A Cycle – Easter Sunday 23
The day after his crucifixion Jesus’s disciples were in hiding, confused, frightened and without direction. The question on their minds was what had just happened to the one they called Master and Lord. We know from the scriptures they were often confused but as long as they had Jesus with them, they believed one day their confusion would be resolved. His crucifixion and death were not what they expected, although He had told them how He would suffer and die.
If we were honest with ourselves, we would admit we also do not fully comprehend how salvation works. If we did, we would not feel like we had to do something to make amends for our sins and we would feel forgiven as we receive the sacrament of reconciliation. Yet, we live with this feeling that we have failed to live up to the standard required of us.
We easily say our sins are forgiven because of the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross. But that does not mean we feel forgiven, for if we did, we would not feel as if we needed to do something to earn our way back into the grace of God. Our reaction to our sin is exactly the reaction of the prodigal son as He begins his journey back to his father. He wanted only to be “a slave in his fathers house.” Not a son who has his father’s approval or knows how much his father is delighted in how he lives his life. No, he just wanted to be a slave. A slave has no voice, no authority, no position of honor for a slave must remain silent and only respond to the commands of his master. Failure to be precise in what was required of a slave would result in punishment and expulsion from the master’s presence.
When Jesus told this parable it shook the belief structure of those listening. The son’s sin was so grievous the law demanded he be stoned to death. There was nothing in their understanding of sin that would allow this son to go unpunished, not to mention totally restored without punishment. That he was not punished is equally hard for us to understand for we believe sin must be punished. Yet the father not only forgives him he restores him.
As we celebrate the resurrection of Jesus, we must come to grips with our failure to understand how forgiveness works. This day was foretold by God by all the prophets and yet what it accomplished for us does not seem possible. Forgiveness from the penalty of our sin, by the death of Jesus takes us beyond our understanding or comprehension. It challenges our belief God’s promise made thousands of years before Jesus.
It takes us back into every story in the scriptures that reveals God’s desire is to have us embrace Him. Embrace Him the way a child embraces a parent. A jump in the lap, arms wrapped around His neck, and squeezing tightly because we love Him. There is only one way to get to that kind of relationship with God and this is to acknowledge Jesus died for my sins. He did it for me, not the world, not the country, not the city, not the parish but for every individual He knows by name. We must embrace forgiveness and invite the Holy Spirit to equip us with all we need to be holy men and women of God.
We need our own encounter with the risen Lord if we are ever going to move beyond the practice of our faith to living our faith.
Following Jesus is much harder than following the law for the law is clear, finite, and understandable. Following Jesus requires trust and dependency on the Holy Spirit working within us to change how we respond to God’s mercy and our sinfulness. We become new creations in Christ capable of bringing the resurrection story to others who are still struggling with their confusion because they do not feel forgiveness.
It begins with us desiring an encounter with Christ that goes beyond our current experiences. He is alive and desires to show us the Father’s heart and mercy. That requires us to say as Mary said, “let it be done to me according to your word.” Surrender of our will to God by standing in front of Him with all our sins and saying as the woman at the well said, “give me this living water.”
Over the next fifty days, I invite you to do what the disciples did and that was to wrestle with their confusion and wait for our own encounters with Jesus and the Holy Spirit.