Did you ever get one of those mailing that informs you that you have won something fantastic. In bold letters we are informed that we have won some trip, some wonderful prize, some multimillion dollar jackpot if only we mail back the enclosed form or call the 800 number in the packet. I got one such offer recently. It was a mailing informing me that I had just won a free trip and weeks stay at a luxury resort in the United States. To claim my prize, I had to call an 800 number and agree to show up in person at a resort near my home. I took the time to read the very fine print on the pamphlet which revealed two facts. One fact was that by my visiting their resort, I was guaranteed to win a key chain. The second fact was that the odds of winning a week’s stay were 3 million to 1. It is these kinds of ‘free gifts” that confirms for us that nothing is truly free.
So today when Paul tells us that we have been “blessed with every spiritual blessing” our hearts say – I’ll believe it when I see it. Can we believe the scriptures when they tell us that we lack nothing because of the grace of a loving generous God? We know by looking at our lives that there are times when God seemed silent. Where were the blessings he promised us during those times. But the scriptures are clear about the fact that we will receive not only spiritual blessings but God has “”granted us forgiveness of transgressions according to the richness of his grace.”
We do have to put aside our sense of the penalties for sin and in order come to grips with God’s grace. We have been given a pledge of abundant blessings but we hesitate to accept them because we know we have sinned and deserve something far less than blessings. That kind of thinking leads us to a belief that we can only attain blessings by our piety, by our strict adherence to the law, or by our good works. Those kinds of efforts are stumbling blocks to receiving the free gift of grace that God is offering us.
In the parable of the woman caught in adultery, Jesus challenges our sense of fairness to show us how little we understand the heart of God. In that parable, those who depended on the law to feel righteous were shown it is not about what we did or failed to do that makes us acceptable to God. Jesus by his actions that day forces us to come to grips with the reality that God desires to restore us and not to destroy us.
I do not know about you, but I do know from experience that many people have a hard time understanding that God’s forgiveness is total. When God forgives our sins there is nothing remaining of the sin in the memory of God. There is no residue that needs to be scrubbed off at a later date. There is no stain that remains which contaminates our righteousness. Jesus confirms by his words to that woman waiting to be stoned to death. He shows that what God offers us is real forgiveness. His actions in that parable was a visible expression of what God said through the prophet Jeremiah “… for I will forgive their iniquity, and their sin I will remember no more” (Jer. 31:34).
But we are required to accept this gift and begin show others what grace can do in their lives. We cannot stay silent about this great gift of grace. We cannot just take our freedom from the penalty of sin and become private followers and worshipers of this merciful God. The truth is that God does deserve our outward praise and we should worship him with abandon. But we must know that God does not need our worship or our devotion. God does not have the same needs we have for adoration, praise or undying attention. He is an omnipotent God in perfect unity with the Son and the Spirit. God needs nothing from us but he does desire for us to willingly embrace the gift of salvation offered to us. We do need to allow forgiveness to wash over us like a cleansing spring rain.
Once we understand forgiveness is total we can move from working to attain grace to living in God’s grace. Once we begin to live in God’s grace we will begin to witness the blessings in our lives. It is then that we will begin to help others open up to that same grace. We will become proclaimers of God’s love.
I don’t know if the disciples thought it was going to be easy for them to proclaim the kingdom to others. But if you read the scriptures you soon discover it was not easy; in fact they were often rejected. Jesus in today’s gospel makes it clear that some will not be interested in what we have to offer. Our task is to be bold in sharing the truth of Christ’s life, death and resurrection.
But we do feel inadequate and we shirk from that mission. We are not comfortable with the notion of speaking about Jesus. We are not comfortable with speaking about the grace of his dying and rising. We are not comfortable with depending on the power of the Holy Spirit to transform us from sinners into saints. Why do we hesitate? We hesitate because we fail to believe in the gift we have been given. We do not believe we are endowed with “every spiritual blessing in the heavens” (Eph 1:3).
We can trust the truth of God’s words when he tells us we will be able to speak the things that need to be spoken. We can depend that the Spirit will be continually at work teaching us how to speak the truth in love. We can depend on the fact that we will grow in our ability to listen to God in prayer and to grow in our understanding of the scriptures. We will learn how to continually surrender our will to God and allow God to lead us to the places we must go to share the good news of salvation.