It’s a fairly common, and fairly enjoyable, thing to mock bad, dull, and/or ineffective preaching at church, but this past Sunday, I had no such complaints. This time, the message, one focused on God’s forgiveness, was a home run, at least for me, blasted right out of the park. For the sake of context, the readings began with Moses talking God out of, apparently, destroying the Israelites and building a new nation from the line of Moses. The second reading came from 1 Timothy, with St. Paul praising the forgiveness, mercy, and grace which God poured out on him. Finally, the Gospel was a parable trifecta, with the lost sheep, the lost coin, and the lost son all serving to show God’s forgiveness and love.
For personal context, I’m someone who really struggles with asking forgiveness. I’m a man of many flaws, so it seems like I should have plenty of practice when it comes to apologizing and asking for forgiveness, but in truth, I have two competing flaws which often make it difficult to approach those I hurt, especially in my relationship with God. First is my pride, which makes it hard to admit I was wrong in the first place. Often times, my pride leads me to excuses or comparisons that allow me to pretend that, even if I made a mistake, it isn’t that bad, or perhaps not even my fault, so forgiveness isn’t really necessary. When I manage to avoid the temptation to pride, however, I seem to swing to the opposite extreme with shame. Now, I’m such an unbelievable screw up that I’m not worthy of forgiveness, so how can I possibly ask them to forgive a broken, worthless pile like me?
I don’t really want to get too distracted by my weaknesses, but I think it’s important that I acknowledge them so that you can hopefully appreciate how beautiful and necessary the words of my parish priest were to me on Sunday. The heart of the message is simple, beautiful, and profound all at once, as the truth so often is. We may grow tired of asking God for forgiveness, but God never gets tired of forgiving us. Now, I know this wasn’t the first time I’ve heard this message, but it felt like it was. It seemed to me that, in that moment, I could see God anxiously waiting, hoping that I would finally, at long last, let Him pour His forgiveness over me again. The blessings kept coming, as my parish offers Confessions throughout the day Sunday, so I was able respond to the call in the moment.
Now, I’m still imperfect and flawed, and just a few days after receiving God’s forgiveness, here I am needing it again. I’m starting to feel, though, like that might be ok. Like everything else in life, I’ll only get better at asking forgiveness by actually doing it, and I know that God will never get tired of welcoming me back.