Monday, April 27, 2009

Ephesians 1:14

In love he destined us for adoption to himself through Jesus Christ, in accord with the favor of his will, for the praise of the glory of his grace . . . In him we were also chosen . . . so that we might exist for the praise of his glory . . . sealed with the promised holy Spirit . . . to the praise of his glory. (1:4-14)

Why is it so difficult to admit our guilt to God? What is so hard about telling Him, "I am the one who sinned"?

Maybe pride stands in our way. We rationalize our disobedience with well-thought-out excuses and rehearse them so often we begin to believe our own stories. Or, perhaps fear keeps us aloof. If we admit our guilt to God, we fear His judgment – as if God doesn’t already know what we’ve done.

Would things have been different for Adam and Eve if they had been absolutely certain of their Father’s love and mercy? Had they known in their inner core that nothing they could do would separate them from the Father’s love, would they have passed the blame for their sins to another? I suppose it’s a rhetorical question.

Or is it?

If you and I were really convinced of God’s unconditional love for us, that even His discipline is simply an extension of His mercy and compassion for us – would we be so quick to rationalize our sins, or pass the blame on to others?

Three times in the first fourteen verses of this chapter, St. Paul uses the phrase, “to the praise of His glory” or “to the praise of the glory of His grace”(verses 6, 12, 14).

Three times.

As I re-read chapter one in preparation for this lesson, those words caught my attention. To whom (or what) might St. Paul be referring? Who, or what, would extol God’s glory because of the “grace that he granted us in the beloved”? Who would celebrate His glory for having chosen us to “exist for the praise of His glory,” having made us “God’s possession”?

I have a theory. I believe the apostle is thinking of angels and other supernatural beings, along with the Church in heaven who praise the glory of God’s grace when they behold His unfathomable mercy. Angels understand the justice and the judgment of God. But only humanity can understand His mercy.

Regardless of how dark and ominous our past might be, you and I receive God’s forgiveness not because of who we are, but because of who He is. God is love, and in love He renders Justice, as well as Mercy; Judgment, as well as Compassion.

No wonder heaven itself praises the “glory of God’s grace” as He extends to us mercy instead of what we deserve.

Then why is it so difficult to admit our venial and – perhaps especially – our mortal sins to God? Don’t we know our holy and righteous Judge stands ready to take us into His arms – and hold us close to Himself?

St. Therese of Lisieux wrote: If my conscience were burdened with all the sins it is possible to commit, I would still go and throw myself into our Lord’s arms, my heart all broken up with contrition. I know what tenderness He has for any prodigal child of His that comes back to Him.

Oh, may the Holy Spirit help us put aside our pride and fear, and run to the confessional – and from there, into the Father’s arms.

Questions for Reflection:

St. Paul of the Cross wrote: Should we fall into sin, let us at once humble ourselves sorrowfully in His presence, and then, with an act of unbounded confidence, let us throw ourselves into the ocean of His goodness, where every failing will be cancelled, and anxiety will be turned into love.

1. Is your sinfulness greater than God’s mercy?
2. What holds you back from the Sacrament of Reconciliation?
3. Will you memorize these two passages of scripture?


NC Sue said...

I wonder if the reason we are reluctant to confess our sin to God isn't primarily because of shame - because, like Adam and Eve, we realize that we are naked in front of the Lord?

Psalm 139 should comfort us in this respect - O LORD, you have searched me and you know me. You know when I sit and when I rise;
you perceive my thoughts from afar. You discern my going out and my lying down; you are familiar with all my ways.Before a word is on my tongue you know it completely, O LORD. You hem me in—behind and before; you have laid your hand upon me. Such knowledge is too wonderful for me, too lofty for me to attain. Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence? If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, [a] you are there. If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast. If I say, "Surely the darkness will hide me and the light become night around me," even the darkness will not be dark to you; the night will shine like the day,for darkness is as light to you. For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother's womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place. When I was woven together in the depths of the earth, your eyes saw my unformed body. All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be. How precious to [b] me are your thoughts, O God! How vast is the sum of them!

To me, this says that God knew well in advance every evil, unkind, mean-spirited, and ugly thing I would do... and yet he loved me enough to create me anyway.

Isn't that awesome?

Richard Maffeo said...

I'm glad you posted that Psalm. It has been a comfort to me for many years -- for the reason you cite, and for other reasons.

I memorized Romans 5:8 a long time ago, because of it's comfort as well: "But God demonstrates His love for us in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us."

I'm thinking now of the words to a chorus I've sung before: "Such love, such wondrous love, that God should love a sinner such as I, how wonderful is love like this!"