“We have sinned, been wicked and done evil; we have rebelled and departed from your commandments and laws.”
The prophet Daniel is speaking for Israel, but it could just as well be us. And that’s where I want to go this second week of Lent: Let’s talk about sin.
In the Old Testament, Joseph’s brothers hated him. They plotted to kill him and sold him into slavery. But the law of the cross was at work: The consequences of his brothers’ sins crashed on him, and he became the savior of his family.
That law is fulfilled in Jesus. When He tells the apostles that He’s going to Jerusalem to suffer, die and rise, what He’s saying is: “The consequences of the sins of the whole world will crash on me, and I will become the savior of all humankind.”
Sin has a word to speak, and God lets sin have its say. One of the great mistakes of our time is to suppose that sin has no word to speak or that God’s victory over it is automatic. The truth, however, is twofold: Jesus can overcome any and every sin. His death and resurrection shows that there’s no darkness He can’t illuminate. But He won’t do it without our consent. If we don’t let the light of Jesus shine on it, then the darkness of sin will remain in us. We get to decide, in our own lives, whether God or sin will have the final word.
The readings for the week give us ample opportunity to reflect on the sinful attitudes that prevent us from letting the light of Jesus overcome sin in us. For example, we hear about the request of James and John to sit at the right and left of Jesus in his kingdom. Sinful ambition has blinded them to what Jesus is trying to teach them about the cross. The rich man ignored the needs of Lazarus. Then, when he cried out in torment in the afterlife, the measure with which he measured was measured back to him: He was ignored and left to suffer.
Can you name a characteristic flaw — a persistent desire, a habitual action, a pervasive attitude — that has become a blindness? Take a week and think about it. Think about asking family or friends for help in identifying it. (They’ll know it as well as anyone, because the consequences of it probably crash on them.) Then, bring it to Jesus for healing.
Tax collectors and sinners drew near to Jesus. They knew they needed the remedy, because they knew they had the sickness. The Pharisees, by contrast, didn’t think they had any sickness. But their blindness was precisely the problem. Because they didn’t let Jesus in, they remained in darkness.
Sin has a word in our lives. Who will have the last word — sin or Jesus? It’s our choice.