A reading from the Holy Gospel according to John.
God so loved the world that he gave his only-begotten Son,
so that everyone who believes in him might not perish
but might have eternal life.
For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world,
but that the world might be saved through him.
Whoever believes in him will not be condemned,
but whoever does not believe has already been condemned,
because he has not believed in the name of the only-begotten Son of God.
And this is the verdict,
that the light came into the world,
but people preferred darkness to light,
because their works were evil.
For everyone who does wicked things hates the light
and does not come toward the light,
so that his works might not be exposed.
But whoever lives the truth comes to the light,
so that his works may be clearly seen as done in God.
Good News Reflection:
Our Gospel reading today makes very clear a truth that many of us don’t fully believe: Jesus did not come here to condemn anyone. Yet we feel condemned whenever we feel guilty about a sin. Why is that?
It’s because we are harder on ourselves than we are on others. On the surface, it seems that we’re supposed to do that. To be easy on ourselves (e.g.: “I’m okay, I’m not really sinning.”) would be self-indulgent, which is rooted in the sin of pride, right? Yes, but usually the reason why people rationalize that their sins are really not sins is because they’re afraid of feeling condemned, which translates to feeling unloved, which translates as proof that they are unlovable.
Have you been unable to forgive yourself? Are you trying to find your happiness in how others treat you because you don’t feel happy about yourself? Do you feel like you don’t get enough affirmation, but when you do get it, you feel embarrassed and unworthy?
These are typical results from failing to grasp the full meaning of this scripture. They are the normal consequences of believing that we’re not good enough no matter what we do.
When we sin, guilt confirms that we deserve to be condemned. When we innocently make a mistake, this too seems to confirm that we deserve to be condemned, and so we condemn ourselves for making the mistake instead of seeing it as just another learning tool. And every unjust, unfair, unkind situation that happens to us also triggers this feeling of being condemned.
The truth is: You were freed from condemnation when you accepted the idea that Christ sacrificed his life on the cross for you.
When we sin, we are guilty of doing something evil, and when we repent, we return to the freedom gained by Christ. But too often guilt becomes shame, i.e., the feeling that we are evil, not to be confused with “regret”, which motivates us to avoid committing the same evil again.
Guilt informs us that we have done evil, regret motivates us to avoid evil, but shame tells us that we are evil. Shame continues to condemn us long after we’ve been forgiven by Jesus. Guilt tells us the truth about ourselves, regret invites us to grow from it, but shame lies to us and paralyzes our growth.
The truth is: There is no shame in realizing that we’ve sinned, because facing it frees us to become who we really are. Who are you really? Thanks to your baptism and the presence of Christ’s Holy Spirit within you, you are holy!
The good we do is the earthly ministry of Christ as he serves today’s world through us. As repentant Christians, we live in his light and our works are seen as done in God. Therefore, God delights in you. Don’t let shame hide this truth.
Today’s Prayer:Praised be You, Father, for loving me so much and rescuing me through Jesus. May Your Light expose my sin, and with Your help may I produce the good fruits that You expect from me. Amen.
© 2017 by Terry A. Modica