Thursday, March 21, 2019

3rd Sunday of Lent Yr C We are sinners and God is mercy

Today I would like to focus on one line of the mass that you hear every time you come to mass. It is the prayer at the consecration, where the priest holds up the chalice and says, ‘This is the cup of my blood, it will be shed for you and for all, so that sins may be forgiven.’ This phrase always strikes me when I pray the mass. It sums up what the whole mass is about; the forgiveness of sins. When we come to the mass we become present to the sacrifice at Calvary. Time stands still and we are there. It is the most perfect prayer and the most powerful prayer because in it, God the Son (Jesus), is offered to God the Father. And the Father can not refuse this offering. That is why it is so powerful and that is why we remember so many people in each mass. It is an offering that cannot be refused. The whole purpose of this sacrifice is so that sins may be forgiven, so that everything we’ve ever done wrong can be paid for, so that it won’t be held against us. Otherwise we could not go to heaven when we die.

You know how we often wonder if our prayers are being heard? ‘Does God listen when I pray?’ The Lord assures us that He does, but the mass is the one prayer we are absolutely guaranteed is heard and answered and it is all done so that our sins may be forgiven.

There is another side to this as well. It is wonderful that our sins are forgiven, but it presupposes one thing: that we acknowledge that we are sinners and that we ask forgiveness from God. That’s what repentance is: acknowledging that we have sinned and turning to God. Today there is a tendency to act as if sin doesn’t exist anymore. We have lost a sense of sin. People have often said to me, ‘But Father I have no sins’, ‘I don’t sin’, or in confession people will tell me that they are really a good person and they never do wrong to anyone. If we have no sins, then the mass is meaningless, there is no purpose to God coming among us in the person of Jesus; the crucifixion and death of Jesus is meaningless and there was no purpose to all his work, or to the work of the Apostles. It is the Lord himself who assures us that we have sinned. St. John the Apostle says in one of his letters: ‘If we say that we have not sinned, then we call God a liar.’ Strong language! That is why every year we have this whole season of Lent to remind us of the need to repent and ask forgiveness. It is a big mistake to deny our sinfulness, because in doing so we are telling God that He is wrong and He is lying.

To say that we are sinners doesn’t mean that we are bad, or evil people. It simply acknowledges that we are weak, that we have a tendency to do the wrong thing, even when we know we shouldn’t. It says in the book of Proverbs (24:16), ‘The just man falls seven times [a day]’. That is a biblical way of saying that we sin continually.  St. Paul complains in one of his letters, ‘I do not understand my own behavior; I do not act as I mean to, but I do things that I hate ...the good thing I want to do, I never do; the evil thing which I do not want—that is what I do’ (Cf. Rom 7:14-24).

The mercy of God is there for us if only we would turn to it. So many of the teachings of Jesus were about repentance and God’s mercy: the prodigal son, the lost sheep, the lost coin. He is telling us that God is not interested in our sins, but in our returning to him. Our difficulty is that our pride can tell us that we don’t need to confess, that we’re OK as we are. Satan does his best to convince us of this too, because he wants to keep us as far from God as possible. He knows that we will be forgiven every time we turn to God and he doesn’t want that.

Every once in a while, it’s good to remind ourselves what we are doing and why. I find that I need to do it for myself a lot, because it’s easy to forget. I am a sinner, but my freedom is found in God’s mercy. To acknowledge our need for God keeps the balance right. We are sinners, but Jesus is merciful.

This is the chalice of my blood, [which] will be shed for you and for all, for the forgiveness of sins.’



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