'Jesus has only one sermon and its text is almost too simple: 'Your sins are forgiven; your faith has made you whole.' Notice that the opposite of sin in not moral excellence. It is faith.'
Reflections of the Creed by Hugh Lavery (St Paul Publications 1982)
How often we make that false comparison between sin and virtue, faith and doubt.
How often we strive to 'earn' God's forgiveness, bartering him with empty promises that are beyond our ability to deliver. And when we fail, as fail we surely will, how prone we are to doubt his willingness to forgive.
Once we think that we have overcome any 'sin' with its opposite 'virtue' by our own efforts, we are in sure danger of becoming more than a little self-righteous, intolerant, proud, hard-hearted, the very attitudes the gospel warns us against!
Then, before we know it, we are alongside the Pharisee in the Temple praying to and about ourselves … I fast twice a week, I pay tithes on all I get (well maybe not quite that much, but more than most) … 'Have mercy on me, a sinner' sounds rather hollow and even insincere on our lips when we have become an example even to ourselves!
And yet at the same time we implore the Lord Jesus Christ at every Mass: 'look not on our sins, but on the faith of your Church … ' Sin and faith posing there again as the opposites. Sin being overcome and forgiven by our profession of faith in the offer of Christ's peace. And in response we share peace with all around us - we cannot hold on to 'un-forgiveness' (sin) and expect to be blessed by Christ in Communion moments later. We cannot be in peaceful communion with Christ without being in peaceful communion with all around us. Instead we approach the Eucharist, not because 'we are worthy', but because we believe in the power of Christ's redeeming and forgiving love, of his desire to share the fullness of his life with us.
Will you live and give your life to preach that one sermon that the world so longs to hear preached?
Rev Donald MacKay