It is not unusual to find people whose image of God is as a harsh and mean God. Perhaps it is the hurt that has happened in their lives, the experiences of deep and tragic losses,were the type of abuse and experiences that lead to deep shame. Such persons can also find those who profess to believe who only serve to deepen this difficult image of God.
What is our image of God? In answering this question, there are a few assumptions we can make. Since we are made in God’s image and likeness, then there has to be something in us, we are at our best, that teaches us something about God. But what does it mean for us to be at our best? Is it when we are harsh, rigid, seeing the world only in black and white ways, an image of God who is a judge? Is it when we believe that “anything goes”, that there are simply no reasons for God to get mad at us, the image of God as a teddy bear?
Both extremes would be unfortunate and wrong. We believe that God has deep and abiding love for his people. More than anything else, God desires us to be at our best, reflecting the love that calls us to greatness. At the same time, the mention of sin and forgiveness in today’s readings reminds us that not everything goes. There is right and wrong.
The question in today’s readings is, as it is in so many ways, a question of balance. We must avoid an understanding of God that leads no room for forgiveness. In fact, God longs to forgive the truly contrite and holy heart that seeks to repent. But we cannot be without demands or standards. Living the life of faith is not always easy, nor does it always give us what we want.
Both the first reading in the gospel today remind us that is in so many things, our faith is strengthened when we seek out the presence of the Lord Jesus in our lives. We are called to be those people, who recognize our need for forgiveness, and our desire to be those best persons we were created to become.