February 19, 2012 - Seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time

Today's Readings

God says that he is tired of us. “You burdened me with your sins and wearied me with your crimes.” How should we understand this statement since God, who is all-powerful, cannot actually be wearied. One way of understanding this verse is to apply it to Christ. Even though this reading was written centuries before Christ, it is a prophecy and therefore we can understand it as applying to Christ who by carrying the Cross for our sins actually was burdened with our sins and wearied with our crimes.

However, we also can understand it of God in the divine nature. What wearies us more than futile labor? A man is not wearied of digging if he finds the treasure he is seeking. The teacher is not wearied by hours of work if the students are learning. The parent is not wearied by their teenage children who obey them. But digging a hole and finding nothing, and teaching the same point over and over again, and seeing your children make the same foolish mistakes over and over again is very tiring.

God is wearied and burdened because we his children are very frustrating. He tries to make things easy for us, but we make them hard for ourselves. He created us to announce his praise, but we ignore him. He tells us exactly what we need to do to be happy, and we try to find happiness anywhere else.

So God, who still is not giving up on us, begins again. He wipes out our offenses. He forgets our sins. He gives us a second chance and the third chance and a 576 millionth chance. He does not want us to fail; he wants us to succeed. He is not trying to make us into something monstrous. He is not trying to convince us to be something boring. Everything he does is to make us into exactly what we want to be. We might not even know what we want, but he does.

Is real forgiveness possible in this world? Is it possible to have our sins wiped away and forgotten, as if we had never sinned? Not superficially. On the surface of things, people remember. Our debt remains; our shame remains; the consequences of our choices remain. We can never go back to that fork in the road and take the other path. But this is just the surface of things. In reality it does not matter what the other people think or what they remember about us. Even the consequences of our actions, the life situation that we have ended up in for good or ill, partially through luck and partially by our own fault, is not that important. Only one thing really matters, has God forgiven us?

Because if God has forgiven us, and he no longer remembers our sin, then it really is as if we had never done it. The forgiveness of God has the power to change history. After forgiveness our sin only remains inasmuch as we love God more for having forgiven us. Once God has forgiven us, what does shame matter? It does not. Once God has forgiven us, what do we care if people judge us? We do not.

When the Pharisees today see Jesus forgive the sins of the paralyzed child, they doubt his ability and authority. Fine, but when he proves his ability and authority by healing the child, they ought to have run right up to him and said: “Me next! Forgive me!”

There is one who is not pleased by the possibility of forgiveness. That one is he who refuses to be forgiven, Satan himself. When we sin, he uses his every ability to prevent us from being forgiven. Fear, shame, and excuses are all used to try and separate us from the love of God.

When we have sinned, we become afraid of God. This is the devil trying to keep us sick by making us afraid of the cure. The solution is love. We cannot really be afraid of someone we love and who we know loves us. God loves us. He loves us more than we can imagine, more than anyone else has ever loved us, and more than we have ever loved anyone in this world. What could we possibly be afraid of?

When we have sinned, we become ashamed of what we have done and unwilling to admit it. This is the devil trying to keep us injured by making us hide our injury. The solution is humility. We would not be ashamed to admit weakness unless we wanted people to think that we were perfect.

When we have sinned, we begin to make excuses. This is the devil trying to keep us unhappy by lying to us about where happiness can be found. The solution is trust. Who are we going to trust has the key to happiness? If we can trust that God's plan for us will make us happy and if we can trust that God has given us the church to reveal his plan for us, then we will not be fooled by any thoughts we have and excuses we come up with for why we can find happiness in sin. Left to our own devices, we will come to crazy conclusions about what is sin and what is not. If we trust that there is someone wiser than us who is looking out for us, we will not believe the lies.

However many promises God has made us, there is a yes revealed in Jesus Christ. Will he forgive our sins? Yes. Will he make us the person we wish we were? Yes. Does he have a place prepared for us where we will be happy forever? Yes. God makes extravagant promises, but he is fully capable of fulfilling every one of them, and he has fulfilled them in Jesus Christ.

In Jesus, there is a yes to everything we have ever wanted. Perhaps when you were a little child you wanted a particular toy, and when you grew older that toy changed every year, and now what you want more than anything else has a different shape from that toy, but really what you wanted never changed. You wanted to be happy, and you still want to be happy. Whether you want a new car or to win the lottery or a happy family, you really just want to be happy. And Jesus is saying yes.

God has made promises, and he will fulfill those promises. He already has begun to fulfill his promises. He has given us the Holy Spirit to dwell in our hearts, and no matter where we are or what we are going through, the Holy Spirit has the power to make us happy.

You and I have sinned. You and I have sins in our past and in our present. God is tired of us. He is tired of waiting for us to change, but that does not mean that he is going to give up on us. He is going to keep trying. Let us, you and I, do God this favor and let him make us happy.