By Fr. Roy Cimagala
ON the memorial of St. Mary Magdalene on July 22, we are somehow reminded that God’s mercy is more powerful than our sins, no matter how grave our sins are. We are reminded of what St. Paul said in this regard: “Where sin abounded, grace did more abound.” (Rom 5,20)
It’s a consoling truth of our faith that is worth keeping in mind always, given the fact that we cannot avoid falling into sin one way or another. St. John in his first letter told us of this predicament in our life: “If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us.” (1,8)
Our sinfulness, defects and errors should not separate us from God. If anything at all, they should bring us closer to him, assured that God’s mercy will never be lacking.
These two realities about our sinfulness and God’s mercy always should go together. We should always strengthen our conviction about the helpful relationship these two should have with each other in our life.
Whenever we feel the sting of our weaknesses and sinfulness, together with their antecedents and consequences, their causes and effects, let’s never forget to consider also God’s mercy that is always given to us, and, in fact, given to us abundantly.
What we have to avoid is to get stuck with one while ignoring the other. Our sinfulness should be viewed in the context of divine mercy. And vice-versa: God’s mercy should be regarded in the context of our unavoidable sinfulness.
And from there, let us develop the unshakable conviction that no matter what sins we commit, no matter how ugly they are, there is always hope. God’s mercy can take on anything.
Let’s always remember that Christ came not to condemn but to save. And what causes him great joy is when we return to him repentant. Besides, Christ shows us also how to handle the suffering and death that are the unavoidable consequences of our sins, converting them into a means of our purification and eventual salvation.
Let’s strengthen our conviction that Christ has a special attraction to sinners, that he is ever willing to forgive us as long as we show some signs of repentance that he himself, through his grace, will stir in us.
Let’s play the part of Peter who, after denying Christ three times, realized his mistake and wept bitterly in repentance. Christ looked kindly on him and forgave him and even made him the prince of the apostles.
Let’s avoid playing the part of Cain and Judas who, after committing their crimes, ran away instead of going back to God repentant. Of course, in saying this, I am not at all judging that they are in hell. That judgment belongs to God alone.
Let us also hope that God’s mercy would rub off on us too. We have to learn to be forgiving, because Christ clearly told us that it is when we forgive others that we ourselves can also be forgiven.
“If you will forgive men their offences, your heavenly Father will forgive you also your offences. But if you will not forgive men, neither will your Father forgive you your offences.” (Mt 6,14-15)
We have to be clear that his injunction is meant for everyone, and not only for a few whom we may consider to be religiously inclined. That’s why when asked how many times we should forgive, he said not only seven times, but seventy times seven, meaning always.