It’s About More Than Forgiveness
Thoughts on the First Readings – Joe Frankenfield
2nd Samuel 12:7-10,13
Many years ago a recent convert to the Church told me that joining up and receiving the sacraments had given him life-changing peace of mind. “How so,” I asked. “I had a lot of guilt over things I’d done,” he said, “but knowing that God forgives me has taken that away. I know that I’m right with God. My sins and failures are in the past.” We who have a strong sense of God can easily forget the people our failures harm.
On the one hand, we are right with God the instant we decide to cooperate with what God is doing. On the other hand, the harm we’ve caused others lingers long after we’ve had our change of heart. Sorrow and apologies – even sincere ones – leave actual injuries unaffected.
An individualistic notion of sin gives the impression that if God still loves us after our failures, all is well. The problem is that God is trying to give love and justice to everyone. If my actions or inactions have deprived someone of that love and justice, I’ve denied him or her God’s gift. God still loves me (truthfully, he never stopped) but I have thwarted the good God is trying to do and that it takes more than an act of contrition to redress the situation.
One danger of being part of a sacramental Church is that performing our rituals can give the impression that we’ve restored some cosmic balance. A hug and a kiss may reassure neglected, hungry children that we love them, but getting up and fixing supper is the only way to fill their stomachs.
There is something unsettling about the Prophet Nathan’s reassuring King David that he’s right with God after his acknowledgment of guilt for murdering Uriah. Uriah’s wife was still a widow. Uriah’s children were still orphans. David’s people would never trust him as they did before his treachery. Of course God loved David. But God loved Nathan’s widow too. There was a huge problem that cried out to be resolved. All was not right!