Sin can make us a better person. Not the sin itself, but in the repentance that comes after it. A part of my daily Lenten meditation is this, “Fast from negatives, feast on encouragement”. Throughout Lent we hear the invitation to, “Return to me with your whole heart”, and assuredly reminded that, “I am gracious and merciful”. Lent is a time to remember that we will only be judged at the end of our time and so we should not be too hasty to condemn ourselves.
“For God sent his Son into the world not to condemn the world, but so that through him the world might be saved”. (Today’s Gospel).
Sin is negative. This negativity will eat away at our spiritual life if we do not embrace the antidote of mercy and forgiveness. When we sin, disappointment, anger and unworthiness break out internally. “There I go again, fallen yet again. I am weak, hopeless and ashamed”. This nature of sin sends us into a tailspin. We are unable to break our fall unless we feast on the encouragement that God is always forgiving. Otherwise, it will leave us in a dark space where we give up and condemn our self.
Forgiveness is this saving grace. It is a grace that opens the door into repentance and saving because it transforms us. When we sin, we feel a need to sit it out, beat ourselves to have a period of punishment. This is because we feel unworthy. We end up in a dark space. But saving grace will always shine light on condemnation. Instinctively unworthiness will turn us away from this light. This is not so much because we cannot accept God’s mercy, it is rather that we cannot forgive our self.
“That though the light has come into the world men have shown they prefer darkness to the light….and indeed, everybody who does wrong hates the light and avoids it”. (Gospel)
We must learn to forgive ourselves. Forgiving ourselves is not trivializing sin, nor to take God’s mercy for granted. It is also not our modern-day loss of the sense of sin. It comes from being repentant; from sincere regret, a holy restraint to try not to do it again and a desire to change. It comes from a true and contrite heart. Forgiveness of self is crucial in the process of repentance. Without forgiveness of self, we cannot fully encounter the mercy and compassion of God that will return us closer to him.
Repentance is not guilt-ladened but life-risen. “God loved us with so much love that he was generous with his mercy: when we were dead through our sins, he brought us life with Christ”. (Second Reading)
Sin has tentacle-like reach. Sin has life, bad life we may call it. It uses guilt to crawl into our inner reaches. When we allow ourselves to remain in a state of unworthiness, when we condemn ourselves, when we cannot forgive our self, sin will continue to act like acid on our spiritual life. To fight this, we must consciously receive God’s immediate forgiveness “because he is gracious and merciful”. Then to extinguish this life of sin crawling in us, God need us to “forgive your self”.
So, let’s do a turn on sin and use it to become better people through repentance.
4th Sunday of Lent
Written with both crispness and gentleness, as ever,
Tony. Thank you.
Thank you Margaret!