Fifth Sunday of Lent
March 22, 2015 – Year B
Readings: Jer 31: 31-34, Psalm 51, Heb 5:7-9, Jn 12:20-33
by Rev. Salvador Añonuevo, Pastor
Ron Davis, in his book, A Forgiving God in an Unforgiving World, told a story which I love to read over and over again, and which I also like to tell over and over again. So if you’ve heard the story from me a second or third time, it is intentional. I like to remember this story, not only because this particular incident happened in the Phillipines, but because this confirms God’s forgiving Love.
Mr. Davis told a story which could easily take place in that part of the world. One day a priest approached a visionary in his town who claimed that she could converse with the Lord Jesus. Well, visionaries were very common there. When I was growing up, visionaries were a dime a dozen, and priests were the first ones to discourage people from believing in them. But this particular woman was somehow different. She had never studied theology or scriptures, never even went to high school, but she could quote the Bible left and right, both Old and New Testament. So she was more credible than other visionaries.
The priest told this woman, “The next time you talk to the Lord Jesus, ask him what horrible sin I committed in high school.” Apparently this sin had been bothering him for many years, even though he had confessed it several times. The visionary promised the priest that she would.
So the next time the priest saw her in the church he asked, “Did you ask the Lord my question?” The woman replied, “As a matter of fact, I did.”
The priest said, “So what was His answer?” And the visionary said, “Well, the Lord Jesus just smiled and said He couldn’t remember.”
Now this woman who had never studied the sacred scriptures had certainly received a message with a firm biblical foundation. Because this is what we just heard in today’s first reading which was taken from the Book of the Prophet Jeremiah, when the Lord God said, “I will be their God and they shall be my people. All from the least to the greatest shall know me for I will forgive their evil doing and remember their sins no more.”
And remember their sins no more.
Chapter 43 of the Book of the Prophet Isaiah contains practically the same message. The Lord God says, “I wipe out your offenses; your sins I will remember no more.”
The same message is found again in the Letter to the Hebrews, when the Lord God said, “I will not remember your sins.”
My dear brothers and sisters, our Lord Jesus Himself has confirmed this in His story of The Prodigal Son, which most scripture scholars would say would be more appropriately titled The Parable of the Loving Father. The story’s focus is not so much on the sins of the son but on the unconditional love, the forgiving love, of the father. When the son returns home and gives his father a litany of the sins he has committed, his father never even mentions the past.
And, as we all know, when Our Lord was crucified on the cross, his last words were “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do.” Well, just several hours earlier, Peter had denied Him three times. Peter wasn’t there at the foot of the cross, but John was there with the other disciples. John must have told Peter what the Lord said, and it must have given him courage and hope. Yes, in spite of Peter’s weakness, the Lord God would forgive him. Later on in the New Testament, the Lord Jesus does not even once mention the denials to Peter in any of their post-resurrection encounters.
And this is what our Lord God also wants us to do. Because, human as we are, we sometimes forget that we are all made in the image and likeness of God. And our goal is, of course, to be holy, as our Heavenly Father is holy. But, human as we are, we make mistakes; we commit sins.
That is why during the entire Season of Lent our Holy Mother Church would like us to remember that we have a loving God. We have a God who wants us to have a fresh start. Not only did He give Peter the opportunity to start his life all over again as a good Christian, He made Peter the leader of His disciples, the leader of the Church. Peter was our first pope. So our leader is not somebody who never committed any mistakes. Our leader is not somebody who is so holy that he never sinned; he did. And so have we all, as St. Paul would put in his letters.
And so this Sunday our Lord God would like us to remember this great news: That when God forgives, He forgets. And may we also go and do likewise.