Remember not the events of the past,
the things of long ago consider not;
see, I am doing something new!
Just one thing: forgetting what lies behind
but straining forward to what lies ahead, I continue my pursuit toward the goal, the prize of God’s upward calling, in Christ Jesus.
Then Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn you.
Go, and from now on do not sin any more.”
Each of these verses come from the Lectionary readings for the Fifth Sunday of Lent. It seems to me that there is a common theme: that we are to be forward looking. Whatever we might have done in the past is behind us. The only thing that really matters is where we turn today and intend to go tomorrow.
There is a temptation to look backward. To either see our sins as an impediment to our own sanctification or to look back with fondness to a time without a cross. Some Christians seem to promote the idea that our exodus from sin to salvation will be an easy road, that we need only accept Jesus as our personal lord and savior, and our life will be all sunshine and rainbows. But Jesus himself told us that we were to take up our cross daily and follow him. He walked the path of suffering. After the Israelites left their life of slavery in Egypt, they wandered in the desert for 40 years. Many (most?) compared their life in the desert to the life they lived in Egypt and wanted to go back. God wanted them to look forward. Are we to think that leaving behind our slavery to sin will not come with its own desert of purgation?
The story is often told of the monk who, when asked what they do in the monastery replies, “We fall down, and we get back up.” What he means is that, like all people, they sin. But when they sin, the repent, put the sin behind them, and move on “toward the goal, the prize of God’s upward calling.” It can be so tempting, in the failure to live a devout life, to find an excuse not to try. That, however, is not what Christians do.
Through baptism, I have been incorporated into the Body of Christ. Every Sunday at mass, I renew the Covenant that Christ enacted through his Passion. I express sorrow for my sins, I glorify God, I hear His word, I profess my faith, I partake of the sacrifice, and I recommit myself to discerning and following His will. Yet, within the week, I will have stumbled over my own leaden feet. I cannot despair; I can only keep straining forward.