|Of all images or ikons of Christ, this is my favorite.|
Why? It is His look. His eyes say,
‘I know everything about you,
and I love you.’
People recognized Christ because He remitted sin. That was the Good News, the meaning of His advent: ‘Go tell everyone his sins can be forgiven!’ Jesus is essentially ‘the Savior.’ ‘Where there is much sin, there's even more grace’ (Romans 5:20). He came, not to abolish sin, but to forgive it. ‘I've come for sinners,’ He used to say, ‘not for the righteous’ (Luke 5:32).
Those who couldn't tolerate such mercy rejected Him. Mohammedans, for instance, refuse the believe in the divinity of Christ because they can't accept the idea of a God who's so ‘unjust,’ as they see it—who doesn't take vengeance on His enemies but suffers all manner of abuse from them, who lets the wicked do as they please and, instead of pulverizing them, anxiously hopes they'll reconsider returning to Him. ‘There's more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents…’ (Luke 15:7).
If this thought fills us with warmth and gladness, we're close to Christ. If it annoys and vexes us or makes us shrug our shoulders in resignation, that's because we still have none of His spirit. We're deists, perhaps, but certainly not Christians. Many of us are Mohammedans and don't know it.
‘God alone can forgive sins’ (Mark 2:7). Above and beyond its juridical meaning, we must read this statement as a sort of description of God. Only He ‘knows how’ to pardon. We surely don't. According to the old saying, women forgive but never forget. And as for men, they're so self-centered they forget and very rarely take time, thought, or trouble to forgive.
All in all, human forgiveness is a crushing thing, an unpleasant memory we can't shake off. The superiority of those who grant pardon utterly quashes those who receive it. There's forgiveness, but no reassurance, no consolation, no encouragement. God is the only one who can manage all four together. You see, forgiving kindly entails humiliating oneself.
The prodigal's father doesn't want to hear another word about the whole episode. He gives a banquet. That's how God does it too. He alone can make forgiveness something glorious to remember. He is so glad to absolve us that those who have afforded Him that joy feel, not like disagreeable, troublesome pests, but like pampered children, understood and heartened, pleasing and useful to Him, and infinitely better than they thought.
‘O happy fault!’ they could cry. ‘If we weren't sinners and didn't need pardon more than bread, we'd have no way of knowing how deep God's love is.’
I wish these words were mine, but I have only made them mine by trying to live out what they say. The passages above are taken from Fr Louis Evely’s book That Man Is You (1966). I offer them to you, brethren, following the precept,
“Remember who your teachers were…”
2 Timothy 3:14