In the second reading St. Paul, reflecting on his own sinfulness, reminds us that Jesus emptied himself, took the form of a slave, and humbled himself when he became obedient to the point of death on a cross to redeem us of our sins.
Today we are going to reflect on our lives as we contrast our own sinfulness with the innocence, mercy and forgiveness of Jesus Christ our redeemer, whose blood washes away our sins.
"In that place between wakefulness and dreams, I found myself in a strange room. There were no distinguishing features save for the one wall covered with files containing small index cards like the ones in libraries that list titles by author or subject in alphabetical order.
These files stretched from floor to ceiling. They went endlessly in both directions. But they had very different headings. As I drew near the wall-of- files, the first to catch my attention was one that read: “people I have lied to” and “people I have hurt”. I opened it and began flipping through the cards. I quickly shut it. I was shocked to realize that I recognized the names written on each one.
And then without being told, I knew exactly where I was. This room with its small files was a crude catalog system from my own life. Here were written the actions of my every moment—big and small in a detail my memory could not match.
A sense of wonder and curiosity, coupled with horror, stirred within me as I began randomly opening files and exploring their content. Some brought joy and sweet memories; others a sense of shame and regret so intense that I would look over my shoulder to see if anyone was watching. A file name “friends” was next to one marked “friends I have betrayed”. And “family members I haven’t spoken to in years.”
The titles ranged from the mundane to the outright weird. “books I have read”-- “lies I have told”--“comfort I have given”, “jokes I have laughed at”—some were almost outrageous in their exactness-- “things I have done in my anger”—“things I have muttered under my breath at my parents”. I never ceased to be surprised by the contents. Often there were many more cards than I expected—sometimes fewer than I expected. Sometimes fewer than I hoped.
I was overwhelmed by the sheer volume of the life I had lived. Could it be possible that I had the time in my few years to write each of these thousands or even millions of cards? But each card confirmed this truth. Each was written in my own handwriting. Each signed with my signature.
When I pulled out the file marked tv shows I have watched, I realized the files grew to contain their contents. The cards were packed tightly, and yet after two or three yards, I hadn’t found the end of the file. I shut the file ashamed-- not so much by the content—but more by the vast amount of wasted time I knew that file represented.
Then I saw a label that read, times I have ignored my creator. I couldn’t believe there was such a file.
When I came to a file marked lustful thoughts, I felt a chill run through my body. I pulled the file out only an inch, not willing to test its size, and drew out a card. I shuddered at its detailed content. I felt sick to think that such a moment had been recorded.
An almost animal rage broke out on me. One thought dominated my mind. No one must ever see these cards! No one must ever see this room! I must destroy them! In an insane frenzy I yanked the file out. Its size didn’t matter now. I had to empty it and burn the cards. But as I took it at one end and began pounding it on the floor, I could not dislodge a single card. I became desperate and pulled out a card, only to find it as strong as steel when I tried to tear it.
Defeated and utterly helpless, I returned the file to its slot. Leaning my forehead against the wall, I let out a long, self-pitying sigh.
And then I saw one that bore the title: “people I have shared the gospel with”. The handle was lighter than those around it—newer—almost unused. I pulled on its handle and a small box, not more than three inches long, fell into my hands. I could count the cards it contained on one hand. The people I had shared the gospel with.
And then the tears came. I began to weep-- sobs so deep that the hurt started in my stomach and shook through me. I fell on my knees and cried. I cried out of shame—from the overwhelming shame of it all. The rows of the shelves swirled in my tear-filled eyes.
No one no one must ever know of this room. I must lock it up and hide the key.
Suddenly, when I pushed away the tears, I saw him; no-- please-- not him—not here. Oh-- anyone but Jesus. I watched helplessly as he began to open the files and read the cards. I could not bear to look at his face. I saw a sorrow deeper than my own. He seemed intuitively to go to the worst boxes. Why did he have to read every one? I was so ashamed.
Finally he turned and looked at me from across the room. He looked at me with pity in his eyes. But this was a pity that didn’t anger me. I dropped my head, covered my face with my hands and began to cry again. He walked over and put his arm around me. He could have said so many things. But he didn’t say a word. He just cried with me.
Then he got up and walked back to the wall of files starting at one end of the room, he took out a file and one by one began to sign his name over mine on each card.
“No!” I shouted rushing to him. All I could find to say was “no, no” as I pulled the card from him. His name should not be on these cards. But there it was, written in red so rich, so dark and so alive. The name of Jesus covered my name. It was written with his blood.
He gently took the card back. He smiled a sad smile and began to sign the cards. I don’t think i’ll ever understand how he did it so quickly, but the next instant it seemed I heard him close the last file and walk back to my side. He placed his hand on my shoulder and said: “it is finished.”
I stood up, and he led me out of the room. There was no lock on the door.
You see--there were still cards to be written.
* “the room” by Joshua Harris
A reading from the book of the prophet Ezekiel: thus says the lord: you say, “the lord’s way is not fair!” Hear now, house of Israel: is it my way that is unfair, or rather, are not your ways unfair? When someone virtuous turns away from virtue to commit iniquity, and dies, it is because of the iniquity he committed that he must die. But if he turns from the wickedness he has committed, he does what is right and just, he shall preserve his life; since he has turned away from all the sins that he has commited, he shall surely live. He shall not die.