Once a year I put on my classical duds and go to New York City to see an opera or two. A few years ago I saw Mozart’s Don Giovanni. The story is sometimes called Don Juan. It is the story of a horrible man who uses and dumps as many women as he can; laughing at the fact that he can’t even count his victims. At the end of the opera Don Giovanni or the play Don Juan, or for that matter, at the end of the opera Faust, the main character has the ability to be forgiven, but out of pride refuses to recognize his sins and would rather be condemned to hell.
These are just plays or operas, but what saddens me is that many people act the same way. There are people who think that it is too late for them. They think that they cannot be forgiven. They think that their sins are too numerous or too grave to merit forgiveness.
Perhaps you know some of these people. Perhaps you are one of these people. If you think that it is too late to be forgiven or that your sins are too grave, you are wrong.
Look at the reading from the Book of Jonah (3:1-5, 10). Now when we hear about Jonah we think about the fellow who spent three days in the belly of a whale, foreshadowing Christ’s three days in the tomb. That is only part of the story. The whole reason why Jonah got gobbled up was because he refused to listen to God and preach to the people of the largest city of the area, Nineveh. God told Jonah to go to Nineveh and tell the people that they were condemned due to their sins. Jonah was afraid of them, and was convinced that they would attack him if he did as God told him. Nineveh was to the Northeast of Jonah. Jonah fled to the Southwest, and got onto a ship he hoped would take him to a far away land. Instead, he ended up being thrown overboard. A tempest had hit the ship, and the mariners were convinced that this was not a normal weather occurrence, but the hand of God. They soon learned about Jonah trying to flee God, and threw him off the ship into the ocean. The whale saved Jonah’s life, giving him a chance to redeem himself by doing God’s will and telling the Ninivites that condemnation was coming. But the Ninevites heard Jonah, recognized their own sins, and repented hoping that it would not be too late for them. It wasn’t. God saw their determination and decided against punishing them
It wasn’t too late for Jonah. It wasn’t too late for the Ninivites. It is never too late for us. So, people come to Church the last few weeks and see crosses or other reminders of the pro-abortion laws in our country. Many people are reminded not just of Roe vs Wade, but of the fact that they were involved with an abortion. They think that it is too late for them to be forgiven, or that the sin was too much to forgive. They think that they don’t belong in Church. They are wrong. God wants them here. We need them here. God wants them here because he wants them to receive healing from the community. We need them here because we need people who will proclaim to the world that there is only one choice a Christian can make and that is the choice of life. We need them here because they are hurting, and we, the Body of Christ cannot bear to see any of our members in pain.
Some people come to Church battling sin and frequently losing that battle. They might have gotten through a week or two, but then they succumb again. Once in Church they see so many around them living a moral life that they feel that they don’t belong here. But they are wrong. The need to be here because they need to be in the presence of compassion and love, compassion and love emanating from Christ and reflected by the Catholic community. It is not too late for them. It is never too late for any of us.
The verses from the Gospel of Mark (1:14-20) sum up all of Jesus’ teaching. His message was simple: repent and believe in the Gospel, the Good News. The Good News is that happiness and peace are offered to us if we are willing to fight against sin and turn to the Lord. The Good News is that nothing can take Christ from us. No one, no situation in life, nothing can destroy the joy that we have in being united to the Lord.
And this joy is there for us, every one of us. We can embrace the joy. We do not have to be like Don Giovanni. We cannot allow our pride to destroy us. We can the humility to embrace the Lord’s compassion. The Lord never gives up on us. We do not have the right to give up on ourselves.