In these late days of January, we hold up the dignity of every human being, the uniqueness and preciousness of every human life. We cry out against the violence of our "throwaway culture" where human persons are treated like things and the most intimate relationships of human love are reduced to mere convenient arrangements between autonomous egos.
We seek justice. We hope to make a difference. We want to build up the good. But realism compels us to acknowledge that the wounds are very deep. They have many origins and many levels of affliction. People are wounded and bleeding, and what is pouring out of them is the blood of the human spirit, the resources of human vitality, hope, attachment to real life, capacity to love.
Terrible wounds. How can they possibly be healed and restored? Where is forgiveness to be found?
There is a brokenness that we see manifested in the tragic violence of abortion, that destroys innocent human life, separates mothers from their own children, and robs our society of the awareness that human dignity is rooted in the gift of God's creative love. Brokenness is manifest in euthanasia, in the brutal neglect of the poor, in pervasive contentiousness and bitter conflict, in war as a way of life.
Yet this brokenness afflicts all of us in different ways. We all try to withdraw from other persons or push them away from ourselves. We try to escape from those we are called to love. We want to evade precisely those relationships that are most real, that are constructive, challenging, and promising; those relationships that are mysteriously given but that can only live from committed and responsible freedom.
We withdraw from the promise of real love because we are afraid to give ourselves. We are afraid of the risk, the loss of ourselves in giving, the loss of a "control" that we think we can keep by our own power.
We are afraid of suffering.
We are all human beings, strange and broken and unable to put ourselves back together. And a great portion of this fragility and incapacity and anguish is not our fault. We suffer already, from physiological and psychological limitations that we inherit, from the pain of our own experiences, from illnesses, from all the wounds inflicted by the failures of others.
Yet we also know that our freedom still lives within this debilitated frame. We know that our freedom has been summoned by the promise of love, by the beauty and attraction of a fulfillment that is mysteriously made possible, by a hope that we cannot extinguish.
And we know that sometimes, to some extent, we have freely chosen to hide in the shadows of ourselves. We have refused to take the next step on the path that the light indicates to us. We have chosen to draw back into darkness.
Something of the brokenness that each of us suffers right now is our own fault. In the immensely complicated fabric of every human life there are many events and circumstances, but there is also the willful misuse of freedom. There is sin.
We have all sinned.
We all need forgiveness.
We are able to recognize so many genuine excuses for our failures, and these are factors of our lives that need attention, compassion, and healing. All of this is important, but it is not enough. We need to acknowledge and perhaps feel the touch of the unbearable weight of our own responsibility, our yielding to weakness, indulgence, distraction and our taking up of the weapons of destruction of ourselves and others. We need to acknowledge that we really are sinners.
Each one of us needs to examine his or her conscience and seek forgiveness for our sins.
When we bring this ultimate vulnerability into the open and raise it up to the One who has created us and who sustains our being, then we can discover the wonder of mercy.
God's response to our sins is Jesus. God gives Himself, and the abyss of His love is infinitely "deeper" than any of our wounds. He can heal our brokenness if we turn to Him.
If we open ourselves up, concretely, to the forgiveness of God, it will become a radiance within us, a witness -- within our wounded and broken and healing humanity -- to the gift of redeeming love that He offers to everyone. We will become instruments of His mercy.
Then our witness to the world becomes a witness to the truth in love. It is able to address with realism all the desperation and all the evil in our society because it does not condemn other human persons. Rather it is a witness of hope.
When we are deeply forgiven, we can communicate to others the ardent desire of the heart of Jesus to forgive their sins and bring healing. When we witness from within the awareness of our own poverty and total dependence upon His mercy, then it is that mercy that shines through us.
The witness to God's mercy and love is already the beginning of something new in the world. It awakens hope in hearts that God wants to touch; it brings that hope to people who may have never known it.
We all need forgiveness. People in our world today desperately need forgiveness. They don't know where to look for it. They may not even know it's possible. Yet they need it. We all share this need.
Let us not be afraid to be forgiven, to let our lives show how God responds to our need with His loving embrace.
Then He can use our hearts to extend the inexhaustible reach of His mercy and the promise of His forgiveness to others. Love and healing will grow in the world.
Our Father eagerly longs to forgive every person and to clothe them in robes of healing. Turn to Him. Ask Him for the grace of true sorrow for your sins. Ask Him to work within your heart, to change what needs changing in you.
The Father has already answered that "asking" -- He has answered it beyond all measure. He has sent His Son to dwell with us. Jesus. His Holy Spirit works in us and changes us, opening up surprising new places in our hearts from which we can turn away from our sins, and turn to Jesus with trust. He will make it possible for us to change, to want His forgiveness.
It may seem impossible. That doesn't matter. All things are possible with God. Ask Him. Keep asking. Never give up asking. He will do it.
O Lord, convert my heart! Change what needs changing in me. Forgive me for my sins!
Jesus, I trust in You.