Reading (Sirach 47:2-11) Gospel (St. Mark 6:14-29)
In the readings today, we see three different ways of dealing with sin. The first way that we see we can deal with sin is the style of Herodias. Herodias gave in completely to the sin that she was involved in, which was the sin of adultery, and she was completely unrepentant for what she was doing. Consequently, she wanted to have Saint John the Baptist removed because he was a censure to her conscience. Being completely unrepentant, what she wanted to do was to make it seem as though she was not doing anything wrong, to make it seem as though what she was doing was correct. “I’ll just get rid of John the Baptist, and then nobody will be telling me that what I’m doing is wrong.”
The second way is what we see in Herod. He knew that what he was doing was wrong, he did not like what Saint John the Baptist was telling him, but he knew it was the truth – and it bothered him. Yet, because of his circumstances, he still did not want to change his life. He was caught between a rock and a hard place in his own mind. “Should I do what’s right, or should I continue to do what’s wrong? I know that I should do what is right, but I like doing what is wrong, and, well, how am I going to get out of this anyway? I like it, so I’ll keep doing it, even though it bothers my conscience.” After a while, what happens is that the conscience simply becomes numb and then it does not bother us so much anymore.
Then in the first reading, we hear about David. David wanted to serve God. David, as we all know, had sinned in some very severe ways, yet we hear that his sin was forgiven. Why? Because he was repentant, and because he truly sought to serve the Lord.
Those are really the three possibilities of what it is that we can do. When we sin, we can say, “I know that I’m wrong, and I don’t care.” There are not too many people who are going to say that, because what they want to do is justify what they are doing. Even though they know it is wrong, they are going to find a way to say that it is okay. Or we can say, “You’re right and I’m wrong, but I’m going to keep doing what I’m doing.” That was Herod’s plight. Or we can say, “You’re right and I’m wrong – and I need to change.” That is what David did. Those are really the only three possibilities that we have.
We have to realize within ourselves as we look at our sinfulness, that all of us are going to fall into one of these categories. We obviously know which one we ought to be in, and it gives us great hope that the sins David committed are probably worse than what most of us have done. That being the case, if David can be forgiven because with his heart he sought to serve the Lord and he was repentant for what he had done, so too our sins can be forgiven. If we try to ignore our sins, or if we try to cover them up, then there is no forgiveness because we are not repentant. The only thing that cannot be forgiven is unrepentance. If we refuse to accept the mercy of God, it is a sin against the Holy Spirit, and we cannot be forgiven if we will not repent. The only limitation in the confessional is our lack of repentance.
So that is the thing we have to look at: how much do we really want to serve God? Are we in the middle someplace trying to play footsie with sin? Or are we just giving in completely to sin and we do not care? There are lots of Catholic in that boat right now because they contracept and they refuse to change and they refuse to acknowledge that it is a sin. They do not bring it up in Confession because they do not even go to Confession. They are just like Herodias looking for a way to get rid of what censures their conscience. Probably a lot of us fall into the middle category: “I know it’s wrong, but I like it.” We go to Confession, but we half-heartedly confess our sin because we really do not intend to change. Then there are those like David, who know that what they have done is wrong, who truly repent of their sin, and their sins are completely removed because their heart is set on God, even though in a moment of weakness they took their heart off of God and acted selfishly and stupidly.
No matter what it is that we have done, if we are repentant, if we truly want to love the Lord, our sins will be forgiven and we will be free of those sins so that we can give even greater glory to God than what we would have been able to without the sin, because then we can acknowledge the mercy of God in our own lives and we can be free to love Him with our whole heart and soul and strength.
* This text was transcribed from the audio recording of a homily by Father Robert Altier with minimal editing.