Wednesday, February 18, 2015

He Does Not Treat Us According to Our Sins

When I woke up this morning and prayed the psalms for the Office of Readings for Ash Wednesday, I was struck by a line from Psalm 103.  One of the great things about the scriptures is that you can read the same line hundreds of times in the course of your life and suddenly feel like you've read it for the first time.  While I was praying, I was thinking about various persons that I know and their struggles. In the midst of that, I came across the verse that stopped me in my tracks. "He does not treat us according to our sins nor repay us according to our faults."  A few lines later, it says, "For He knows of what we are made, he remembers that we are dust."

On this day when we are signed with ashes and told to "remember you are dust and unto dust you shall return," the psalms remind us that God knows we are dust.  This line struck me as beautifully merciful.  In the reading today from the Prophet Joel, God begs us to return to Him.  He's the one who has been rejected.  We should be begging Him to take us back. But, He puts himself in the position of begging us!  "Return to me!"  He doesn't need us, but He begs us to come back to Him. He was the abandoned spouse, but instead of rejecting us because of our poor treatment of Him, He lowers Himself to be a beggar: "Return to me!" He remembers that we are dust.

He does not deal with us according to our sins nor repay us according to our faults!  The Lord gives us the season of Lent so that we can return to Him, so that we can love Him again.  There is a way to fix things!  This way is the way of penance.  It is the way of fasting, prayer, and works of mercy.  It is the Way of the Cross. Is it a difficult way?  Yes.  But it is a way!  Far worse for us would be for God to repay us according to our faults, to deal with us according to our sins. God could say to us, "You rejected me.  Now deal with the consequences."  But that is not what happens.  He begs us to come back.

There are so many people who live as though their sin is the final word on their life.  They live as though there's nothing left for them to do.  Today, God stands before us and--to our amazement--asks us to come back to Him.  God wants us!  It's ridiculous, but it's true.  God does not want to deal with us according to our sins or repay us according to our faults. He wants us to be with Him.

Today, it was beautiful to look out at Mass and see so many college students. Ash Wednesday is the first day of Lent and the ashes aren't magic ashes.  They don't magically turn us into people who now love God with all of our heart, mind, soul, and strength.  The ashes are only a sign of our need to do penance.  I like to think of Ash Wednesday as D-Day.  We've hit the beach and done some praying, fasting, and acts of mercy.  But, the allies didn't win the war on D-Day.  The next day was D-Day plus one, then D-Day plus two, and so on.  Ash Wednesday is the beginning of Lent, not the end.  The next day is Ash Wednesday plus one.  We have to remain steadfast and strong all the way to Ash Wednesday plus forty!  This is a time for us--day by day--to accept God's invitation to "return to me."  

We've landed on the beach.  We've begun the campaign, but the war isn't over.  We've turned away from God and rejected Him, but He does not deal with us according to our sins or repay us according to our faults.  He knows that we are but dust!  In the face of this Divine Mercy, let's return to Him through a campaign of spiritual discipline.  Our reward is nothing less than God Himself.

D-Day is over.  Time for Ash Wednesday Plus One.

No comments:

Post a Comment