us would rather spend time in prayer than feeding the poor. Novenas, rosaries, and Bible study draw many more people than visiting the sick. Change is in the air. We have not even begun to implement the prophetic direction of Vatican II.
Getting lost in ritual is much more attractive and can become a dangerous distraction. We can convince ourselves that we are doing God’s will by washing our hands, washing our cups, washing the jugs. Yet, our attitudes remain unchanged. Until we learn to see the dignity of each person, we will keep our defenses up—that’s why we get greedy, have malice, practice deceit. When we see the presence of Christ in the least among us, no way that we will be unfair. Doesn’t mean that we allow folks to run over us, but that we become more Christ-like. Takes practice. Practice with the person with whom we are most suspicious. Nothing good can happen until pride goes down. Our pride is what keeps us from seeing goodness in ourselves. Yes, we are guilty of the list of sins. However, through the Passion of Jesus we have been acquitted of our sins. Guilt has never been the question. The question is whether we are willing to be forgiven—whether we are willing to allow ourselves to be loved—that is the question. God is always ready to receive us with open arms.
None of us will get to heaven because of our efforts, only through God’s mercy. God does not love us because we are good. We are good because God loves us.