Fr Thomas Mason - 01833 631457
Personal Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham
under the patronage of Saint John Henry Newman

DARLINGTON MISSION

Worshipping at St. Osmund's, Gainford.

HOMILY

9 June, Trinity II

“I was afraid, because I was naked; and I hid myself.”

The second mistake which Adam made. Going against God’s command and eating the fruit was his first, but from there he went downhill, he tried to hide from God, he tried to pretend that he hadn’t gone anything wrong. If we’re honest with ourselves, we’ve probably all acted like this at some point or other. Of course, hiding from God is the one thing which we can never do…but when we sin, and we realise that we have sinned, we often have that sense of shame which makes us try to do it anyway.

Then when God challenges Adam he continues down this mistaken path. Having failed in his attempt to hide away, now he takes another route and tries to blame Eve – it’s all her fault. Again, we’ve probably all tried this one as well. There are usually some other people or circumstances around and we can always find an excuse for what we’ve just done. But again, this is never going to work, not only can God always find us, he also knows exactly what’s happened and why…he knows how much we made that choice.

By contrast, in our Gospel Christ tells us what can happen if we follow a different path. ‘All sins will be forgiven.’ It’s as simple as that.

By reading these two passages side-by-side we can readily see the difference between them. On the one hand in Adam’s mistaken behaviour we see what we are often tempted to do after we commit sins – hide, blame others…and probably many other different ways to evade the reality. But then on the other hand we see God’s view, a view where forgiveness sits there ready for us – what we have to do is embrace the offer of forgiveness.

When we sin, when we walk away from God’s path for us, we hurt ourselves, we hurt our relationship with God, and very often we hurt those around us as well. There’s no point in pretending that this isn’t the reality, and indeed in speaking of forgiveness Christ doesn’t say ‘sins don’t matter’ he doesn’t say ‘those things aren’t really sins’. He takes it for granted that there are real sins, and that they really do matter. That people who have sinned really are carrying a burden, a weight, from those sins. But what he does say is that those sins can be forgiven; that those burdens can be taken away leaving us to walk with a lightness and a freedom – freedom knowing that whatever sins they can be left behind.

Not just some sins either, not just minor matters – any sins. We could spend the rest of our lives committing the worst possible actions, and that same forgiveness would be there ready for us the moment we turn and ask for it. Enough forgiveness for everything which we have done…more than enough.

The condition which God places on this forgiveness, the only condition, is that we ask for it. This makes it sound very easy…but of course we don’t always see it that way from the middle of the sin. It’s very easy for us to be like Adam – we sin, then we realise it, we recognise our sin…but rather than turn back to God we try to hide from him, we try to hide from the sin, or we push the blame away. None of this is going to help us, and none of it is necessary…but even so, we do often do it.

Sin brings with it a sense of shame, that sense of shame which Adam first felt when he had eaten of the fruit. But shame can work in two ways, it can make us realise the problem, see the sin, and then go running back to God, seeking his love and forgiveness. Love and forgiveness which we know from Christ are there ready for us. If shame works in this way, then we learn from it, we grow from it…and we receive God’s forgiveness. Those sins which made us ashamed are now, as we hear elsewhere in Scripture, as far as the East is from the West.

But there is an alternative, shame can make us act like Adam. To hide from God, or to play games by blaming others. This isn’t going to help us at all. The sin is still there, it is unforgiven…and we certainly can’t hide from God, he knows exactly where we are, and what we have done. In this case, shame is dragging us down, pulling us away from God.

The contrast between these two passages is clear. The contrast is not whether there is sin – we acknowledge at the beginning of each Mass that we have sinned, sadly this is a universal part of human existence. The contrast is how we react to it; whether we hide away like Adam, of whether we openly turn to God, acknowledge what we’ve done, and leave the rest to him. The outcome of these two is dramatic – in the one the sin stays there, the attempt to hide fails immediately, the burden, the hurt sticks to us. In the other, the sin is taken away and the freedom of the children of God is given to us.

The importance of this, the need for us all to hear those powerful words of forgiveness, is precisely why Christ has given the Sacrament of Penance/Reconciliation to us. There forgiveness isn’t just an abstract thought, forgiveness is explicit and complete. We are given the chance to do everything which Adam didn’t do; we turn to God, we freely acknowledge what we’ve done, we accept that it’s all ours…but we do so in trust, we do so knowing of the boundless love of God, we do so knowing that Christ has said that all sins can be forgiven. We don’t merely speak the words into the void either, God has given us the ministry of Priests so that we can hear with our own ears the proclamation of that forgiveness which God offers to us.

Our readings today give us two options for trying to deal with our sins, now it’s our choice which to follow. Whether to be like Adam, hiding and trying to shift the blame; or whether to turn back to Christ and that loving embrace which he promises to us in the sacrament of his mercy and forgiveness. May we all hear Christ’s words, and turn to him with the confidence which they offer.

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