Second Sunday, Ordinary Time
Cycle “A” – 2020
At the end of a long business trip, a man was searching for a gift to bring home to his wife. “How about a bottle of perfume?” he asked the clerk. And she showed him a bottle for $150.
“That’s too much,” he replied. So the clerk showed him a smaller bottle for $75. “That’s still quite a bit,” he complained.
Rolling her eyes, the clerk brought out a tiny bottle for $15. Again he shook his head. “What I mean is I’d like to see something REAL CHEAP!” And with that, the clerk handed him a mirror!”
Sometimes it takes us quite a while to recognize the truth. Just look at John the Baptist in the Gospel! He had known his cousin Jesus since birth, and he thought he knew him inside and out. BUT, he didn’t, as he admitted with acute embarrassment in (tonight’s/this morning’s) gospel: “I confess I didn’t recognize him!”… “How could I have missed it? … I just didn’t recognize him!”
Now how could that happen to someone as smart and single-minded as John – Jesus’ own cousin? Easily! He was blinded by what he assumed he knew about Jesus, so he never looked any deeper.
It happens to us all! To avoid drowning in the sea of data that pours into our heads every day, we filter out what we don’t need. And it’s inevitable that sometimes we will also filter out what we DO NEED.
CASE IN POINT:
RECOGNIZING GOD and UNDERSTANDING WHAT GOD IS ALL ABOUT has ALWAYS been a PROBLEM! — And, throughout human history, we human beings have consistently gravitated toward the wrong answer. — We’ve tended to think of God as somewhat dangerous and unpredictable, who needs to be neutralized and bought off with: gifts, prayers and ceremonies. — How many spotless virgins, prime cattle, and innocent lambs have given their lives to placate this version of God? — And how many acres of candles and truckloads of incense have been set aflame to assure good harvests, victory in battle, and favors of all sorts? — WHAT A WASTE OF TIME, LIFE, AND PRIME BEEF!
IF ONLY we’d RECOGNIZE the TRUTH about GOD…….that WE (you and I) – MATTER TO GOD! That GOD’S CHIEF OBSESSION IS OUR WELL BEING! And, that God is our own, very dear FATHER! — FOR EXAMPLE: today John the Baptist identifies Jesus for us as: “the LAMB OF GOD, who takes away the sin of the world.” — In other words, John assures us that Jesus, (God’s self-revelation in human flesh), TAKES GREAT DELIGHT in forgiving our sins, and setting us on the right path whenever we loose our way! — It was for THIS REASON that JESUS CAME.
Now, I’m not going to ask for a show of hands, but, is there ANYONE in this church, (tonight/this morning), (of any age), – who has not had the experience of having to “wrestle with sin” in their life? AND of “loosing the wrestling match”? — The great St. Paul, himself, puts it like this – in the 7th chapter of his Letter to the Romans, “For I do not do the good that I want, but I do the evil I do not want.”
WHAT, then, DO WE DO WITH OUR SINS?
One of the most POPULAR WAYS OF DEALING with SINS, (and I’ve certainly been guilty of it on many more than one occasion) is to “DENY” or try to “RUN AWAY from” our sins! — This tactic “seems” like a good idea; but the TRUTH IS that NOTHING “drags us down” quite so heavily, like a “sack full” of OLD SINS! — No matter how many times we may deny them or how fast we run; they will always “catch up” with us!
Because, EVEN IF no one else KNOWS about our sins; WE DO! — And, the resulting GUILT and SHAME begin to “haunt us,” robbing us of the peace of mind and self-esteem that we all want so very much. (THINK: Shakespeare’s Lady Macbeth, driven to insanity, talking to a bloody spot which only she can see – the ghostly reminder of the murder of her husband; and her attempted cover-up!)
So, “WHAT then ARE WE ‘to do’” with OUR SINS? — In God’s eyes there is ONLY ONE REMEDY!
In today’s Gospel, John the Baptist introduced JESUS CHRIST to the world with these words: “BEHOLD THE LAMB OF GOD, WHO TAKES AWAY THE SINS OF THE WORLD!”
And, THAT, IS the very HEART of the GOSPEL’S GOOD NEWS! … that in the FORGIVENESS offered by GOD, through JESUS CHRIST; our SINS can be OVERCOME and FORGIVEN; and our “SLATES” can be WIPED CLEAN! — BUT, this is not OUR doing; it is GOD’S!
We may try to “rationalize our sins away,” (like Pilate did when he washed his hands of Jesus’ blood) – and we may “convince” others; but we will NEVER convince ourselves; and we will certainly not convince God!
THERE IS ONLY ONE “CURE” FOR SIN – AND THAT IS GOD’S FORGIVENESS!
Which is WHY the Church, (the entire body of baptized believers, through which the Holy Spirit continues the work of Jesus Christ) — offers us the healing SACRAMENT of RECONCILIATION wherein we can confess our sins without pretense or excuse, relying TOTALLY on the MERCY AND FORGIVENESS OF GOD – who is ALL merciful and forgiving!
Throughout the Gospels, Jesus ASSURES US that God’s “greatest joy” comes from FORGIVING OUR SINS and “welcoming us back” when we’ve lost our way; and picking us up and setting us on the right course to happiness and wholeness, once again! BECAUSE, THAT is THE REASON that Jesus came!
So if you’re sick and tired of trying to run away from, or to hide from the sins of your past; then, LET GOD SET YOU FREE! — What better “gift” could we give ourselves in 2020?!