Readings: Genesis 3:9-15; Psalm 130; 2 Corinthians 4:13-5:1; Mark 3:20-35

Theme: Stairway to Repentance

1. As we return fully to the Ordinary Time of the Church’s calendar, our attention is turned, not on any particular mystery in the life of Jesus, but to his public ministry and our own Christian life. More and more, as the season progresses, our attention shall be drawn to different areas of our relationship with God, and we shall receive admonitions on how to remain firm in our walk with God.

2. Today, the readings of the Mass focus on the issue of sin, grace, and faith. Sin, as seen in the fall of Adam and Eve and the unbelief of the scribes, which degenerated into maligning Jesus; grace, in the opportunity offered for repentance; and faith, in the encouragement by St Paul that we hold firm to God, despite the struggles on the journey to heaven. Today, we shall base our reflection on the matter of sin and repentance, and we shall examine the first reading closely and draw some lessons from it.

3. As Scripture records, when God formed Adam and Eve, he placed them in the Garden of Eden where they had everything needed to live the good life. God provided everything for them and they lacked absolutely nothing. There were even no laws to regulate their lives except one: DO NOT EAT OF THE FRUIT OF ONE TREE! But sadly, they did. The first reading of today’s Mass follows from the point where they sinned against God. From this encounter between God and our first parents, let us draw three lessons as it concerns our own relationship with God.

i. Accept responsibility for your free actions – In response to God’s question, “Have you eaten of the tree of which I commanded you not to eat” Adam blamed the woman God gave to him. When God asked the woman, “What is this that you have done”, she immediately responded by faulting the serpent. Maybe if God had asked the serpent why he deceived the woman, the blame game may have continued. Neither the man nor the woman accepted their faults; neither believed they were wrong. As far as each of them was concerned, the blame should not come to them but should pass to someone else. It is disheartening sometimes to see Christians who always blame their sins on someone or something else; some even vehemently argue for why it was necessary for them to have committed a particular sin. This attitude is never good for growth, whether spiritual or temporal. People who shy away from being responsible for their free actions will always have a retarded development. In our relationship with God and with others, we must learn to own up to the consequences of our decisions and actions. For repentance to happen there must be an acceptance of our fault first.

ii. Never run away from God – It is true that sin strips us of the grace and glory of God upon our lives, just as we seen in Adam and Eve being naked. This wasn’t just about physical nakedness; it was rather more of the nakedness of being stripped of grace, with the resultant effect of being ashamed of God. Just as they hid at the sound of God’s approach, that is how sin takes away our confidence to come into the presence of God. When we fall into sin, oftentimes, the devil reminds us that we are unfit to say the name of God, let alone show our faces to him. This sometimes lead people into giving up on praying, absenting themselves from Church and other spiritual gatherings, and even trying to “run” and “hide” away from God. This never helps. On the contrary, when we sin, we should bow our heads and approach God in humility and ask him restore to us the grace we have lost. Jesus says “if anyone comes to me, I will in no wise cast him out” (John 6:37). When we sin, accepting that we have sinned and being sorry for our sins should draw us back to God rather than away from God.

It is important to point out here that even when we sin, God does not abandon us, he does not leave us, instead, he comes looking for us. God was well aware that Adam and Eve had eaten of the fruit of the tree he told them not to even touch; yet, he came “looking” for them in the evening breeze. This brings to mind the picture of Jesus the Good Shepherd who goes out in search of the lost sheep till he finds it (cf. Luke 15:1-7). Little wonder God invites us through the prophet Isaiah to come and talk about our sins with him, with the assurance that even though they be like crimson or like scarlet, he can make us as white as snow and as pure as wool (cf. Isaiah 1:18). When we sin, it is not the time to run from God; on the contrary, it is the time to run to God.

iii. Learn to say sorry when you are wrong – In the whole time that God was talking with Adam and Eve, up till the point he sent them out of Eden, there is not a record of a single instance where they said sorry. Many relationships are destroyed today because people fail to truly say sorry when they are wrong; our relationship with God is also wounded when we fail to truly say sorry. To sincerely say sorry, one must have regretted one’s words or action or omission or whatever wrong one has done. This is actually a major step towards repentance. To not have said sorry, we can imply that neither Adam nor Eve regretted their action. God is much more interested in our repentance and salvation than in our obstinacy in sin and damnation (cf Ezek. 33:11), and that is why God said “(2 Chronicles 7:14) “if My people who are called by My name will humble themselves, and pray and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land (2 Chron 7:14). As Catholics, we have a beautiful meeting point with God in the Sacrament of Penance where we can humble ourselves and seek his face and turn from our wicked ways and receive forgiveness for our sins. Always learn to truly and sincerely say sorry when you are wrong.

4. Dear brothers and sisters, when we sin, let us not despair and act like the scribes in our today’s gospel text. That makes repentance, and consequently, forgiveness, to be very difficult. Following the three steps outlined in our three lessons today can and will always help us improve on our relationship with God: accept responsibility for your words, or actions or inactions, run to God in humility and ask for his help, and say sorry, earnestly asking for forgiveness. And very importantly, resolve firmly, by the help of God’s grace, to do all in your power to avoid future occasions of sin. May the Lord Jesus help us in our struggles. Amen.