God knows us and appreciates us for who we are, right now, and will judge us when we die for who we are at that point in time. Since we never know when that will be, we need to be sure that we are always ready to face our Creator. That is, in brief, the message I’d like us to take away with us today from the readings. These simple facts, which are clearly enunciated by Christ and the prophet Ezekiel, have various, very practical consequences.
First of all, each day is an opportunity to begin anew. As long as we are sincerely sorry for our past sins and failings, and have sought forgiveness through the sacraments, we need not let them cause us anxiety or fear. God rejoices when we repent, and truly knows how to “forgive and forget”. Similarly, we cannot “rest upon our laurels” and count on our past good deeds to carry us through if we then choose to give in to sin and selfishness.
As a result, we need to take immediate action when we realize that we have turned away from God. Jesus emphasizes this by saying that being at peace with God and neighbor is more urgent even than other religious duties. To put his example in contemporary terms, when we have committed a serious sin, we should go to confession as soon as we can, even before going to Mass, and definitely before receiving Communion. He also reminds us that He takes sin very seriously – things that we might not consider that important, can be quite significant in the eyes of God. We don’t want to risk dying unforgiven, for we will have to pay the full consequences, whether in Purgatory or in Hell.
So, as we have been seeing in the liturgy since the beginning of Lent, our attitude with respect to our own sins should be two-fold. On one hand, we should be humble and contrite, acknowledging our sins with sorrow and a sincere desire to do better. On the other hand, we should be filled with hope and trust in God, Who loves us more than we can comprehend and is always willing to forgive anyone who sincerely repents.
The responsorial psalm today is a perfect summary of these sentiments. Let us live Lent with these words in our hearts: “with the Lord is kindness and with Him is plenteous redemption; and He will redeem [us] from all our iniquities.”