One of the younger monks in the desert was found to have committed a crime and the other brethren gathered together to deliver judgement. They sent for the abbot Moses but he would not come. Finally the priest went for him as the assembly waited. Moses took a very old basket, filled it with sand and carried it behind him. When they arrived at the meeting place the Brothers came out and asked Moses, "Father, what is this?" The old man said, "My sins are running behind me and I do not see them, and I am come today to judge the sins of another man." The monks heard him. They said nothing to the offending Brother, but forgave him his offence.
Conscious of our own sinfulness we should be very slow to condemn others. Who among us is without sin? Of course we know we are not blameless, 'we're only human' and therefore guilty of many faults. But, all too often, this does not prevent us from sitting in judgement on another 'only human' man or woman, ready to throw our stone. That was the case of the scribes and Pharisees with the adulterous woman in St John's Gospel, Ch 8. It was the case of the brothers in the desert who would be rid of their erring companion were it not for the wise monk Moses.
Lent calls us to let go of our stones, our accusations of others, and look rather at the state of our own house. We may be in for a shock as we become aware of certain habits or behaviours which have rooted in us. Dealing with failure and wrongdoing, and being able to turn our life around are central to our faith. Falling in with the crowd, our perceptions have become blunted, our hearts sluggish. All this can be remedied when we turn to God ready to begin again, ready to be converted. Listen to the clear, direct words of the Gospel; Repent. Say you are sorry. Come down. Don't be afraid. Come and see. And, lest you doubt, "I have come to call not the righteous, but sinners" (Mk 2:17).
We are called, we are welcomed even in our sin. "This is a princely friendship of our courteous Lord," wrote the 14th century mystic Juliana of Norwich, "that he looks after us tenderly even while we are in sin. He touches us secretly and shows us our sin by the kindly light of his mercy."
Jesus told us that there is overwhelming joy in heaven when a sinner repents (Lk 15:20) It is a joy that overflows on to the penitent because of the freedom that comes as we experience God's forgiveness. Of course we will fail again, but even if we fall 'seventy times seven' let us get up and gently urge our battered hearts another step. Remember that loving Father who waits for you, who runs out to meet you (Lk 15:11). Why would you delay?
Sister Redempta Twomey is a Columban Sister living in Ireland.