What does God “get out” of forgiving us?

    The past versus the future — the old versus the new.  This “debate” about which is better is part of the political world — the world of Church — and about family life.  Should we return to the “good old days” or should we march full-force into the new world of the future?  

  Well, the past is good!  Everything old does not need to be destroyed or changed.  In our past we find our roots and we recall from where we have come.  In our past are cherished memoires of people, experiences, and lessons learned — we are who we are in a large part because of all that has happened in the past.  BUT, THE PAST CAN BECOME BAD when we stay stuck there or comfortable there.  The past can keep us from going forward and growing.  The past can keep us from BECOMING THE PERSON we were born to be.

    In this weekend’s reading from Isaiah (43:18-19, 21-22, 24b-25), the Lord says:  Remember not the things of the past, the things of long ago consider not; see, I am doing something new!  In other words, we can miss the new that God is doing if our eyes and our heart are looking only to the past.  After all, most of us are quite pleased to be out of the world of wood-burning stoves, horse and buggy — and into the world of the microwave and modern medicine.

      In the past,  we all have memories of things we have done or things we have failed to do.  These things can weigh us down like a ball and chain if we allow them to do so — but the Lord is saying, “this is a new day, a new time” …it is I who wipe out, FOR MY OWN SAKE, your offenses; your sins, I remember not.  Left to our own, we walk in circles.  But with no human merit, God offers divine life, grace. … and freedom to move forward.   

        When we live in the freedom of God’s forgiveness, God receives a powerful man, a freer woman.  When we accept the forgiveness of God we can walk, we can run, we can shout for his sake and the sake of his kingdom.  When we live in a state of un-forgiveness, we live trapped, dis-abled, without power.

       In the Gospel of this weekend, (Mark 2:1-12), Jesus confounded those around him by first forgiving a man of his sins and then freeing him of his paralysis.  By BOTH ACTIONS, this man who was dis-abled became enabled.  By offering such forgiveness, God was doing something new and showing others that they were expected to follow in this same new way of living.  No longer would one have to grovel for forgiveness.  No longer would one have to live under the burden of sin or failure.

        OK: so … if we keep experiencing the same-old, same-old, day in and day out — is it God?  God tells us clearly, he is trying to do something new, HE IS DOING something new.  But, if we are not there to accept it, to feel it, to live it …. then, we live out the old way, the same old, same old.

        Newness is an inner force.  We become new from the inside out.  (Someone once said, “happiness is an inside job.”) 

       We will soon begin the season of Lent … a time to become new, to be re-newed.  To get ready for Wednesday, we can ask ourselves NOW, what is it that we need to let go of … or, in what way am I living an old life, an old lie —- and in what way do I want God to make me new??  If we use the coming days — even with Mardi Gras — to think about what NEW THING GOD WANTS TO DO FOR ME/US, we will come to Ash Wednesday ready to receive from Day One what God wants to give us.

         When we look at the Gospel reading, we can ask ourselves something about our friends and our friendships.  First, true friends bring us to Jesus … like the people who brought the paralytic to Jesus.  If our faith is not a part of a relationship, then perhaps it is time to renew the relationship or to realize it is not a real friendship.  SECOND, true friends help us to get where we need to be … not where they want us to be …in other words, true friends allow us to become ourselves, even if we think a little differently than they think.

        A group of Army Rangers had just finished a tough course of training.  The training officer told them that there was more more goal to be met …. the tired recruits imagined another 10 mile run or a night without sleep …. then the training officer told them: find themselves a Ranger Buddy … someone with whom they would trust their life, someone they knew would cover their backs.  Yep — life has to be lived with others helping us … no matter how tough we are, we cannot do it alone.

      What needs to be made new?  Our attitudes?  Our home-life?  Our friendships?  Our commitment to God and neighbor? 

hjm

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