O Lord Thou shalt open my lips and my mouth shall declare Thy praise.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Ever Wanted to Erase Your Past?

Classic of Iconography, there are multiple successive
scenes (clockwise from the top left): the inheritance is
divided, the son lives a sinful lifestyle, the son tends swine.
At last, he returns; the angels celebrate that he regrets
his sins, a servant brings a robe, and his brother is envious.
Sunday of the Prodigal Son

In the Greek Rites, today is the second Pre-Lenten Sunday. The Latin Rite has one less Sunday, so Pre-Lent starts today. Both Gospels speak of the same thing: an absolved life is more celebrated than a just life. Today Latins have the Parable of the Workers (Mt 20:1-16), where all the workers were payed the same wage regardless of how many hours they worked, with those who came in late receiving in only an hour what the others received in a day. Greeks have the Parable of the Prodigal Son (Lk 15:11-32), where the prodigal son is exalted over his brother who never betrayed their father.

How can this be, that one whose life was nothing but self-degradation in sin with simple confession at the end receive the same end in Heaven as the just one who never sinned and kept himself pure all his life and even be more celebrated than the just one? How can a life which is 99% sin and 1% confession be considered holy? For this, we must consider how the love of God reacts when it comes into contact with different things. When the Love of God comes into contact with something good, it refines and improves it, as silver is tried by fire (Ps 11:7) in a constant cycle of heating and taking impurities off the surface. So the just one has his himself improved in the present moment. His past however, stays untouched, since because of his purity, he is in no need of forgiveness. If he were to travel back in time (if that were even theoretically possible) he would find his past just as he left it, since it is already holy, albeit a less mature version of himself in his practice of the faith.

However, when the Love of God touches something evil, it does not refine it; rather it ruthlessly destroys it, as a mother bird defending her nest from a predator. The penitent's sins are not only erased from her in the present moment, but if she were to travel back in time (again, if that were even theoretically possible), she would find that her sins no longer exist in her past either. Her sins have been completely destroyed and eradicated, not existing in the present, nor in the past, or anywhere else. Her sinful past no longer exists. Confession left a void that was instantly filled with the perfect Love of God in proportion to her sins (Rm 5:20-21). A theoretical time-traveler into her past would find only the Love of God, which has completely replaced the sins it destroyed. He would find not the imperfect love of a just one, nor sin of any kind, but only the perfect love of the Anointed Bridegroom who sacrificed Himself for her sake, which has completely replaced all the sin of her past. She arrives at the gates of Heaven upon her death to be judged and the Just Judge of the Last Day sees not the imperfect reflection of Divine Love that He sees in the just one, but rather the perfect presence of His own Divine Love with no sins whatsoever because she has been absolved. Thus "there shall be joy in heaven upon one sinner that doth penance, more than upon ninety-nine just who need not penance" (Lk 15:7) "and where sin abounded, grace did more abound." (Rm 5:20) The penitent received more because she repented of more, as Christ said of the Magdalene (Lk 7:47).