We all need redemption: a sinful act, a hurtful word, something we didn’t do that allowed harm to happen.
Yet guilt is a powerful force, one that can stop us from seeking redemption when we need it most. A heavy conscience can weigh on us and impede our hope for right relationship with others and with God.
What is pressing on our hearts that stops us from seeking redemption? What prevents us from asking for God to make us whole?
In John’s Gospel, we see a moment of remorse from Jesus, who is moved by the grief of Martha for the loss of her brother, Lazarus. “[Jesus ] became perturbed and deeply troubled,” and “Jesus wept” (John 11:33; John 11:35).
But Jesus has the power to do something about it, to alleviate the pain Martha feels at the loss of Lazarus’ life. Jesus takes mercy on Martha and all those grieving by raising Lazarus from the dead. This amazing gift is the same gift that God wants to provide all of us: redemption and the opportunity for new life.
The guilt that Jesus felt was not because of something he did wrong, it was because of the pain he saw consuming Martha. This should remind us that our heaviness and guilt can come from both external and internal factors.
Jesus empathizes with the woman who has lost her brother. We are called to have the same kind of empathy for all our brothers and sisters.
My experience of being trained in circle process and restorative justice work has helped me see the importance of asking the right questions and listening with both my ears and my heart.
Having been part of sacred spaces that have addressed issues of racism and violence, I am always moved by the reality that we all come with our brokenness and can find hope and redemption through the sacred act of listening and working with one another for justice.
Through listening, we are made whole and holy.
The promise of redemption goes all the way back to the time of Ezekiel: “O my people, I will open your graves and have you rise from them” (Ezekiel 37:13). God’s promise, “I will put my spirit in you that you may live,” (Ezekiel 37:14) should be a reminder that God is always looking to give us new life so that we may live it abundantly.
Guilt can be part of a well-formed conscience, but when our guilt stops us from receiving God’s gifts of reconciliation and love, it is simply temptation. We can fall into a trap that keeps us away from the One who wants to give us eternal life.
This Lent, may we ask ourselves, “What do I need for redemption? What mercy do I need, from outside or from myself, to be able to believe God’s promise?”