In 2000, Cardinal Thuan, who was a prisoner of war in Vietnam for thirteen years, nine of which were solitary confinement, preached the Lenten Retreat to the Curia in Rome. During this retreat he spoke about the “defects” of Jesus. The first defect he mentioned was that Jesus does not have a good memory. He said,
“During Jesus’s agony on the cross, He heard the voice of the thief at his right side: ‘Lord, remember me when you come into your kingdom.’ If it had been me, I would have answered him: I will forget you, but you must pay for your crimes by spending some 20 years in purgatory. On the contrary, Jesus said: ‘Today you will be with me in Paradise.’ Jesus just forgot all about his sins. As for Mary Magdalene, Jesus never questioned her about her scandalous past life. He simply said to her: ‘Your sins have been forgiven you because you loved so much’. When the father sees his prodigal son coming home, he runs to meet him, embraces him and does not even give him time to pronounce the little speech he had prepared. He calls his servants and says: “Kill the fatted calf to feast my son. My dead son has returned to life…’ Jesus doesn’t have a memory like mine. Not only does He forgive, He forgets everything.”
My dear sisters and brothers, I agree with Cardinal Van Thuan, God has a very short memory. Far from being a defect, it is a quality that very much favors us. The person God sees is the person that I am now. What matters are my relationships with God and with others now. The past, good or bad, is forgotten. There is not a divine account book with credits and debits that must be balanced out at the end of the day.
Some may complain that “what the Lord does is unjust”. But the first reading today makes the situation clear: “When the upright abandons uprightness and does wrong and dies, he dies because of the wrong which he himself has done. Similarly, when the wicked abandons wickedness to become law-abiding and upright, he saves his own life.” It is not God who condemns us. It is we who make the choice to be with God or to alienate ourselves from God. And God recognizes our choice.
So, it is important to reflect on how I relate to God today and each day. The choice of being with God or away from God is all ours. If today I reject God, directly or through the way I relate with those around me as today’s Gospel reminds us, then, however virtuous I have been in the past, I have put God out of my life. If, on the other hand, today I choose God, then I have nothing to fear whatever I may have been guilty of in the past.
Our God is full of love and mercy, as the Responsorial Psalms says: “The Lord is kindness and with Him is plenteous redemption.” No matter what I did in the past, it will have no effect on my relationship with God if I reach out to God here and now. On the other hand, there is no room for complacency. My past good record can be completely undone by my turning away at any time.
Let us pray that God helps us to be faithful disciples of His Son and to always imitate God’s heart and spirit.