As we proceed through Lent, the recurring themes of redemption and forgiveness bubble to the surface of our thoughts. We understand redemption as literally being saved from our own sinfulness through the blood of Christ. Left to ourselves, we would surely fall under the repeated weight of our imperfection and weakness. Through God Almighty’s love and mercy embodied in the Parable of the Prodigal Son, however, we aspire to a salvation we would not otherwise be capable of attaining.
A critical, core component of this second chance for salvation is the willingness of both sides to forget a sinful past. By this I mean that our redemption is possible only if both God Almighty and each of us as sinners are willing to forget our past sins.
God Almighty’s memory of our sins
God’s willingness is especially supported by a trio of scriptural references. In The Book of Hebrews (8:12) God tells us
For I will forgive their evildoing and remember their sins no more.
In The Book of Psalms (103:12) we find David’s wonderful expression that
As far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our sins from us.
Finally, in Isaiah (43:25) we find God’s powerful assurance that
It is I, I, who wipe out, for my own sake, your offenses; your sins I remember no more.
People often have difficulty with the notion of a perfect and omniscient God forgetting anything. Scholars debate whether this simply means that He chooses not to act on our past sins or that He, as all-powerful, chooses to forget. Here we must insert one of my favorite saints, St. Therese The Little Flower, who reminds us to trust God with child-like innocence immersed in love.
Our memory of our sins
Having confirmed God’s part in this dual forgetting, we must turn to ourselves. It is ironic that the same imperfection which leads us to sin likewise prevents us from forgiving ourselves for the very sins that God is willing to forgive us for! How many people avoid confession altogether out of fear or shame? How many others turn their very confessions into further sin by concealing sin? Finally, how many of us leave the confessional doubting God’s mercy?
Recall the lesson of Judas and Peter. Judas let his pride and doubt lead to hopelessness, despair, and ultimate, final surrender to the Devil after his sin. In contrast, Peter’s love of Christ overwhelmed his pride leading to humble contrition and surrender to Christ’s love and mercy. Both men’s ultimate destiny was not shaped by their respective sins but, rather, by their response to their own sin. What better example of such mercy can we find than Our Lord’s promise of paradise to the contrite thief in Calvary?
Scripture confirms God’s promise to forget our sinful past. The harder question as we move through Lent is how willing we are to forget that past ourselves as we reach out to a lovingly forgiving, and forgetting, God.
2018 Gabriel Garnica