Rom 1:16-25 / Lk 11:37-41
At first glance, Jesus’ advice at the end of today’s gospel sounds a little strange, almost like a suggestion that we try to make a deal with God: “I’ll give alms, Lord, if you’ll let me off the hook.” Well, that’s not at all what Jesus was trying to tell us.
When we sin, we ourselves are the first of the victims of our own ‘crime.’ Here’s how it works: Every sinful choice damages our spirit by reinforcing one of the unloving pathways in our soul, and by taking us a little further into ourselves and a little further away from God and his people. As we move further and further away and grow more and more preoccupied with ourselves and our own desires, it becomes ever easier to turn our backs on God and everyone else. And that means cutting ourselves off from the only source of true joy. It’s a downward spiral that ultimately can leave us in total isolation, trapped inside a hardened heart. What better definition is there of hell? And remember, God didn’t do this to us. We did it to ourselves, one choice at a time.
God’s attitude towards us never changes. He’s always waiting to take us back into his embrace. But it’s very hard to escape from a truly hardened heart, as we can see so clearly from observing the pharisees. In fact, there’s only one way out of that cold, bitter place, and that is by doing what we may have nearly forgotten how to do: looking beyond our own needs to the needs of others, giving instead of taking. As we begin to do that with God’s help, we are in fact returning to the “scene of the crime” and repairing the damage we’ve done to others. In the process, our own hearts begin to heal, and more and more we can receive the love that God and his people have been trying to give us all the while.
There’s healing and repair work to be done in all of us. Why not let God help!