Sunday, April 15, 2018

Wipe Away Sins

The Irish playwright George Bernard Shaw once said: “The worst sin toward our fellow creatures is not to hate them, but to be indifferent to them: that's the essence of inhumanity.”
Abraham Lincoln said: “To sin by silence when they should protest, makes cowards of men.”
Mark Twain said: “We are all like the moon. We all have a dark side we want no one else to see.”

Pope Francis said, “It is a mortal sin to discard the elderly.”  He also said, “We are all sinners, but God heals us with an abundance of grace, mercy , and tenderness.”

With those quotes about sin in mind, on this third Sunday of Easter all of us sinners need to say with sincerity: “I confess to almighty God and to you my brothers and sisters, that I have greatly sinned, in my thoughts and in my words in what I have done and in what I have failed to do.”

This is our powerful penitential act, the formula of general confession followed by our priest saying: “May almighty God have mercy on us, forgive us our sins, and bring us to everlasting life.” 

Forgive us our sins.  How many of us take this serious confession and absolution to heart?  We all sin and need mercy and forgiveness.

We speak of sin today because that’s a focus our readings and the Gospel.  They speak of sin and remind us that Jesus died for our sins. 

Our second reading from 1 John says Jesus was our “expiation for our sins,” and our Gospel from Luke reads: “…Thus it is written that Christ would suffer and rise from the dead on the third day and that repentance, for the forgiveness of sins, would be preached in his name…”  

Our first reading from Acts tells us to repent and Christ will wipe away our sins.  What does that mean: to have our sins wiped away by Christ?  Even after just experiencing Holy Week, most of us may not be quite sure.  Here’s a story that helps provide that meaning.

One rainy evening a father was driving with his son along one of the main streets of the town.   He took those extra precautions needed when the roads are wet and slippery.

Suddenly his seven-year old son spoke up from his relaxed position in his seat and said, “Dad I’m thinking of something.”

This announcement usually meant he had been contemplating some fact for a while and was now ready to tell what he had discovered.  His father was eager to hear.  What are thinking he asked?

His son began by saying, “The rain is like sins, and the windshield wipers are like God wiping our sins away.”

Very surprised at this comparison, the father answered, “That’s really good.” Then his curiosity broke in.  How far would his little boy take this revelation?  So he asked, “Do you notice how the rain keeps on coming?  What does that tell you?”

His son didn’t hesitate one moment and answered, “We keep on sinning, and God just keeps on forgiving us.  Our sins are wiped away.”

We are all capable of wiping away sins – not just Jesus, not just God.  Jesus gave us the way through his death on the cross when he is believed to have said, “Father, forgive them, they know not what they do.”

Jesus tells us to do the same: “Forgive them,” whether they are a family member, a co-worker, or those who have in some way hurt us.  When we forgive, we absolve them; we take their sins away, and they are unburdened by guilt and shame.  

Of course it’s hard to forgive.  Often it seems just impossible: an unfaithful spouse, a cruel father, an abusive husband, a friend – the list goes on.  But we must try.

Helping us is the prayer we all say at every Mass, at home and on many other occasions:       “Our Father who art in heaven.   Hallowed be thy name.  Thy kingdom come thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.  Give us this day our daily bread – and here it comes – and forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us…”

When we sincerely pray this way and then forgive, we are reminded of today’s Gospel.  Like with his disciples, Jesus stands in our midst and says to us: “Peace be with you.” He might add: “Your forgiving brings peace and wipes away sins. You do this in memory of me.”
On Good Friday Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, they know not what they do.”  Thank you Jesus, but, frankly, we often know what we do.  We’re guilty as sin.

With that said here is an anonymous quote: “We are too Christian really to enjoy sinning, and to fond of sinning really to enjoy Christianity.  Most of us know perfectly well what we ought to do. Our trouble is that we do not want to do it.”  

Temptation is always there.  Perhaps that’s why we end the “Our Father” with “Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.”

Deacon David Pierce

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