St. Michael's Parish - Cobourg

God Forgives and Forgets

 

God Forgives and Forgets                                                                   -Homily March 13, 2016 

 

Today’s readings point to a beautiful aspect of the mercy of God: he does not remember our sins when he forgives. If we repent, he forgives. If we leave sin behind, he leaves our sins behind too. He forgets: he does not care about what we did in the past. He is happy that we come back to him, and no matter how much or how many times we have offended him, every time we come back we can start from scratch, and he will love us as if it were the first time.

 

Not only that. When we truly repent, and when we try to come back to him fervently and with sincere love, he does remember the good things we did in the past. He forgets the evil, not the good. In that sense, when he forgives us we do not start from scratch. It depends on how sorry you are, on how much you want to love him from now on. Some people are sorry, but just enough to make do: it is like to begin again the path. Other people are truly sorry, and would really like to make up for what they did, and to love God as before, to have with God the friendship they had before sin: they start from the same point they were before sin.            And sometimes, something wonderful happens: the person who comes back to God is so sorry, so willing to repair what he or she did, so willing to show God with all his strength that he would rather die before offending him again, that this person, after confession, comes out better than he or she was before sin. The mercy of God is a wonderful miracle. God does not only give the grace of forgiveness; he not only forgets, but he also bestows more graces than we deserve. He bestows graces we do not deserve, he gives graces to those who would deserve punishment. He treats us well after we have treated him badly. He kisses us after we have offended him. There is no God like our God.

 

Nothing can separate us from his love. And less than anything, our past sins. If you have killed Christians, you can still be the greatest Apostle of the nations, like St. Paul (cf. 1Tim 1:12-16). If you have committed adultery, he may say to you “Neither do I condemn you, go on your way, sin no more” (cf. John 8:1-11). If you have denied him three times, you could be the next Pope: like it happened to Peter, Jesus will just ask you if you love him again (cf. Luke 22:34.54ff; John 21:15ff). If you have cheated many people, if you have been corrupt, he may raise his eyes to you and say: “Zaccheus, come down, today I will have supper with you” (cf. Luke 19:1-10).  If you have been a tax collector, he may ask you to write the Gospel for him (cf. Matthew 9:9). If you have been a sinner, he may want to have a meal and even a drink with you (cf. Matthew 9:9ff). If you have been a prostitute you may go ahead of the chief priests and the princes into the kingdom of Heaven (cf. Matthew 21:28-32), or he may allow you to pour perfume on his feet and forgive all your sins (cf. Luke 7:36ff). If you have been a thief or a criminal, he may say to you also: “Today you will be with me in Paradise” (cf. Luke 23:39-43). There is no sin God cannot forgive, there is no sin that can close the door of his mercy. Only one sin: not to allow God to forgive us. If we repent and confess our sins, God always forgives. He died for the forgiveness of our sins: what else has he to do to show us his willingness to forgive?

 

I remember a beautiful story that they used to tell us when speaking about the mercy of God. There was a man who always committed the same sin, and he went to confession time and again and always repeated the same sin. The priest told him once: “if you come back again with this sin, I will not be able to give you absolution” (sometimes it may happen that the priest cannot give the absolution). But the man was truly sorry, and even more sorry to hear those words. He fell again, and he went again to confession in tears, and the priest said to him: “As I told you last time, I will not be able today to give you absolution.” The man was melting in sorrow, and about to leave the confessional in despair, when a voice from the crucifix said to the priest: “You did not give your blood for the forgiveness of his sins.” And detaching his right hand from the cross, Jesus said to the man: “I absolve you from your sins, in the name of the Father, and mine, and of the Holy Spirit.” Poor priest! He had no idea how patient the Lord is. If you are sorry and want to change, God always forgives. May the Lord give us great confidence in his mercy.  –Fr. Andrew