Godís forgiveness

  1. In the Book of Exodus, Yahweh tells Moses that Godís people have shown themselves to be "depraved" and "stiff-necked." God is ready to give up on them. Moses begs God to be more patient. "So the Lord relented in the punishment he had threatened to inflict on his people."
     
  2. In the second reading, Paul admits that he had been "a blasphemer, and a persecutor and arrogant." He adds, "I acted out of ignorance." He then rejoices that "Jesus Christ came into the world to save sinners."
     
  3. The gospel provides three parables about Godís mercy: a, the Good Shepherd seeks out the one lost sheep even though 99 are safe; b, the woman of the house searches for the one lost coin even though she has in her hand nine other coins; the father of the Prodigal Son rejoices over his son who found his way home to his Fatherís house, and humbly asks to rejoin his father.

The Old and New Testaments, and the lives of the saints are full of stories of flesh and blood people who had sinned significantly, then converted back to God and his ways. In heaven there will be reformed murderers, thieves, drunkards, liars, womanizers, gamblers, and other converted sinners. Moses had killed an Egyptian. Lot became drunk. David lusted after a woman, slept with her, and had her husband killed. In the New Testament, Peter denied three times that he ever knew Jesus. Paul persecuted the followers of Jesus. Mary Magdalene was alleged to have been a public sinner. Among the saints, Bl. Matt Talbot, a 19th century Irishman, had been an alcoholic for a dozen years. St. Camillus de Lellis, a 17th century Italian, had an addiction to gambling. St. Margaret of Cortona, in the 13th century, had cohabitated with a man publicly and proudly without having been married to him. St. Augustine lived with one woman for eleven years, had a son with him, never married, and sent her home to North Africa, then had a second woman move in with him for another year before he sent her away too. By the grace of God, by the forgiveness of God, these persons have become Christian heroes and heroines. Why? Because they changed their lives for God, for good. They all expressed shame and sorrow at their sins, and as the first reading says, "so the Lord relented in the punishment he had threatened to inflict on them."

What does this mean for us? Have we sinned? Yes, and probably not as gravely as these saintly persons have sinned. But Our Lord waits for our conversion, for our turning-back to him. Wouldnít it be wonderful to hear Jesus says in the gospel today: "We must celebrate and rejoice, because this brother/sister was dead and has come back to life; he/she was lost and has been found." The Lord relents in his punishments. All he wants is for us to admit our sins, confess our sins in the sacrament of confession, receive Jesusí forgiveness for our sins, try our best to avoid the occasions and actuations of sin, and by the grace-filled mercy of God to come back to Our Lord. Why? To praise God, to do greater good than we had done before for others, and to become our best selves. That is why God relents in his punishment. That is why God forgives us.

Read other homilies by Father O'Malley