Sadness is at the core of today’s reading. Matthew tells us that Judas repented when he saw what his betrayal had wrought, but it seems he did not trust that his turning away would lead to the possibility of reconciliation and restoration. Having been derided by the Chief Priests, in Matthew’s telling, he did not feel able to return to his community of fellow followers of Jesus and seek to continue walking with them.
How trusting are we that the promise of forgiveness and continuing relationship with God, which comes as a consequence of repentance, actually does come? Do we ‘repent’, seek to turn away, but actually instead hold on to the words of those around us, or the culture around us, many of which would find it difficult to extend the hand of forgiveness, acceptance and restoration to one who has strayed? Are our Church families places where coming back together is actively encouraged? My own experience is that I hold on to things long, long after I have thought I’d repented, sought forgiveness and been absolved. As someone who has the privilege of pronouncing absolution now, I often wonder what consequences this has in way members of the congregations I serve think and act in the days following.
Do all you can to trust in the promises of God to forgive, make broken things whole and to give new mercies every morning, that you no longer live burdened by the guilt and shame of the past. It’s something that our society seems to find unacceptable. Once mistakes have been made, it seems like they have to follow us around for life (just look at someone in public office who steps out of line), but God sees and knows hearts and motives. Trust him. Don’t listen to the voices of judgement that spring up all too readily all around. Forgiveness is possible. Grace and mercy are real, actual, alive and powerful things. Don’t despair.