Good News, the Whole Story
Imagine if you did something when you were younger that was held against
you for the rest of your life. You wouldn't think that fair would you? I
mean, we all make mistakes. Between peer pressure, what we were told was okay,
etc, we all did stupid things. It doesn't matter if you've changed, seen
your error and repented. No, it will be thrown back in your face time and
time again. Not a comforting thought is it.
(Psalm 136 [Douay-Rheims]).
When a well known psychologist was 'exposed' as having done something
she now councils against, she was vilified, mocked, ridiculed, etc. The
notion of forgiveness and understanding was not forthcoming. In fact, no one
seemed upset when Hustler publisher Larry Flynt offered a one million
reward for any who could dig up some dirt on any politician. It didn't even
matter when it happened, just as long as it happened. No, this was seen as
'pay back'. So much for the tolerance and understanding we keep hearing
In our faith, we're often told not to speak of sin, repentance or
conversion. But rather to emphasize the "Good News" that God loves us, that
God is love. If we do, we may have our 'mistakes' shoved back in our face.
"Well you did (fill in the blank)." Or maybe it's just an assumption, "You
must be a (fill in the blank)." This is love? If this is the 'Good News',
it's only a part of it. An important pat of it is missing.
But here is the "Good News", that regardless of how stupid we are, what
mistakes we make, what errors we commit, God loves us and is waiting to
forgive our sins. What a terrible thing never to know or understand that.
How terrible to let the guilt of sin eat away at us until we remove it by
rationalizing it away, and attacking anyone, or anything, that reminds us of
what we owe to God.
Imagine a parent who loves their child but never forgives them their
mistakes. Or even worse, never tries to correct their mistakes. Imagine
every time that the child tries to improve their mistake is thrown back in
their face. Wouldn't we call that abuse and not love?
But the parent who forgets the mistakes and rejoices at their child
learning and becoming a better person is a parent who loves. The child will
learn from their mistakes and not dwell on them.
Consider the parable Christ gave us.
"A man had two sons; and he went to the first and said, 'Son, go and work
in the vineyard today.' And he answered, 'I will not'; but afterward he
repented and went. And he went to the second and said the same; and he
answered, 'I go, sir,' but he did not go. Which of the two did the will of his
father?" (Matthew 21:28-31).
Imagine if the father refused to acknowledge what his first son did? He
made a mistake, repented of it, and did the will of his father. And what of
the second? Yes, his father still loves him, however…..
Consider the parable of the Prodigal son! Here we have a son who abuses
and takes advantage of his father's love. But when he realizes what he has
done, returns humble and repentant. Offering to be his father's servant and
not his son. Yet his father rejoices and treats him like a prince.
"It was fitting to make merry and be glad, for this your brother was
dead, and is alive; he was lost, and is found" (Luke 15:32).
What of all the 'dead' and 'lost' in our world today? Do we tell them
it's ok to remain with the swine, eating their leftovers? Or do we remind
them that they have a loving Father (God) and mother (the Church), waiting
for their return?
"What man of you, having a hundred sheep, if he has lost one of them,
does not leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness, and go after the one which
is lost, until he finds it? And when he has found it, he lays it on his
shoulders, rejoicing. And when he comes home, he calls together his friends
and his neighbors, saying to them, 'Rejoice with me, for I have found my
sheep which was lost.' Just so, I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven
over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need
no repentance" (Luke 15:4-7).
The psalmist sang of God's Divine mercy even before Sister Faustina.
"O give thanks to the LORD, for He is good,
for His mercy endures for ever.
O give thanks to the God of gods,
for His mercy endures for ever.
O give thanks to the Lord of lords,
for His mercy endures for ever; to Him
who alone does great wonders,
for His mercy endures for ever;
to Him who by understanding made the Heavens,
for His mercy endures for
We seem to forget that some our greatest saints were among the greatest
sinners. What would our reaction be if we saw St. Francis of Assisi attacked
for once being declared the 'king of the revels', or how St. Augustine didn't
want to convert too fast since he was enjoying his revels with the gnostics.
What if we refused to listen to St. Paul since we were reminded that he once
persecuted the Church, or St. Peter once denied Christ?
There is a song which states "He whom I have forgiven much, he loves me
"One of the Pharisees asked Him to eat with him, and He went into the
Pharisee's house, and took His place at table. And behold, a woman of the
city, who was a sinner, when she learned that He was at table in the
Pharisee's house, brought an alabaster flask of ointment, and standing behind
Him at His feet, weeping, she began to wet His feet with her tears, and wiped
them with the hair of her head, and kissed His feet, and anointed them with
the ointment" (Luke 7: 36-38).
The Pharisee could not see beyond her past mistakes, her sin, to see her
redemption in her sorrow and repentance. Today, such as she would be
ridiculed if she went praising God for His mercy and exhorting sinners to
repent and find the love and peace she was given. Nor did Christ say her act
of repentance and conversion was unnecessary. Instead, He said her sins were
forgiven because of her great love for Him seen in her act of repentance.
It seems to be the way of the world to use past mistakes, present
weaknesses, and errors in judgement as a weapon against those who are trying
to repent and grow in God's mercy and love. But also to gloss over and even
turn a blind eye to those who relish in their sins, or continue, in ignorance
of their errors, in them.
It seems that we have forgotten, in favor of a false sense of compassion
and love, that the Church teaches us to "Council the doubtful, instruct the
ignorant, and admonish the sinner (among other things). These are the
Spiritual Works of Mercy based on Christ's teachings and Christian practice
since the Apostles.
So, when we hear someone chastise the Church for not emphasizing "the Good
News", remind them that the "Good News" is that "For God so loved the world
that he gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but
have eternal life….. And this is the judgment, that the Light has come into
the world, and men loved darkness rather than Light, because their deeds were
evil. For every one who does evil hates the Light, and does not come to the Light,
lest his deeds should be exposed" (John 3: 16 & 19-20).
The Good News is that we can repent and return to God and be forgiven.
Not just once or twice, but "seventy times seven times." And unlike a world
which relishes in exposing and harping on past mistakes, we are called to
follow Christ. Not in condoning error and sin, but in forgiving it.
"Forgive us our trespasses (sins) as we forgive those who trespass against
us" (Our Father).
"Take heed to yourselves; if your brother sins, rebuke him, and if he
repents, forgive him; and if he sins against you seven times in the day, and
turns to you seven times, and says, 'I repent,' you must forgive him" (Luke
This is the Good News, that God loves us so that He forgives our past errors
and sins when we ask Him to in true repentance.