From The Blog

Mission Monthly – February 2005

“God forgives. We must remember this and learn to forgive ourselves.”

Unknown (from a recent reading)

The Scribes and Pharisees fiercely challenged Jesus when He “forgave” the sins of the paralytic(Mark 2:1-12). “Who can forgive sins but God alone?” they asked. In a round about way, as we are told by patristic commentators, this very question is a direct confirmation of Who Jesus is: the Incarnate Son of God. Because of their own spiritual blindness the Scribes and Pharisees did not recognize the Savior; yet without even knowing it, and by the healing which Jesus performs after forgiving the paralytic’s sins, they confirm Jesus to be the very God Whom they refused to recognize.

God forgives! This fact is the basis of salvation, both in the Word which God has spoken and in the action of His Death and Resurrection. We hear many references as to “why” God became incarnate on earth; maybe none more poignant than when the angel spoke to Joseph as he agonized over the discovery that his betrothed was “found to be with child.” The angel said, “Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary your wife, for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit; she will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus [Savior], for he will save his people from their sins” (St. Matthew 1:20-21).

Yes, God’s forgiveness in Christ is complete, unconditional and without question. I have heard it said that God forgives even the sins which in His foreknowledge only He knows that we have yet to commit. This is a great and profound mystery of our life in Christ, one that each of us must be convicted of if we are ever to make progress in our life of repentance. Why do we struggle with repentance? In

St. Peter’s second letter we find an explanation for our own spiritual blindness.“His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence, by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, that through these you may escape from the corruption that is in the world because of passion, and become partakers of the divine nature. For this very reason make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love. For if these things are yours and abound, they keep you from being ineffective or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. For whoever lacks these things is blind and shortsighted and has forgotten that he was cleansed from his old sins (2 Peter 1:3-9).

It’s hard to imagine one “forgetting” that he’s been forgiven. After all, isn’t that what we are all seeking, a relationship with a merciful God? I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve seen Christians or Christianity ridiculed because of people’s perceptions that our God is an “angry” God. God gets blamed for so many tragedies: natural disaster, man’s inhumanity to man, corruption, illness, death… “How can a good and loving God allow that?” Personally I am tired of these kinds of questions which ultimately reveal the ignorance and hardness of heart of the questioner. God allows all things because God is the God of Love and of True Freedom. Man has free will and God is not going to force men to obey Him. Our free will is tainted with the scars and inclinations of original sin; and the creation, fallen because of man’s sin, “groans in travail” (Romans 8:18-26) until all is restored again in the second coming of Christ. Tragedy certainly is not God’s fault, nor is it God’s fault when a man rejects his own higher calling to a life of repentance and virtue.

Any man who desires a relationship with our Good and Merciful God need only do one thing: seek Him! The problem is that there are requirements to this relationship and a man must be willing, essentially, to be forgiven. This man must be willing to walk the narrow way (a way which seems to be getting narrower every day as the world becomes every day more brazen). Are we willing to remember God’s love and forgiveness each time we face temptation? Or is it too easy to forget and self-centeredly enter again into sin and passion?

Beloved, God does forgive us everything. Let us remember this forgiveness not so that we can insensitively go out and sin again, but rather that we accept this forgiveness, forgive ourselves, and be transformed to the glory of our Good, Merciful and Loving God.