NEW BEGINNINGS - YOUR SINS ARE FORGIVEN
New Beginnings – Your Sins are Forgiven
Fr Luke A Veronis
Imagine Jesus looking into our eyes and saying, “My child, your sins are forgiven. Your past mistakes wiped away; the poor choices of your life forgotten; all the ways you have turned away from God throughout your life are no more. Any debt you owe me for all I’ve given you is dismissed and there will be no remembrance of this debt.”
Can you imagine beginning with a clean, new slate in life! What would it be like to forget all our past mistakes and to begin afresh and anew?!?
In today’s Gospel story, Jesus says these words to a paralyzed man. We heard the story of when four friends carried their paralyzed friend to meet Jesus, and they get to the house only to see that it was so crowded they couldn’t get inside the door. So, the four friends lift their paralyzed friend up onto the roof and break through the roof to lay the crippled man right in front of Jesus. Christ sees the faith of this man, and his friends, and then shocks them all not by healing him right away, but by saying, “My son, your sins are forgiven!”
Jesus was ready to give this man back his life by healing his paralysis, but He wanted to give back to this man a new life by first forgiving his sins. “My child, you have a new beginning in your life! Any separation from God that you have in your life is repaired, reconciled.”
Can we imagine Christ offering the same saving words to us?
Before we go further with forgiving our sins, however, I want us to reflect on what are the sins that turn us away from God. Sinning is much more nuanced than simply and legalistically breaking some moral law. Whenever we turn away from God, whenever we forget or reject Him in our lives, whenever we distance ourselves from Him through our words, our thoughts, our actions and even our inactions, we are sinning. When we pause to understand sin in this way, we will quickly realize how much we need Christ to say to us, “My child, your sins are forgiven.”
In the New Testament Greek, there are a variety of words that describe sin. The most common word, amartia, means missing the mark. God created each one of us in His image and likeness. With the incredible potential He has given us, we are supposed to grow in His likeness, to become more and more like Him, to become saints. That is the expectation with what has been given to each of us. If we aren’t growing in that divine grace, if we are missing the mark, then we are sinning. Who among us will dare say we haven’t sinned in this way, by not hitting the divine mark that God has placed in each of us?!?
Aμαρτία is missing this mark, i.e. not becoming like Christ.
Another word in Greek that describes sin is παράβασης which implies consciously stepping across the line between good and evil. This is making a decision to choose evil over good, darkness over light, indifference or hatred over love. We all consciously make such decisions at times, however infrequent or frequent.
A third Greek word for sin is παραπτώματα, which means accidentally slipping across this line between good and evil. We aren’t consciously making the choice but we may carelessly step over the line without thinking. Our lack of vigilance and lack of a sober mindset betrays us, and we unconsciously make poor choices.
One other Greek word for sin is ανομία, which mean lawlessness. This is a total disregard for the law of God. Maybe we don’t fall into this sense of rejecting any law.
God created each of us in His image and likeness. We are His children and heirs of His Promise. We have been given incredible potential, to grow in His grace and truth and love. To be an authentic human being is to become like Christ, united with Him, showing the same mercy and grace, love and goodness, forgiveness and kindness that He shows to us.
When we sin, we turn away from this Source of life, we reject this personal relationship and communion with God, and we distort the icon of Christ within.
God realized the fallenness of our human condition and responded. He came in the person of Jesus Christ to give us new life, a new beginning, calling us back to Him so that we can fulfill our divine potential.
My child, your sins are forgiven!
We receive this forgiveness on the day of our baptism, when we begin our new life in Christ. We receive this forgiveness every time we go to Holy Confession, renewing our baptismal grace. We receive this forgiveness each time we approach “with the fear of God, with faith and with love” to receive Holy Communion.
We are constantly sinning by missing the mark and turning away from God in conscious and unconscious ways through our words, thoughts, actions and inactions, so we need to continuously repent, which means turning back toward God.
In our Lenten Book Study we’re doing every Wednesday evening after our Pre-Sanctified Liturgy on the Thirty Steps to Heaven, Fr Vassilios Papavassiliou states, “Repentance, rooted in humility, is at the very heart of the Christian life. It is the goal of life. Our goal is to turn back toward God and be united with Him. Our pride blinds us to our own sins. Humility gives us the sight to see ourselves as we truly are. The holier we become, the more clear we see Christ and the more sinful we feel. Repentance should lead us to grieve and mourn for the guilt of our sins but it should also lead us to find comfort and joy in God’s mercy and love. Repentance gives birth to hope and gratitude, while cultivating in us a deep sense of mercy and grace which we offer to others. We forgive because we understand what it means to be forgiven.”
My child, your sins are forgiven. Our Lord Jesus forgives us our sins and gives us a new beginning. What will we do with this new start? Are we ready to “pay closer attention to what we have heard, lest we drift away from it,” as we heard in the Epistle reading today. Let us give our full attention, accepting God’s forgiveness and then continuously repenting and striving to turn toward God and fulfill our divine potential within.
My child, your sins are forgiven!
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