Sunday, March 17, 2013

Forgetting what lies behind

Blessed Charles de Foucauld (d. 1916), a soldier and explorer, monk and priest, missionary and martyr, once wrote, “We are all children of the Most High. All of us: the poorest, the most outcast, a newborn child, a decrepit old person, the least intelligent human being, the most abject, an idiot, a fool, a sometimes sinner, the greatest sinner, the most ignorant, the last of the last, the one most physically and morally repugnant—all children of God and sons and daughters of the Most High... We should love all humankind, for they are all children of God.” Our dignity and worth as persons is simply based on the reality that we are all daughters and sons of God. All the good that is within us—our hope, our faith, our love—are gifts from our Creator.

The story of the woman caught in adultery (John 8:1-11) reminds us that sin, turning away from God and denying our own dignity and worth, is not an ending. Because God’s love and mercy are unlimited, the gift of a renewed, ever-deepening life in Christ is available to each one of us. The cultural and religious leaders, enraged by the woman’s actions, no longer saw a child of God in front of them. Instead, they saw only a sin to be punished. Jesus recognized her for who she was, forgave her sins, and restored her relationship with God: “Has no one condemned you? Neither do I condemn you. Go your way, and from now on do not sin again.”


Healing and reconciliation are always possible. Reflecting on this, Saint Ambrose wrote, “See what a mystery this is, and see the goodness of Christ! While the woman is being accused, Christ bends down; when her accusers go out he looks up. If you want to know the meaning of the words, ‘Go, and sin no more,’ let me tell you. Christ has set you free. Let grace now set right in you what punishment has been unable to correct” (Letter 26).


Our hope is founded on the new life offered to each one of us by the Risen Christ. Our life’s work, then, is to know Christ and to experience the power of the Resurrection by sharing in the Cross. Like Saint Paul, we are called to forget what lies behind us and move forward, as pilgrims journeying together "in pursuit toward the goal, the prize of God's upward calling, in Christ Jesus" (cf. Philippians 3:12-14). Then, and only then, can we, like the woman of the Gospel, find forgiveness and claim our true dignity and identity as a beloved child of God.

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