There is nothing we need to hear about more than the unbelievable mercy and forgiveness of God. I remember what one of my aunts told me on the day I was ordained a priest. She said “Father, life is hard. Go easy on us.” (This was the only time she called me Father.) She was not looking for laxity. Rather, she wanted to be sure I would never forget about the rich mercy and forgiveness offered by God. That I would be sure to remind people over and again that whatever their place in the spiritual life, whether devoted or apathetic or even hostile, everyone needed to be reminded that God was always ready to forgive.
The gospel presents an insight about the place of worship and the love of God and neighbor. Sometimes we get things confused in that we can think that going to Mass is all we need to do. And while it is important to go to Mass, if going to Mass does not impact the way we live our lives and the way we love, then we are not really entering into the Mass. Since the celebration of the Mass is to be central to our lives as Catholics, it is important to note that we are meant, thorough the celebration of Mass, to be transformed more and more into the Body of Christ through our reception of the Body of Christ.
And so when the scribe in today’s gospel says this, “You are right in saying, He is One and there is no other than he. And to love him with all your heart, with all your understanding, with all your strength, and to love your neighbor as yourself is worth more than all burnt offerings and sacrifices.”, he is really offering a great insight about our prayer and worship. If our prayer and worship is not leading us to become more like Jesus in love of God and our neighbor as ourselves, then we are absolutely not entering into the presence and purpose of receiving and becoming the Body of Christ.
Certainly the Mass has inestimable and eternal value. But it achieves its purpose with us when we become the Body of Christ as well. We know that we are not always living as the Body of Christ, and we are not connected to Jesus and the Body of Christ as much as we could be due to our sin. Sometimes our sin makes us feel that we are unredeemable. “Thus says the LORD: Return, O Israel, to the LORD, your God; you have collapsed through your guilt.” But that is not true.
Even though we too say “our god” to the work of our hands, or we defect and turn away from God, with a contrite heart we can always turn back to God. We need to believe it. Say this with me. I am redeemed by Jesus Christ. I am loved by Jesus Christ. I am forgiven by Jesus Christ. Take the time to go to the Sacrament of Confession. There is power in the words we speak when we state our sins. There is power in knowing our sins are forgiven and we are reconciled to the Church. So make an effort to get to confession this Lent. It is important for us to know that we are not beyond the forgiveness of God. Yes, to go may take courage, especially if you have not been in a while. To go to confession may require the humility to admit you need God’s mercy and forgiveness. To go may demonstrate that you need to change, to grow, to love and by loved more fully and completely. But to go to confession means that you are on the way to becoming the person Jesus has made you to be. It is to be the witness to what God’s grace and love can be for other people, too. I am sure at least some of us, maybe many of us, know people that inspire us to live better lives because of the quality of their lives, and our desire to have what they have. So place yourself at God’s mercy. He longs to extend it to you.