Turn Our Regrets & Shame into Gratitude for a Second Chance
I believe most of us can look back on our lives and see something we regret having done, or feel ashamed by something that has happened to us. For many people, it can be hard to move on. Guilt, shame or anger can keep us trapped in the past. Today’s readings tell us that God’s interest in our past is only so that God can raise us up to a new and better experience of life.
The Pharisees in the Gospel, today, are not interested in the well-being of the woman caught in adultery: they are simply using her to win a point against Jesus. One could ask, where is the man who was committing adultery with her? Importantly, Jesus gives her a warning as He sends her away: ‘Neither do I condemn you,’ said Jesus ‘go away, and do not sin anymore.’
Jesus is not threatening her, but simply giving her good advice. Her previous sin(s) almost caused her to be killed. The advice is given so that her new chance for life will not be cut short.
I believe, the older we get, the more likely we have been given a second chance to start again. These occasions should cause us to feel deep gratitude to God and the person letting us off.
I remember Fr Charlie in Indonesia recalling how one of his students knifed the teacher and he was forced to remove him from school. The Dad came begging for another chance, so Fr Charlie placed him in another of his schools.
Fr Charlie reasoned it this way: he wants to be a lawyer. One day he might be a Judge. He’ll be a kind Judge, because he knows how it feels to be condemned and given a second chance.
One of the challenges and gifts of Lent is to be honest with ourselves and those we love: I found the following saying helpful: “I understood myself only after I destroyed myself. And only in the process of fixing myself, did I know who I really was.”
At times, God appears to be silent because we are too full of ourselves and not honest with ourselves. At times this may be because we don’t know any better. Although the experience of falling apart is a very humbling one, it is one that can be the beginning of something better.
And that is what Jesus offers us through the Crucifixion & Resurrection. We have to die to our past in order to begin a new lease of life. For older people, we need to let go of our ego, so that others become the centre of attention. In return, love will flow back to us in many small ways.
Younger people need an EGO so that they can develop a healthy pride in what they can do and say. To succeed, they need to let go of past shame. I pray that, if any of us are haunted by something in our past, we may receive the grace and humility to reach out to a friend, a counsellor, a priest or psychologist: Jesus is inviting us to be free.
God wants to give us another chance, but you have to ask for it. So, as Jesus says many times: Do Not Be Afraid. Be honest with the right people, and ask for another chance. Then, work hard to appreciate God’s goodness.
By Gerard Conlan, OMI