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April 15, 2018 - "That You May Not Commit Sin... For Real?"

Third Sunday of Easter

Scripture Readings

In preparation for a weekend homily, I read the scriptures the prior Monday. I let a few themes revolve around my small brains for a couple of days, and finally by Wednesday, I have a more defined theme. This week things worked very differently. I chuckled when I read this statement in the second reading from the 1stletter of John “My children, I am writing this to you so that you may not commit sin.” My instinctive reaction was, “Yeah, right!” Over the next couple of days, the thought just would not leave my head. And even though, the gospel reading is a much more attractive passage and perhaps easier, I decided that I would reflect on John’s letter.   

Here are my three points for today:  

a) “Sensitivity to Sin!” John’s statement “That you may not commit sin,” is the very first sentence of the second chapter. Was John being unrealistic? We know that he was not because he ends the first chapter with the words, “If we say, “We are without sin,” we deceive ourselves*and the truth is not in us.If we say, “We have not sinned,” we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.” So, John is not being unrealistic. Rather, he was encouraging his community to be sensitive to sin. John and the early Christians were deeply aware that Jesus died for our sins. “God is light,” John says the earlier chapter, “and in him there is no darkness at all.” John was not proposing that Christians do not sin. He was saying that deliberately choosing to sin while belonging to Christ defuncts what Christ has accomplished by his death. Today, as we hear John’s words, we are being invited to cultivate the same sensitivity to sin that the early church had. Most of all, we must do this out of reverence for Jesus who died for our sins.  

b) Imitation of Christ. Second, one of the characteristic of the early church life was imitation of Christ. The early Christians had great sensitivity to sin because in sin they were most unlike Christ. In fact, many early followers chose martyrdom over denying the faith because it set them free from sin. They believed that in their martyrdom they became more like Christ. If this does not inspire us to not commit sin, I don’t know what else can. When we struggle with sin, here is something the early Christians teach us – that we focus more on the imitation of Christ than on overcoming sins. Many a times, in our struggle against sin, our focus is on overcoming sin. The early Christians teach us that the focus should be on imitating Christ. When we obsess our minds with imitating Christ, sin will naturally stay on the periphery. When we focus on imitating Christ, sin loses its hold over us. This week more than our sins, let us try to imitate Christ in our thoughts, our words and our deeds.   

c) Jesus our Righteousness. While John was serious asking his community not to commit sin, he was also aware that sinlessness is not easy. He approaches this conundrum with tenderness. His tenderness comes through his address to his community as “My children.” Right after he says, “My children, I am writing these things to you that t you may not commit sin,” he quick follows with the statement, “But if anyone does sin, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous one.” Once again, the very Jesus who died for our sins continues to shield us against the effects of sin. John presents to his community a Jesus in whom we have access to God’s mercy.  

I want to end my homily with this parable. It is parable of a young girl who had lost her way in life. She was so desperate, hopeless and alone that one day she decided to end it all. She went to the edge of cliff that faced the ocean and was ready to jump into it headlong. As she stood there, she began to tremble. She was overcome with fear. Her fear only frustrated her further. She said, “I am a coward. I cannot even run away from myself.” Just as she was thinking these thoughts, a huge wave hit the cliff. She was thrown back and she landed on the hard rock. Sea water washed over her trembling body. Now she was enraged with herself. As she lay on her back on the hard rock, she heard a voice. The voice asked her to get up. Puzzled, she slowly she stood up and looked skyward. The voice then asked her to look at the tip of her tiny finger. She lifted her trembling palms and noticed a tiny drop of water barely clinging to the finger. The voice then said to her, “Those are your sins.” She looked and she saw that the tiny drop of water was real. Her sins were real. Her sins stared her in the face. The voice spoke once again. This time it asked her to cast a glance over the ocean. The girl lifted her eyes and looked at the ocean. It was vast, endless, and deep. Then the voice said to her, “The tiny drop of water on your little finger… those were your sins. This ocean, my child… that’s my love for you.” The voice than asked the girl to drop the tiny drop of water into the ocean. She did. She saw her sin disappear into the vast ocean of God’s love. She had found her way back to hope. 

-       Fr. Satish Joseph