Father Clay’s perspective on sin has always resonated with me. He has helped me think of “sin” as the anxiety, suffering and pain we carry in ourselves or inflict on others. When I hear that God forgives sins, for me that means I have permission to stop beating myself up for something, that I can learn from it and move on.
Ups and Downs of Life
Dear People Whom God Loves,
On Good Friday we remember Jesus’ suffering and dying on the cross. Some of us have been told that our sins nailed Jesus to the cross. I don’t think that this type of religious reflection is spiritually helpful. If we are already feeling a lot of guilt and don’t regard ourselves as worthwhile, this can increase our self-hate. As self-hate grows, we diminish our potential for spiritual growth.
To sin means to choose ways of acting that are destructive and harmful to ourselves and others. It is honest and healthy to reflect on the consequences of our actions and to realize that we do indeed harm ourselves and others. We reflect on this not to make ourselves think we are bad people—we are not—but to give us reason to change our lives in ways that are good for ourselves and others.
Jesus was killed because he persevered in living a life that followed his Father’s will, a life that was often a challenge to powerful and important people of his time. The challenge was so threatening that they chose to kill Jesus to remove the threat.
Jesus’ suffering and death on the cross are the ultimate symbols of God’s love for us. In Jesus, God chose to live with us in all the twists and turns of human living and to accept the consequences of that choice—a choice that finally led to being nailed to a cross.
Smile, God Loves You.
From the letter “Ups and Downs of Life” by Father John Clay. Published in Dear People Whom God Loves (c) 1999