God Always Forgives, But Time Can Run Out

Is 5:1-7 / Phil 4:6-9 / Mt 21:33-43

Many centuries ago in the days of the desert hermits, a soldier approached a wise old monk with a question: “Father, do you think God really forgives sinners?”

The monk thought for quite a while and then responded with a question: “Tell me,” he said, “if your cloak were torn, would you throw it away?”

“Of course not,” said the soldier. “I’d mend it and wear it again.”

“Yes,” smiled the old monk. “And if YOU care for your CLOAK that well, will not GOD be even more careful with his own CHILDREN?”

Of course he will! Over and over God tries to mend us and put us back together and help us get our lives right. That’s what all those messengers are about in Sunday’s Gospel: God, calling out to us in so many different ways, urging us to stop wandering about, urging us instead to look at the gifts he’s lent us and to start using them— all of them — while there’s still time.

Now there’s a strange thing about our gifts: because they’ve always been there, we tend to take them for granted and in fact may not even notice them. And because they’ve always been there, we tend to think of them as our own and not just a loan — which leads in turn to the ultimate illusion: thinking we’ve got unlimited time and can afford to fool around and squander our gifts. How often our little inner voice whispers, “I’ve got lots more where that came from. Lots more life and all the rest too.”

When we say that out loud, we can hear how foolish and arrogant it is, this illusion of unlimited time. But that IS what’s being said in the fog inside our heads a lot of the time. And that’s what Jesus is trying to help us face up to before it’s too late.

This is what the parable is about: God never gives up on us. Never. He keeps sending us messengers because his love never runs out. But eventually our time runs out. Then we ARE whatever our use of our gifts has made us. We are whatever a lifetime’s worth of daily choices has added up to. And that is what we carry home to our Father. That and nothing else — just our selves.

Jesus is begging us as a brother not to waste another minute worrying about God and whether God will forgive us and give us another chance. He will — he always does, as long as there’s time. He’s begging us instead to look at our gifts, all of them, to pick them up with confidence, to make something with them, and to carry them where they’re needed — while there’s still time. That is Jesus’ urgent plea to us this day. By God’s grace may we say “Yes.”

  • laurak

    This was a totally awesome homily, Monsignor Clark. Thank you so much for writing it. I will never forget the image of the soldier asking the monk if God can really forgive sinners and that sin is like a torn cloak, it can be forgiven and repaired.

    There is a great deal to think about and pray about in your homily today. Not just one point, but many.

    But, I don’t think I will ever forget this story about the soldier and the monk. It is a healing thing.

  • lkeebler

    We need to realize that time is NOT on our side. It is very limited and we don’t even know how much of it we have. But as you say so well, God is always on our side. Still we have to want Him and not the world. God is all Merciful but not always Merciful. If we continually reject Him, turning our backs on Him and going after the world with all its lusts and temptations, He will leave us to our own devices, deceptions, and evil intentions and His Mercy will cease as He tells us so well in today’s Scripture. We can always turn back, like the prodigal son, and God’s Mercy will be there, but we have to come back to Him, we have to come humbly Home. If we go our own way then we have left the protection of the Father, we have rejected His Mercy.