Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Wednesday of the 2nd Week of Easter

Good News Reflection
Wednesday of the Second Week of Easter
April 22, 2009

Today's Readings:
Acts 5:17-26
Ps 34:2-9
John 3:16-21

Living free of condemnation

Today's Gospel passage makes very clear a truth that many of us don't fully believe: Jesus did not come here to condemn anyone. Yet we feel condemned whenever we feel guilty about a sin. Why is that?

It's because we are harder on ourselves than we are on others. On the surface, it seems that we're supposed to do that. To be easy on ourselves (e.g.: "I'm okay, I'm not really sinning.") would be self-indulgent, which is rooted in the sin of pride, right? Yes, but usually the reason why people rationalize that their sins as really not sins is because they're afraid of feeling condemned, which translates to feeling unloved, which translates as proof that they are unlovable.

Have you been unable to forgive yourself? Are you trying to find your happiness in how others treat you because you don't feel happy about yourself? Do you feel like you don't get enough affirmation, but when you do get it, you feel embarrassed and unworthy?

These are typical results from failing to grasp the full meaning of this scripture. They are the normal consequences of believing that we're not good enough no matter what we do.

When we sin, guilt confirms that we deserve to be condemned. When we innocently make a mistake, this too seems to confirm that we deserve to be condemned, and so we condemn ourselves for making the mistake instead of seeing it as just another learning tool. And every unjust, unfair, unkind situation that happens to us also triggers this feeling of being condemned.

The truth is: You were freed from condemnation when you accepted the idea that Christ sacrificed his life on the cross for YOU.

When we sin, we are guilty of doing something evil, and when we repent, we return to the freedom gained by Christ. But too often guilt becomes shame, which is the false assumption that WE are evil. Shame continues long after we've been forgiven. Jesus doesn't condemn us, but shame does. Shame won't free us from guilt, won't allow us to enjoy the forgiveness of God, won't enable us to forgive ourselves.

Guilt tells us the truth about ourselves and invites us to grow from it; shame lies to us and paralyzes our growth.

The truth is: There is no shame in realizing your sinfulness, because facing it frees you to become who you really are. Who are you really? Thanks to your baptism and the presence of Christ's Holy Spirit within you, you are holy!

The good we do is the earthly ministry of Christ as he serves today's world through us. As repentant Christians, we live in his light and our works are seen as done in God. Therefore, God delights in you. Don't let shame hide this truth from you.

© 2009 by Terry A. Modica
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