If I asked you to use one word to describe everyone in the world, what would that one word be? How about “sinner?” That would certainly be accurate, wouldn’t it? After all, we’re all sinners. But I want to suggest another word, one that I hope will help us change the way we think – about ourselves and others. That word is “loved.” This is a theme that runs through the readings today. Rather than dwelling on our sinfulness, let us dwell on the fact that we are loved.
In the Gospel reading from Luke 7, Jesus has an encounter with a sinful woman. One of the Pharisees dwelt on her sins. Jesus, however, dwells on her love. Read it and insert yourself into the different characters in the story. In the first reading from 1 Corinthians 15, St. Paul talks about his call as an Apostle. He was a persecutor of the Church. He says he was “not fit to be called an Apostle.” But that’s not the end. He goes on, “But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace to me has not been ineffective.” St. Paul could have dwelt on his past and his sinfulness. But he didn’t. He focused on God’s grace.
Whenever I speak to groups, I always remind them that everything happens for a reason, and all of the events of their lives have led up to this moment. This was true for St. Paul, it is true for you. You’ve probably done some terrible things in your life. That’s all in the past. Those things have helped shape you. I believe that is what St. Paul means when he says, “I am what I am.” God wants to use everything that has happened to you to draw you closer to Him. It doesn’t matter what you’ve done or where you’ve been. God loves you and wants to use you, warts and all, to bring others to Him. To paraphrase an old Billy Joel tune, He loves you just the way you are.
Father, we are what we are. Help us not to dwell on our sins, but on your love and your grace. Today, use us as you will. Amen.
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