The Good News of Forgiveness
January 19, 2020, Second Sunday in Ordinary Time
Robert Howard was hailed as the best track and field athlete in Rhode Island history. He still holds several state records he set when he was in high school. And later, as a member of the University of Arkansas team, he won the NCAA titles in the long jump and the triple jump. Twice Howard made the US Olympic team, representing the USA in Atlanta in 1996 and Sydney in 2000. In addition to this, Howard was a model student, graduating from the University of Arkansas with a 3.9 GPA-- in pre-med.
But in the summer of 2004, Robert made his longest and last jump – from the tenth floor window of his apartment to the pavement below. It was the night of the opening ceremonies for the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens. And it was also the closing night of a spectacular young life. What would drive such a successful, bright young man to end his life like that?
The police found a suicide note in Howard’s apartment. Apparently, for all his successes, Robert Howard could not outrun or outjump the sense of failure that haunted him. He had failed in a marriage. He had failed to win a medal in the Olympics, and he had just missed the cut to make the 2004 US team, even though he had taken a whole year off school to get in condition to make the team for the third time.
And even though he graduated with a 3.9 GPA, he could not make enough A’s to erase the one B he made on his report card. Try as he might, he could not attain perfection. His handwritten note finished with this phrase, “I have worked so hard in this lifetime, and to fall short on many occasions has just been too hard.”
A tragic story. But Robert Howard is not alone in his struggle with failure. How do any of us deal with the times we come up short? How do we deal with our mistakes? How do we deal with our sins? There is only one way.
And that is the message of our Gospel today. John the Baptist introduced Jesus to the world with these words, “Behold the lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world.” That is the good news: only in the forgiveness offered by God through Jesus Christ can our sins not only be forgiven but also be erased. None of us are perfect. None of us are free of mistakes, none of us are free of failure. We are human. The one thing we never fail to do is fail. If we try to make excuses for our failures, or if we pretend they never happened, we may convince others, but we will never convince ourselves and we will certainly never convince God.
You cannot cure sin, you cannot make up for sin, you cannot erase sin; but Jesus can. The forgiveness of Jesus, followed by the forgiveness of ourselves, is the only cure. That is why we confess our sins with sincerity and humility, so Jesus will forgive them and then erase them. So now they are gone, as if they never happened.
In conclusion, that is why Jesus came, to announce that good news from God. Aren’t you sick and tired of trying to deal with the sins of your past, on your own? Let God do it, let God set you free from the shackles of your own making and heal your soul. And amazing as it sounds, God wants to do it, that’s why he sent Jesus. “Behold the Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world. Blessed are those called to the supper of the Lamb.”
Please join me: “Lord I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof. But only say the word and my soul shall be healed.” Amen
Isaiah 49:3, 5–6
I will make you a light to the nations, / that my salvation may reach to the ends of the earth.
1 Corinthians 1:1–3
Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
[John the Baptist said,] “Now I have seen and testified that he is the Son of God."