Wednesday, March 9, 2011

I will not remember your sins - Isaiah 43:25 - The Word of Jesus touches people from all directions

The more I called them, the more they went from me (Hosea 11:1)

When Israel was a child, I loved him, and out of Egypt I called my son. The more I called them, the more they went from me (Hosea 11:1).The entire Bible is replete with hearty calls made by the loving Father. The God of Heaven continues beckoning to his children till they attain heaven their inalienable right. The fasting season of Lent reminds Christians to live a life of compassion with their gaze firmly fixed towards heaven.

In the life of St. Alphonsa, the dear saint of India, there was a simple but interesting experience. One Sunday morning, as usual, a batch of students came to Alphonsa to seek her prayers. The students were stupefied to find the gloriously bright face of the Rev. Sister without its usual luster as if she was in some kind of deep mourning or lamentation. Later they found out the reason for her sadness. The Mother of the Convent had strictly warned the Sister to lie quietly in her bed because of her fragile condition. But when the Mother left, the church bell rang indicating the Holy Mass was about to start.
In her deep piety to the Eucharistic Lord, the Sister forgot for a moment the caution given to her by her Superior. Alphonsa got up from her bed and went close to the windows and stood there turning her ear in the direction of the Church. It was then she recollected the restriction of her Superior. Alphonsa burst into tears and cried with a loud voice. Then she begged forgiveness from her Superior. 

Here, we see the stamp of love that was etched in the spirit of the first Indian Saint. Even a slight mistake resulted in great pain. That pain led her to tears and a confession of her guilt. It is this kind of soulful repentance that kept Alphonsa on the path of sainthood.


Purification is the style of the fasting season. The hope of eternity of any Christian should lead him to the adventure of self purification. The traditional teaching of the Holy Church regarding the Purgatory poses many questions for people. But to the faithful who walk with the Word this gives highly satisfying knowledge and insights.
A husband and wife had a tiff in the morning. The wife was so unhappy with the querulous husband that she wished secretly in her mind that it would be better if he did not come home! But in the evening the husband did return home with a smile on his lips and presents for everyone in the family, including the wife. In this unprecedented exhibition of love, the wifes heart melted and the disturbing memories of the past disappeared like mist in the bright sun. Now she regrets her ill-wish, her malevolence, against the husband. Oh, my God! How could I wish ill for my husband who has been so good! She weeps bitterly for her malevolence. It is this bitter pain that devours her that will sanctify her.
At the recognition of Gods love for him, the soul of the sinner aches. The deeper the recognition, the intenser will be the pain of sanctification. The prayer of St. Augustine, O God, how long it took me to recognize you! has this burning pain stamped on his soul. 
I pray that you may have the power to comprehend, with all the saints, what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, so that you may be filled with all the fullness of God (Eph 3:18-19).  
The fasting and abstinence during this Lenten season teach us to continue in the ways of the love of God, absorbing the possibilities of sanctification that have been thrown open before us through the Word.

Christ justifies all those who publicly own up their sins and the circumstances leading to them. 
Their repentance gives him immense joy and satisfaction. When somebody opens up and owns up his iniquities, nothing is left hidden, or secretive, in him. The spirituality of openness has the backing of an entire human life.
The members of the early Church were entitled to the status of saints just because of their willingness to open up. When these early members assembled for sharing their material possessions, they also owned up their iniquities in the public. The entire group prayed for them and offered penances. When the gathering was dispersed, the members accosted one another as saints.
Those who were sanctified by confession had the conviction that they were pure and holy and they were saints. In one very famous case, I saw a brother who was imprisoned finding peace and solace in the Word and the Sacraments as his iniquities were made public. The one who has been justly punished for his iniquity can dedicate his pain for the salvation of his soul. But the one who is unjustly punished in spite of his innocence can dedicate his pain for the sanctification of the family and the community.
When the charges, right or wrong, against others become the subject matter of heated arguments in or around our homes, let the prayer of Job instill some caution and premonition in us, God, you are watching me even without giving the respite to swallow my saliva!
The philosophy behind Jesus letting the woman caught in adultery go free leans on the theory of sanctification through public knowledge. Let us once again get acquainted with the confessionals with intensified spiritual interest. There, in the secret of the confessional, our iniquities are owned up and our souls unburdened.

Let us remember Zacchaeus perching on the branches of the sycamore and Adam trying to hide his shame with the fig leaves. Jesus calls Zacchaeus down from the twigs and boughs of sin. God releases Adam from the embarrassment of seeking shelter behind the fig leaves.
Jesus transforms lifes banes into blessings and sins into solaces. The adventure of fasting and abstinence consists of accompanying Jesus, relinquishing distracting thoughts about family prestige, luxurious life and even over-anxiety about ones health. The journey with Jesus begins in the narrow path of pains and privations.
From today, let there be the intensity of Zacchaeus repentance and Jesus love in our journey. Let the pilgrimages during the Lent be to Golgotha itself.

I will not remember your sins. Accuse me, let us go to trial; set forth your case, so that you may be proved right (Is 43:25-26).
Jesus Christ is the only God who reminds people that the chairperson of the celebrations in heaven is the repentant sinner. The target of the Word is the soul of the sinner. The Word of Jesus touches people from all directions.
He continues to influence people through timely warnings, through messages of compassion and empathy, through the resonating echoes of the message for repentance and lamentation.

Let this season of abstinence be the harbinger of our entry into the love feast of Christ.

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