1 Maccabees 6:1-13
"God is not God of the dead but of the living, for God, all are alive." Luke 20:39
The first reading for today’s Mass is a recounting of the final days of an evil ruler. After some terrible decisions that cost him the lives of his people and the loss of his power, he falls into a deep depression because he recognizes his self-deception: "Yet, I was kindly and beloved in my rule" he rationalizes. But then he has to acknowledge his own evil ways, which he tells us about in the reading.
I am reminded of a catechetical film produced by the Franciscans community back in the Seventies. A business man had drinks at a business lunch. He hits a little girl on a bike on his way back to the office, causing major injuries. The police determine that he was not legally intoxicated. Yet, he feels guilty and is unable to sleep and goes to counseling. After telling the counselor his story, he concludes by saying that he is not guilty of any wrongdoing because the law absolved him. The counselor responds: "then legally, you should be able to sleep."
Both examples show us how difficult it is for us to acknowledge our personal role in wrongdoing, in committing sin. For many of us, it is much easier to admit to personal failings than to sins that deeply offend, dehumanize and demean the other.
Our society has taken to publicly acknowledging making bad judgments without accepting blame for the decisions we make. It is difficult for us to acknowledge making wrongful decisions for which we have to make restitution. We tend to blame outside circumstances for making a bad judgment, such as, "we were tired, we were overexcited, we were in the wrong place at the wrong time." We seldom hear direct acknowledgement of being responsible for our wrongdoing. "I knew what I was doing, I knew that I was wrong and I did it anyway." Yet, if we are completely honest with ourselves, especially when we are alone with our God, then we are most likely to acknowledge our sinfulness and our sin.
Awareness and acknowledgement are the first steps to forgiveness, reconciliation, and conversion. Our God is not a God of one strike, two strikes and three strikes and then you are out. Our God gives us a lifetime of chances to get it right.
God is no fool. God knows the difference between contrition and pretense. Our God asks us to reflect upon the serious damage that sin causes us in the inside and outside of us; within our person and to the people our sin has hurt. We may rationalize that we did nothing wrong, that others were more to blame than myself, but God and our guilt does not let us get away with that. For our God is a God of all creation, for all ages and for all peoples. Our God is the God of the living. And sin is the doorway into death.
I conclude with the words of our Entrance antiphon taken from Psalm 12:6. "Lord, your mercy is my hope, my heart rejoices in your saving power. I will sing to the Lord for his goodness to me."
Fr. Clemente Barron, C.P. is a member of the General Council of the Passionist Congregation and is stationed in Rome.