Sunday, August 28

Homily

August 28, 2022

One of the most freeing things in life is the realization you’re a sinner.

People don’t like to hear about their soft spots, their shadows, the places where they’ve been “less than” and the reality that perfection has more often than not been absent from their lives.

It’s embarrassing. It shatters carefully crafted illusions. It makes us deeply uncomfortable and terribly afraid to be exposed. Yet you and I both, just know it, somewhere deep inside where others don’t get a glimpse we see the spiritual cobwebs, the dust that somehow escaped our vigilant attempts at cleaning, and that funny smell we can never seem to get rid of no matter how much we try.

Some will despair over this, but if understood correctly and in the light of God’s grace this knowledge will set you free. Not free to sin or affirm every dark spot and hidden corner but rather the freedom that comes when you realize, often after much trial and error, that your hope will never be in some kind of self-improvement course or stalwart resolution but rather by casting yourself, as you are, into the see of God’s mercy, His love, and His grace.

The Psalmist says “If you, O Lord, should mark iniquities, who could stand…” and he was as accurate then as now. None of us would be able to give an honest account of ourselves before God if the standard was the infinite holiness of God.

Someone once said “If God were truly just all of us would end up in hell…” and there’s truth to that. But like the end of the verse, I just read there is more and that more makes all the difference.

Yes it says “If you, O Lord, should mark iniquities, who could stand…” but it ends “Yet with You there is forgiveness.”  The darkness inside can, at times, be great but for those who can accept it even greater still is God’s mercy and forgiveness and knowing that is transformative.

No, you don’t play games with God’s mercy and forgiveness, and sin with the idea that you can somehow balance the accounts because God is obligated to show you forgiveness. That’s very dangerous and kill a person body and soul.

But yes, the realization the burdens I’m not able to carry, the darkness I struggle to hide, the dirtiness within, has been taken on by the only One who could, namely God, is the only true, real, and eternal liberation ever available to our species while we live this life. Even in the face of many kinds of human inspired oppression the person who has come to understand that God, in love, has offered to carry every kind of broken humanity on Himself will always and ever be free.

This is magnificent beyond words and beyond the grasp of thought. There is no darkness greater than God’s love. There is no sin that’s God’s mercy can’t overcome. There is no brokenness that can’t be healed by God’s tender care. It doesn’t mean we magically are immune from the trials and tribulations, failures and fallings of our lives in this world, but rather that we have something higher, better, more blessed, and wonderful to carry us through and because of it none of that has any eternal claim on us.

If all of us truly recognized the grace we’ve been given it would break our hearts to sin because we could not bear to be even a little bit away from what God has given us. Sin would seem bizarre, tedious, and foreign to us, the senselessness of a person set free from prison but pining to be returned to jail. Grace, when properly understood, makes holiness pleasant, as Jesus says “a light burden…” and rest for our souls.

This great grace would also inspire us to share it with others, even those who’ve greatly harmed us. It would flow out of us not because what one may have done to us was good or right or pleasant but rather because as grace transforms us to draw closer to the likeness of our Creator it would, like it does for God, naturally flow out to even the most repugnant among us.

In realizing that we ourselves are daily, and sometimes minute by minute, recipients of God’s mercy we could do no less then give that to others as well. What was given to us in our undeserving call out to be shared with the undeserving of others. The sins that God has forgiven in ourselves remind us to be quick to forgive the sins of others. The pattern that God has initiated of offering grace even to those who violently hate Him is presented to us as a pattern for us as well, at home, at work, in life, in our parish. Once given grace ourselves we dare not withhold it from others if given the opportunity to share. Even when we call ourselves or others to accountability the whole effort must be done with the possibility of grace, forgiveness, and restoration in mind.

And the great miracle is this. When this becomes our practice not only is the object of our grace set free but the giver as well. Forgiveness releases both the one who shares and the one who receives. Forgiveness soothes the guilt of the one who injures and the pain of their victim. It is not force or vengeance that tears down the strong fortresses of evil but mercy. It is not retribution which ultimately brings peace but rather the light of mercy that shatters a dark night of the soul.

And in doing and being and sharing all that God in the overflowing of his love, mercy, forgives, and grace, has given us we become recreators of broken world but even more than that we become the children of God.

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