REPENTANCE AND FORGIVENESS: THE PROOFS OF GENUINE LOVE!
First Reading: Exodus 32:7-11, 13-14; Second Reading: 1 Timothy 1:12-17; Gospel: Luke 15:1-32
Our God is a merciful, compassionate and loving father. He demonstrates His unfathomable, unquantifiable as well as unconditional love for humanity through the forgiveness of her sins in order to salvage her soul for eternal death. And then, “He does not deal with us according to our sins, nor repay us according to our iniquities” (Psalm 103:10), neither does He waits to see if we merit or deserve His forgiveness, rather His forgiveness is without condition, which is a proof of His genuine love for us.
St. Paul affirms this while addressing the Romans: “But God proves His love for us, in that while we were still sinners Christ died for us. Much more surely then, now that we have been justified by His blood, we will be saved through Him from the wrath of God” (Romans 5:8-9).
Meanwhile, in the first reading, we see how God, who had wanted to destroy the Israelites due to their grievous sins, suddenly changes His mind from doing so. Of course, He relented because of the powerful intercessory prayers of Moses on behalf of the Israelites: “So, the Lord repented of the evil which He planned to do to His people” (Exodus 32:14). This shows that, God can still forgive us no matter the gravity of our sins if we humbly and sincerely ask Him for forgiveness (2 Chronicles 7:14).
In today’s Gospel reading, Jesus Christ narrates three parables: First, the lost sheep: A man who has hundred sheep, leaves the ninety-nine in the wilderness, and goes after the one which is lost. Second, the lost coin: A woman, having ten silver coins, yet lights a lamp and sweeps the house diligently in search of the lost coin until she finds it. Third, the prodigal son: A boy who forced his father to divide and give him the share of his own inheritance. Consequently, he went away, squandered everything and began to suffer.
At some point, the prodigal son came to his senses and decided to retrace his steps to his father’s house, and to ask his father for forgiveness and mercy: “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you; I am no longer worthy to be called your son; treat me as one of your hired servants” (Luke 15:21). This is the model of true repentance and conversion.
Moreover, these parables speak of the intrinsic nature of our God as a compassionate and merciful father. They also portray His unfathomable, unquantifiable and unconditional love for humanity. No one in his right mind would be careless enough to leave ninety-nine sheep in the wilderness to go in search of only one lost sheep. Or wastes her time searching for one coin whereas she still has nine coins intact; or a father who begins to search for a son who unequivocally, decided to part ways with him after collecting his own share of inheritance; or longs to welcome back the same son who had squandered his own inheritance in a life of debauchery. Only God would do such a thing, or someone that is filled with the Holy Spirit.
Certainly, the Almighty God is always concerned when someone strays from His love. He searches for that lost soul until He finds him or her. This shows the inestimable value of a single soul in the sight of God. As a matter of fact, every human soul is so valuable, and God is ever ready to risk everything to save that soul. He would stop at nothing to bring sinners back to repentance and salvation.
However, we should always make conscious effort to reconcile (Confessions) with God whenever we have sinned against Him. For God is always ready to welcome us back when we decide to return (1 John 1:9). He rejoices and celebrates the return of His prodigal children. On the other hand, we should be ever ready to forgive those who have offended us if we must receive forgiveness from God (Matthew 6:14-15); and to always reconcile with our fellow human beings, and also ask for forgiveness whenever we offend them (James 5:16).
Unfortunately, the Pharisees who see themselves as “holy people” could not understand why Jesus Christ would always go extra mile to wine and dine with tax collectors and sinners. But Jesus Christ gives them today’s parables in order to show them how precious the souls of sinners are to God. Often times, we behave like these sanctimonious Pharisees who specialize in stigmatizing sinners and consigning them to hell fire. Always criticizing anyone, especially religious leaders, who they perceive to be associating with sinners for whatever reason.
In the second reading, St. Paul extols God’s unfathomable, unquantifiable and unconditional love for humanity, and also the unmerited favour and mercy he received from Him despite his unworthiness. He says: “Here is a saying that you can rely on and nobody should doubt: that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners. I myself am the greatest of them; and if mercy has been shown to me, it is because Jesus Christ meant to make me the leading example of His inexhaustible patience for all the other people who were later to trust in Him for eternal life (1 Timothy 1:15-16).
Finally, God loves everyone unconditionally, and He is ever ready to risk everything to save a soul that goes astray, because every human soul is so precious to Him. For there is joy before the Angels of God in Heaven over one sinner who repents (Luke 15:10). Therefore, since God does not treat us according to our sins, we must be prepared to follow the footsteps of Jesus Christ by bearing with sinners, praying for them always, and not be quick to write them off.
Furthermore, we should not become modern-day Pharisees in our Churches who are always impatient with sinners, or always drawing illogical conclusions whenever we see some religious leaders with sinners. For if God should mark our iniquities, who could stand (Psalm 130:3)?
May the Holy Spirit of God grant you the grace to always repent from your sins, show love and compassion to sinners, and forgive those who have offended you, through Jesus Christ our Lord, Amen.
Peace of Christ be with you…
Rev. Fr. Ben Okala, C.S.Sp.