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Keeping Faith Alive – Part 3

BE STILL AND KNOW THAT I AM GOD.

Be in your prayer space, follow the usual steps and settle into silence.

Sit still…..Relax…….Do not rush………

Take a couple of gentle, slow and deep breaths…becoming aware of your breath going in and out… stay focused on this breath of life……

Now from the depth of your heart begin to wish your mind well……….

Take a moment. Bless your day. Let your day Bless you……Take another moment. Bless your world. Let your world bless you……

Every day that we wake up is a good day. Every breath that we take is filled with hope for a better day. Every word that we speak is a chance to change what is bad into something good…….Now from the depth of heart, wish your mind well……

Now I invite you to consecrate this day and all that come with this day….in your own way, in humble, simple, may be even inadequate words………..

I pray for you and I pray for all, who, at this moment, are receiving the gift of this new day! May God bless you and keep you safe in the center of His Love!

I invite you to pray for each other and for all, who, at this moment, are receiving the gift of this new day!

We continue our meditation on conversion as an ongoing process, a way of life, a journey of faith, a continuing experience of forgiveness and grace.

Conversion is not just about turning away from something. It is about turning toward something greater and life-giving. Real conversion is always a turning toward…and for us men and women of faith conversion is always a turning toward the gift of God’s Grace that draws us in.

Such turning toward – conversion – is the beginning of real faith experience and it is an ongoing, life long process!

Such conversion implies recognition of sin, failure, imperfection and incompletion. It implies even more the recognition of God’s Grace drawing us out of sinfulness into gracefulness.

Imagine being drawn into Grace only to be forgiven, freed, healed, graced and transformed! Imagine the joy of being forgiven!

Psalm 32 teaches those who live godly lives the relationship between confession and forgiveness. Our Psalmist proclaims being forgiven as pure joy, bliss. God draws us to Himself – pure Grace! God forgives – pure Grace! This means that He takes away all our transgressions – rebellious actions against His Steadfast Love and “covers over” our sinful deeds so much so neither we nor God sees them any longer. This is pure joy, bliss – pure Grace!

Our Psalmist speaks of transgressions- rebellion against Gods’ covenant love; Sin – missing the mark, goal; Iniquity – crookedness of character; and Deceit – perversion of the spirit. God forgives them all! How good it is to confess them! what joy, bliss lies in confessing all violations of covenant love! God forgives, “covers over” all transgressions and sins. But the effect of guilt and shame lingers. Confession, a self-emptying process, brings healing and freedom from the burden of guilt and shame.

Our Psalmist calls all God’s people to pray for the removal of guilt and shame. It is pure joy to have your community pray for your forgiveness and healing and protection from evil. Then the Psalmist says, “Let me teach you the way”. The way means, the way back, the way by which life can be renewed and the way is accepting the steadfast love of God!

Belief, personal confidence in God’s forgiving Grace is also the beginning of a growing faith! Keep your faith alive…trust in the forgiving and healing and transforming presence of God in your life!

The Psalmist speaks of God as “the way, the truth and the life” and asks God to teach him His “way, truth and life” (Psalm 25). Jesus, years later, spoke of himself as the way, the truth and the life. The Psalmist says, mistakes of the past can weigh heavily on me and burden my spirit. People can bring me shame, disgrace and dishonor. But I desire God’s way and His way is a way of compassion. I know God’s way can guide me rightly and bring me peace, and make me whole. I must accept God’s way; God’s saving rule, God’s wisdom, with reverence. In God’s way, I find forgiveness, grace and peace….that’s pure grace and pure joy!

Psalm 51 is often prayed by individuals and communities seeking forgiveness and mercy, flowing out from the steadfast love of God….flowing from the heart of a loving God. The Old Testament period considered two sins, murder and rape/incest as sins that could not be atoned, murder lead to the death of the body and rape/incest to the death of the soul. Nathan confronted David with these two sins (2 Sam. 11-12). This great man, chosen by God to be king, had done something that could not be atoned. David threw himself at the mercy of God. This psalm reveals the heart of David as he realized what he had done. David appealed to God’s steadfast, unfailing, covenant Love because he knew God would never break His covenant, even when man breaks it. His confession and prayer for mercy has now become part of our liturgy.

So, our Psalmist could pray, “A clean heart create for me, God; Renew in me a steadfast spirit.”
“Restore my joy in your salvation; Sustain in me a willing spirit.”

I may have shared this story with you in a different context. However, it is good to read it again in the context of our reflections on the joy of forgiveness that deepens our faith in God’s forgiving and healing presence in our life.

