Saturday, September 24, 2011

Sunday 26A. "Turn away from sins": God undoes the effects of evil through the healing and new life of forgiving love

"... if he turns from the wickedness he has committed, he does what is right and just, he shall preserve his life; since he has turned away from all the sins that he has committed, he shall surely live, he shall not die."

It takes humility to put God back in the driver's seat. But humility comes only through freedom, the ability to turn ourselves over in trust to another.

The other day I drove my mother to the doctor and, just like most passengers she cannot read my mind and know my thoughts as I make decisions about acceleration and braking. It didn't help her sense of confidence that we passed a couple of accidents along the way. Periodically her hands would go up in simulated self-protection as I braked in a way probably differently than she would have chosen to do had she been driving and had faced a similar situation.

We have all been faced with the challenge of being a passenger. Some of us by becoming, as humorously labeled, "backseat drivers", and called this because we are unable to really turn over the decision-making for the safety and well-being of everyone in the car, including ourselves, to the only one who is really in charge: the man or woman with their hands on the wheel.

This week in Germany we have seen a man, advanced in years, humbly approach a people who are afraid he came into their midst to take away their freedom, their future, their fulfillment. But his humble presence speaks so profoundly of his own sense of freedom and confidence in God that many critics and nay-sayers have not only been silenced but have instead responded with enthusiastic acceptance of him and his message, no longer throwing up their hands in fear that he wants to take over the wheel and reduce their sense of freedom and self-determination.

Who is this simple old man and what is his message? Our German pope, Benedict, who speaks of Jesus Christ and His Church. He has spoken honestly of the way that many people today in fear of God have actually rejected true freedom by seizing the wheel of life's journey away from God in the attempt to control life. Sometimes this need for healing or help, expressed in frustrated attempts at "control" actually takes the form of sin. But we can only accept God and His forgiveness in humility, which is the evidence of authentic freedom, by which we invite God into our lives.

Pope Benedict XVI during his state visit to Germany has also taken on what may be the most daunting and most humbling of all missions: he has used his freedom to spend time visiting people who have been victimized through abuse at the hands of other members of the Church, expressing with whatever compassion he is capable his own wishes and prayers for their healing and peace.

All of us need to seek the healing of the effects of sin, no matter what the sins or whether we ourselves or others may have committed these offenses. In the parable of the two sons, both responded by throwing up their hands in the face of the father. One said "no", at first, and the other said yes but did not mean it. The first son, however, became open to forgiveness and healing humbly changing his "no" into a "yes". To do this he had to go against himself, to change, to humble himself.

True healing comes only through God our Father who sends us out into the vineyard of His world day after day. But our healing God can only truly come into our lives if we let Him, if we give Him permission. This happens through a sincere and regular celebration of the sacramental life and a daily handing over of ourselves to the process of the grace we thus receive, particularly through prayer in freedom before God and in confident assurance that He hears us in love. Humility is needed; the kind of humility that is needed to be a good passenger in a moving car. And the most humbling act is to acknowledge our need for forgiveness.

"The first movement of the prayer of petition is asking forgiveness, like the tax collector in the parable: 'God, be merciful to me a sinner!' It is a prerequisite for righteous and pure prayer. A trusting humility brings us back into the light of communion between the Father and his Son Jesus Christ and with one another, so that 'we receive from him whatever we ask.' Asking forgiveness is the prerequisite for both the Eucharistic liturgy and personal prayer." (CCC 2631)

Let us ask God for the true freedom by which we will welcome Him as Lord and God into our lives, humbly giving Him permission to be in the driver's seat by His forgiveness of our serious sins in confession and then approaching Him in the Eucharist so that the grace of Baptism and of absolution will grow in authentic freedom and love. God's healing will be ours.


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