I spent a very long time the other day in conversation with an individual who see him/her self as a follower of Jesus, as a sinner in need of redemption, and as an unworthy human whose actions continue to crucify Jesus by their imperfection and their humanity.
In the end my attempt at conveying the good news was quite unsuccessful. They are convinced that, to use the language of the 1928 rite, they are “miserable offenders” with “no health in” them. Thus they are not moved by the newer 1979 liturgy that tones down the penitential aspects in order to emphasize the Easter aspects of our faith.
I am convinced that there are people who cannot hear good news without it being complex, and filled to brim with juridical requirements. But my reading of the Gospel is simple (or perhaps it may be that it is just that I am.) Jesus teaching, life and death was to show us the love God has for us; the forgiveness that is already ours… and all we have to do is claim it and live it.
God is not asking us for great heavy acts of contrition; or for the figurative or literal mortification of self. I, for example, do not want my beloved wife, sons, or my grandchild to believe they have to approach me with fear – or have to cringe in front of me in unworthiness. I hope they will approach me in love and with a sense of trust in my openness.
“God so loved the world…” John tells us. Jesus was not into intimidation, threats, or demands that we become anything other than the beloved children we have been created to be.
I grieve that I was not able to convey this message in a way that was freeing for my conversation partner. But I also cannot fail to portray this central faith I have that the God Jesus reveals to us is a God who loves– who cares – who is with us always; who has given us a great gift and that all we have to do is accept and live into. Yet Jesus followers over the years keep finding so many ways to make it harder and harder by placing all manner of hoops in the way and saying that it is God who makes us jump through them.
The gift is there for each of us. It is a simple – all we have to do is accept it. Why is that such a hard sell?