There was a little boy visiting his grandparents on their farm. And he was given a slingshot to play with out in the woods. He practiced in the woods but he could never hit the target. And getting a little discouraged; he headed back to dinner. As he was walking back he saw Grandma’s pet duck. Just out of impulse, he let fly, hit the duck square in the head, and killed it. He was shocked and grieved.

In a panic, he hid the dead duck in the wood pile, only to see his sister watching. Sally had seen it all, but she said nothing. After lunch that day grandma said, “Sally, let’s wash the dishes.” But Sally said, “Grandma, Johnny told me he wanted to help in the kitchen today, didn’t you Johnny?” And then she whispered to him, “Remember, the duck?” So Johnny did the dishes.

Later Grandpa asked if the children, wanted to go Fishing, and Grandma said, “I’m sorry but I need Sally to help make supper.” But Sally smiled and said, “Well, that’s all right because Johnny told me he wanted to help.” And she whispered again, “Remember, the duck?” So Sally went fishing and Johnny stayed.

After several days of Johnny doing both his chores and Sally’s, he finally couldn’t stand it any longer. He came to Grandma and confessed that he killed the duck. She knelt down, gave him a hug, and said, “Sweetheart, I know. You see, I was standing at the window and I saw the whole thing. But because I love you, I forgave you.

But I was just wondering how long you would let Sally make a slave of you.” I don’t know what’s in your past. I don’t know what one sin the enemy keeps throwing up in your face. But whatever it is, I want you to know something. Jesus Christ was standing at the window. And He saw the whole thing. But because He loves you, He has forgiven you. Perhaps He’s wondering how long you’ll let the enemy make a slave out of you.

The great thing about God is that He not only forgives, but He forgets. He will turn again, he will have compassion upon us; he will subdue our iniquities; and will cast all our sins into the depths of the sea (Micah 7).

Forgiveness brings peace and joy and it is a profound spiritual strength. People hurt you knowingly or unknowingly. You hurt yourself knowingly or unknowingly. Grudges, resentments, guilt, shame, anger, negative feelings and all types and kinds of self-defeating habits are all part of our life experience. Forgiveness is the way and the only way to stop the hurt and be free and usher in the joy of life.

Spouses often have arguments and disagreements about something petty, small, insignificant and silly. One of them finally says, “Sorry, I was wrong”. What a relief and the good feeling that follows brings you joy! Children are often careless, disobedient, and disrespectful. Relief and joy comes when they admit it and their parents forgive them. Friends argue, disagree and often part company – even the great Apostle Paul and his companions Silas and John Mark quarreled and parted company. When the wrong is admitted and “all is forgiven”, relief and joy happens!

Forgiveness is one of the greatest gifts that we can give and receive. Jesus came, suffered and died for us on the cross to bring us forgiveness and Grace. He called his followers to forgive without limits and be agents and channels of the forgiveness of the Father.

Our Psalmist says (Psalm 32)…..

Happy the sinner whose fault is removed, whose sin is forgiven.

Happy those to whom the LORD imputes no guilt,

in whose spirit is no deceit.

As long as I kept silent, my bones wasted away; I groaned all the day.

For day and night your hand was heavy upon me;

my strength withered as in dry summer heat.

Then I declared my sin to you; my guilt I did not hide.

I said, “I confess my faults to the LORD,”

and you took away the guilt of my sin.

Listen to what our Psalmist says, “As long as I kept silent, my bones wasted away; I groaned all the day…….depression, heaviness of heart, etc. comes from feeling guilty. Think of a little boy hiding from his parents after doing something wrong or Johnny, in the above story, doing chores for Sally, or any of us wondering when someone will find out about our failures or short falls. Fear and anxieties linger in the hearts of all who are burdened with guilt and shame.

Our Psalmist says, happy is the sinner whose fault is removed, whose sin is forgiven. Remember the story of the prodigal son. The father says, “This son of mine was dead and has come back to life; he was lost and is found… . now we must celebrate and rejoice (Luke 15:24,32).

This is what moved the Psalmist to pray…..

A clean heart create for me, God; Renew in me a steadfast spirit.

Do not drive me from your presence; Nor take from me your Holy Spirit.

Restore my joy in your salvation; Sustain in me a willing spirit…….. (Psalm 32

Forgive my hidden faults. Keep your servant also from willful sins;

May they not rule over me. Then will I be blameless, innocent of great transgression.

May the words of my mouth and the thoughts of my heart be pleasing in your sight,

O LORD, my Rock and my Redeemer….(Psalm 19)

Let us make this our prayer today!

Forgiveness offers new beginnings, a renewal of life and relationship and new possibilities for growing in faith and keeping our faith alive.

May the “Year of Faith” be God’s wonderful gift to you and I pray that you will make it a gracious and joyful gift to others.

Fr. Gus Tharappel, msfs