Column: Be part of the living Gospel this Lent

by Michael Podrebarac

The sacraments are, in their essence, Jesus simply doing for us today what he did for those with whom he lived while he was in the flesh.

A son wants emancipation from his father. And, for all he cares, Dad might as well be dead. He simply wants what he has coming to him. His father grants him his freedom. The son goes and squanders this freedom in a life of free-living, till he’s spent everything. Suddenly, he’s all alone. A famine hits. The boy is destitute. He decides to go back home and ask his father to let him be a slave, for at least then he won’t be alone and hungry. Dad sees him well before he arrives. (What does this tell us?) The son confesses. The father rejoices. Not a slave, but a son! An older, hard-working, judgmental brother refuses to forgive. The father consoles him tenderly, admonishing him to rejoice when the dead come back to life.

A “woman of the night” is hauled before Jesus. They want her stoned
for her sins. They also want to trap Jesus in his own words. (Where are her partners in sin? What hypocrisy!) Jesus seems to be stuck: Let her go, and he’s broken the Law. Let her die, and he loses his followers. “Let the one among you without sin cast the first stone,” Jesus says. One by one, rocks drop to the ground, sinners departing. She’s all alone before her true judge. “Neither do I condemn you,” he says. “Go in peace, but sin no more.”

A tax collector is keeping office at his station. Jesus arrives at the scene. “Follow me,” Jesus says. Two simple words. The tax collector gets up, leaves his station, and never returns. Matthew becomes no less than an apostle, called right from the depths of his sin. He even later writes one of the Gospels.

Peter denies the Lord. Goodness, how he loves him, he really does. But he is weak and even stupid at times, and in his fear, when asked a third time, curses and says: “I know not the man!” A cock crows. Peter meets his master’s glance. He goes to weep. Jesus goes to die. Jesus, risen from the dead, comes to Peter and the other disciples. Does he scold, admonish, or dress down these friends who let him down so abjectly? “Peace be with you,” he says.

Want to be part of this living Gospel? Go to confession, to the sacrament of penance and reconciliation. Let the good Lord do for you what he did for them. You know you’re a sinner. You know he forgives sins. He always has!

“Neither do I condemn you. Go in peace, but sin no more.”

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