Sunday 6 May 2012

Our God is A God of Second Chances

By Santiago Rodriguez, S.J.

I am not ashamed to say that I am a fan of Veggie Tales. I have seen some of the episodes along with the two films, and their songs are often in my head. Since one of my former roommates introduced me to these anthropomorphic vegetables, I had used their songs to prepare many Sunday School presentations for children. In one of the Veggie Tales films, Jonah: A Veggie Tale Movie, the Pirates Who Don't Do Anything tell the story of Jonah, the prophet who panics and tries to flee from the Lord when he is given the mission to go to Nineveh. We know how the story goes: a guilt-stricken but wearied Jonah leaves on a ship and when the it is beset with a great storm, the passengers conclude that God is angry at Jonah and they toss him into the sea.

Once at sea, he is swallowed by a whale, and inside its belly he meets God's messengers. They inform him through song that God is a god of mercy and love – and if Jonah repents, God will surely give him a second chance. The choir repeatedly tells him:
Praise the Lord! 

He's the God of second chances!
You'll be floored how His love your life enhances! 
You can be restored from your darkest circumstances! 

Our God is a God of second chances!
Ain't that the truth. God is constantly calling us out of the misery, sin and captivity that prevent us from enjoying the freedom He desires for us. In the first reading today (Acts 9: 26–31), Saul arrives in Jerusalem to meet the disciples, but they are too afraid of him. They do not trust him. But Barnabas takes charge of him and brings him to the other Apostles. I am sure that Barnabas was also afraid, and he might have been inclined to distrust Saul. But a voice within asked him to let go of the fear. He might have met Jesus and heard him say: do not be afraid. He might have thought of a time when he sinned, made mistakes and could not forgive himself. But God showed him that there is mercy, forgiveness, and reconciliation. Barnabas trusted. He trusted in the promise of God's mercy and love. He trusted that promise was also for Saul and for everybody else: Our God is a god of second chances.

It is hard to trust others when they have hurt us. It seems burdensome to forgive. It appears that giving someone a second chance is unfathomable. Especially when that someone is me. It is easy to lose hope after we have done something stupid. With St. Paul we can say that we don't do what we want to do, but do what we hate to do. Sometimes we feel like we cannot do anything right. We tell ourselves: why bother trying anymore. When those days threaten to drown me, two thoughts come to my rescue. One comes from Batman Begins. When Bruce Wayne/Batman fails an attempted rescue of Gotham, Alfred tells him that we fall so we we can learn how to pick ourselves again. The other thought comes from Proverbs 24:16: "For the righteous falls seven times and rises again."

We will fall. We might fall many times. It will become a challenge to pick ourselves up. Hope is necessary in this process. It will hurt, but the pain will yield much fruit. For as we fall, we learn to be more compassionate with the fallen. We are reminded we are forgiven sinners. Our God is a god of second chances. He calls us to share that message with the world. He calls us to trust; to be merciful. We are called to forgive ourselves and those who have trespassed against us. Let us make it our mission to be agents of reconciliation and mercy in this world. When God's mercy catches fire, it will help transform the world anew.

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