Sin! This is not meant to be a command. Pope Francis once said in an interview: “I am a sinner who the Lord has looked upon and upon whom the Lord has had mercy.”
God is merciful! That is always our starting point. We would never approach God without that conviction. April 12, the Sunday after Easter, is Mercy Sunday. We would not be able to celebrate such a Sunday without believing that not only is God merciful, but God is eager to forgive, almost like the panting dog in the “Hound of Heaven” chasing after us to show us mercy. And God is generous in that mercy.
However, there is a “but” here. We have to want that mercy. I have been reflecting a lot lately on St. Teresa of Ávila’s Interior Castle. The fourth mansion of that Castle is pivotal for many of us. There it is that God wants to have communion with us, wants to manifest his friendship with us, his closeness to us. Yet, it is also there that the devil wants us to return to sin so that he can foil God’s mercy. And the truth is: we can foil God’s mercy; we can actually consign ourselves to hell!
There is the rub, sisters and brothers! We must seek to be freed of our sins in order to share communion with God. We have to overcome the first hurdle, which is to recognize that we are sinners, to become really aware of our sinfulness. As Jesus says in John’s Gospel (16:8): the Holy Spirit “will convince the world of sin and of righteousness and of judgment.” St. John, in his first letter, cries out for us to become more aware of our sinfulness: “If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just, and will forgive our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” (1:8-9)
All of us need to have a more refined conscience. We are letting too much slip by in our lives and not calling our sins what they are: sins. John also tells us: “There is sin which is deadly ... All wrongdoing is sin, but there is sin which is not deadly.” (5:16-17) We dismiss too much in our lives. We need to be honest with ourselves.
This confession of sin is not so we can feel ashamed or beaten down. No! We call ourselves sinners so as to be freed up and opened up to the deep friendship which God wants us to have. This is not just good for us as individuals, but it is ultimately good for our country and our world. Blessed Mary has visited many people over the ages and her message is always the same: repent and God’s blessings will flow. It is as though she is always repeating 1 Chronicles (7:14): “if my people who are called by my name … turn from their wicked ways, then I will … forgive their sin and heal their land.”
Proverbs (28:13) adds: “He who conceals his transgressions will not prosper, but he who confesses and forsakes them will obtain mercy.” There are many evils abroad in our land and in our world. All evils are the result of the sins of humanity. So let the repentance start with each of us, and then let the mercy of God flow like a river at flood tide, healing and gracing us and our land.