ChuckBerendesThe Second reading for the Second Sunday of Lent asks us, “If God is for us, who can be against us? If it is God who acquits us, who will condemn?” (Rom 8:31). It is clearly helpful to have God “for us”. It definitely beats the alternative. However, I wonder, what does it mean to be “acquitted” by God and what does that require of us?

A dictionary definition of “acquit” is to free a person from a criminal charge by a finding of not guilty. A synonym of “acquit” is “absolve” meaning to declare someone free from blame or guilt specifically in reference to sin. It is God who has acquitted us, forgiven us, and freed us from guilt through his death and Resurrection. God releases us from the guilt of our sins freely, not because of our merit or because we as individuals have done anything to deserve it. I wonder if this Lent we could try to approximate this forgiveness. If God can forgive us and release us from guilt, can we do the same for those we feel have trespassed against us? Can we forgive the homeless man asking for change, who we are convinced made terrible choices that landed him on the streets?

Can we forgive the immigrant that crossed the border without permission to provide for his family? Can we forgive the single mother who cannot afford her utility bills, but can afford cigarettes? If God can acquit and absolve us even when we don’t deserve it and we have all sorts of our own guilt, secrets and sins, maybe we should try to “do what Jesus would do” and focus less on blame and more on forgiveness. If we can become good at that, maybe we can move from forgiveness to kindness and hospitality.

Chuck Berendes
Assistant Executive Director