"If we really want to love we must learn how to forgive. People ask me what advice I have for a married couple struggling in their relationship. I always answer: pray and forgive. And to young people from violent homes, I say pray and forgive. And again even to the single mother with no family support: pray and forgive” - Mother Teresa
(Isaiah 1:10, 16-20)
Hear the word of the LORD,
princes of Sodom !
Listen to the instruction of our God,
people of Gomorrah !
Wash yourselves clean!
Put away your misdeeds from before my eyes;
cease doing evil; learn to do good.
Make justice your aim: redress the wronged,
hear the orphan’s plea, defend the widow.
Come now, let us set things right,
says the LORD:
Though your sins be like scarlet,
they may become white as snow;
Though they be crimson red,
they may become white as wool.
If you are willing, and obey,
you shall eat the good things of the land;
But if you refuse and resist,
the sword shall consume you:
for the mouth of the LORD has spoken!
Today’s scripture readings seem to speak of sin, confession and forgiveness. The Lord speaks through Isaiah to the people of Sodom and Gomorrah (two pretty sinful places) telling them, Wash yourselves clean! Though your sins be like scarlet, they may become white as snow; Though they be crimson red, they may become white as wool. The psalmist proclaims, To the upright I will show the saving power of God. And in Matthew, Jesus tells the people, do not follow the example of the scribes and the Pharisees who do not practice what they preach.
There’s a beautiful song out right now called What Love Really Means by J J Heller. It tells the poignant, heart rending story of three broken people crying out to God. Each pleads in the refrain; Who will love me for me? Not for what I have done or what I’ll become. Who will love me for me? Nobody has shown me what love really means.
I think all of us have been somewhere at some time in our lives where we were convinced that no one could love us, not even God. That we had done something that God could not forgive. That we had placed ourselves beyond the reach of God’s love. The Good News is that this is not true. There is no place beyond God’s reach. There is no corner so dark that the light of God cannot shine there. There is no sin that God can’t forgive.
Confession is a painful thing. Having to admit we’ve screwed up or done something wrong. I mean, it’s not like God doesn’t already know, so what’s the point? Isaiah understands the point. I love the images in Isaiah. Though your sins be like scarlet, they may become white as snow. Sin is like dirt, filth and slime. It covers me and, on my own, I just cannot seem to get it off of me. I have this mental picture of God holding a fire hose. When I say I’m sorry to God, I had better be ready, because the sin is going to vanish in the blink of an eye. Things are going to change.
By the by, the song has a joyful ending where God declares His love for each of us. I will love you for you. Not for what you have done or what you’ll become. I will love you for you.
In this season of Lent, here’s something to think about. If God didn’t love you, why did Jesus come to earth? My prayer is for all of us to have a fruitful Lenten season where our relationship with God grows and deepens. Where we recognize just how much God really loves us.