There are some pretty heartbreaking things going on in today’s readings. The Israelites turn away from God and worship false gods, David sins with Bathsheba and has her husband killed, Paul relates once again his culpability as a persecutor of the followers of Jesus, and finally, the prodigal son, after a life of dissipation and debauchery, comes home to be forgiven.
Forgiven. This idea of God’s mercy is the heart of today’s readings, not sin.
We have been set up in several ways to recognize what displeases God, how we can reject him, and what we do to others that is worthy of shame. In fact, if we didn’t have the other parts of the Mass in between these messages, we might leave this Sunday’s celebration rather cast down by all the bad things that we can do and have done in the past.
Those of us who pray the Liturgy of the Hours daily will recognize today’s Psalm 51 (or 50 in the old enumeration) which we read every Friday at Morning Prayer. The antiphon is You alone have I grieved by my sin; have mercy on me, O Lord.
In this psalm David recognizes his guilt for his adultery with Bathsheba and the setting up of her husband to be killed in battle. He admits his guilt, admits that it is always with him, acknowledges before God his faults, asks God for forgiveness, and promises to proclaim God’s goodness and declare God’s praise as a sinner who has begged for mercy and been redeemed.
Look again at these readings. Each one speaks of something precious that has been lost through accident or deliberate actions: the sheep, the drachma, chastity, a life of service and work for others, self-respect. Something precious that is gone and that should be retrieved.
Scientists are now studying whether a sense of goodness, or conscience, or altruism is hard-wired into us or is something we learn from our parents and society. It will be interesting to know, but in fact, we don’t really need to know where this sense of the right thing to do comes from, do we? We know immediately and intrinsically the difference between right and wrong. And even though Paul says his misdeeds grew out of ignorance in today’s reading, we know that his transgressions against the early Christians troubled him greatly, or his conversion would not have been so complete.
So I suppose we don’t really need the Ten Commandments, or sermons, or homilies to show us the right path, because the moment we step off it, we know in our hearts that we are have lost our way.
But the greater message of the readings from today is more than just having us see that everybody, even David, is capable of sin. The greater message is that there is no sin that cannot be forgiven by God.
There is no sin we commit that God will not forgive. If only we confess the sin and ask for forgiveness.
Confess to God and ask his forgiveness.
“…there will be rejoicing among the angels of God over one sinner who repents.”
Let us pray. Lord we know there are times we have rejected the good and gone after the bad, whether by thoughts, words, or deeds. Help us on the right path and help us to ask forgiveness when we mis-step. And as Jeremiah tells us, “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future,” then let us rest in your loving kindness.