The cost of sin.
The reward of love.

Then he turned to the woman and said to Simon, “Do you see this woman? When I entered your house, you did not give me water for my feet, but she has bathed them with her tears and wiped them with her hair. You did not give me a kiss, but she has not ceased kissing my feet since the time I entered. You did not anoint my head with oil, but she anointed my feet with ointment. So I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven because she has shown great love.”

This example of true repentance, of forgiveness, and of reconciliation is so powerful. Jesus’ shows this power today.

Jesus didn’t just happen unto situations. He knew that in going to the house of the Pharisee He would find the Pharisee’s life laid out before Him. He would see what kind of man he was. The situation was heighted when this “sinful” woman, indeed a prostitute, was waiting there to meet Him. Now the Pharisee would be really tested.

We might have different perspectives on this. Was the real problem the Pharisee’s judgmentalism? Was it his lack of hospitality? Was it his lack of love?

At he core of the lesson is one of love. It is exemplified in the dichotomy between the sinful woman’s love and the kind of love the Pharisee exercised.

It was not that the Pharisee was without love – he certainly loved his family and all those who thought and acted like he did. It was that his love was out of tune with the way God exhibits love. The Pharisee, as a teacher of God’s Law, failed to find the connection between the Law and love.

More than this, Jesus took this opportunity to show the fullness of God’s love. His love. Those with Him were amazed. He said to her, “Your sins are forgiven.” The others at table said to themselves, “Who is this who even forgives sins?” But he said to the woman, “Your faith has saved you; go in peace.”

The fullness of God’s love is exhibited in the perfection of His forgiveness. The love that gives full forgiveness, which allows for a God who would sacrifice Himself completely to bring forgiveness to His people, regardless of sin, is real love.

The cost of sin is separateness, distance, loneliness, and heartache. The woman at the Pharisee’s house knew this. She was completely alone but knew there was only one way to find connection to God once more. Jesus gave this woman the perfection of forgiveness only God can offer. It is the perfection found in only the words God can offer: “Your sins are forgiven.” Let us pay attention and realize that in His forgiveness we have the reward of love. Let us faith in His forgiveness.

Getting back to
Eden.

Brothers and sisters: Whoever is in Christ is a new creation: the old things have passed away; behold, new things have come. And all this is from God, who has reconciled us to himself through Christ and given us the ministry of reconciliation, namely, God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting their trespasses against them and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation.

We continue in our Lenten series on getting back to Eden.

St. Paul makes Jesus’ mission to the world explicitly clear for the Corinthians. He came to reconcile the world, to eliminate the old and make all things new. This is the practical application of the parable of the Prodigal Son.

The son had taken all of the gifts his father had given him and had wasted them. The father’s work and savings, a lifetime of achievement had been squandered: he squandered his inheritance on a life of dissipation.

The son returns, somewhat penitent, but still in a way self-serving. He is going back to the father to once again take advantage of his generosity – even if as a slave. Yet the father welcomes and forgives.

God knows our selfishness, our sins, our failings, yet through His Son Jesus, He no longer counts this against us. The old paradigm, the old way of doing things has been destroyed. There is a new way of forgiveness, reconciliation and welcome in spite of our sins. “We must celebrate and rejoice, because your brother was dead and has come to life again; he was lost and has been found.”

How did the sinful son feel? Overwhelmed by his father’s welcome, by the freely given and unconditional love he received, he had to be changed. The selfish motive for returning had been removed by the father’s welcome. The past had been forgotten. No grudge existed. Healing did.

The world of Eden is a world of healing love – sin is completely removed. While we remain in a world marred by sin, we live in the promise of a world without sin. Sin weighs on us not because we expect punishment and retribution, but because God is so very loving. He welcomes us back to the Eden born of His great love. How can we not regret our sin, and pledge to improve our lives, when faced with such a great love?

St. Paul, in reminding us of this great love, tells us that we also have something to give back. We are to become ambassadors of reconciliation, making the promise of Eden known to all we encounter. We are reconciled so we may reconcile.

Total reconciliation with God is not something that exists somewhere in the future. In Jesus, Eden is for today and for all.

Reflection for the Second Sunday of Advent

I can’t believe it!
I guess you didn’t not see it…

A voice of one crying out in the desert: “Prepare the way of the Lord, make straight his paths. Every valley shall be filled and every mountain and hill shall be made low. The winding roads shall be made straight, and the rough ways made smooth, and all flesh shall see the salvation of God.”

If we read the caption above, we note the double negative: “didn’t not.” Writing this, my word-processing program kept pointing to my error.

Word-processing programs are a wonderful invention for someone like me who has terrible spelling skills. Either a red or green underline shows up. Red if the word appears to be misspelled, green if the grammar is incorrect.

Let’s think of John the Baptist as God’s word-processor. He went out to proclaim a wonderful gift, that people could renew their lives if they would only repent, make straight their ways. Salvation was theirs if they would take the steps to correct themselves.

Like my word-processing program, John pointed out serious errors, especially of the so-called “leaders” of the day. He put really big red underlines under all sinfulness.

His call to repentance was just like that of the word-processor. The error is obvious, its been pointed out. But now what? We have to recognize that red underline; we have to see it. Then, we have to take action to fix it. We have to correct the spelling and grammar of our lives, bringing them into alignment with God’s way.

Whenever we hear John’s cry “Prepare the way… make straight the paths… fill-in the valleys… make low the mountains and hills…make the winding roads straight… the rough ways smooth” we also begin to think like construction workers. We laugh, get me a bulldozer and a big crew and we can do it. Construction takes engineering, study, process, and hard work. John wasn’t talking about construction! He was shouting about the engineering, study, process, and hard work we have to do to make our lives right before God.

Let us be dedicated to making our lives straight, smooth, and level; getting rid of the red underlines, living lives based on God’s desires for us. Doing so, we have the guarantee of finding peace, renewal, and seeing His salvation.

The Jewish people were carried away to captivity and spent generations there. When they were freed they didn’t see it coming. We already know Jesus is returning. We do not need to foresee the moment for we know we must prepare. Prepare His way and be ready to rejoice. Stand ready to share in peace and great joy at His Salvation. Come Lord Jesus!