Monday, March 8, 2010

And Forgive us Our Trespasses...

Remember when we were talking lo, those many months ago, about what if an alien life form showed up at Mass, and we were imagining what impressions they might take away from Mass?

A little scary, I know, but take out the drool and you get the idea.

Well, what if, on that occasion, that alien had come and sat down next to you, all tentacle-y but well-intentioned, and asked you to summarize in one sentence what this whole Bible story was about.

It'd be ridiculous, I know. I mean, if the thing is smart enough to fly all the way here from God knows where, and he's got 6 or 8 arms (and/or heads), he probably can speed read the Bible, no? Or pop into his computer module and get the E.T. form of Cliff's Notes.

But say it asked anyway. What would you answer?

One possible response would certainly be today's phrase from the Our Father: "Forgive us Our Trespasses." Or recrafted as a statement, not a petition, "God forgives us." The story of salvation history is a story of us being saved not primarily from outside forces, though we see some of that, but from ourselves. The paradigm of God's relationship with humanity is the story of the Prodigal Son -- or, as the theologian N.T. Wright calls it, the story of "The Running Father" (that is, the Father who runs to embrace his wayward child).

What makes today's petition important is its acknowledgement that among the basic things we need is not only sustenance but forgiveness. Both individually and communally, we have blown it. We've made a mess of things, and we can't make it right on our own. That is the fundamental thing about sin -- it's like getting stuck in a tar pit or wandering off the path into the woods. Once you're in it, you can't get out on your own. You can try to make it right, yes, but fundamentally, you have to be forgiven. And so we ask forgiveness...

Someone pointed out in the photograph for yesterday, one little puppy gets left behind and isn't allowed to feed. The story of the Running Father is God's response to that. His forgiveness is for everyone, not just the strong, in fact not primarily the strong at all, but first and foremost the weak.

And speaking of things that are weak...

1 comment:

zombiedog said...

You call it religion?
You're full of shit!