The Gospel of Second Chances

Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven.” —Matthew 18:22

Pope Francis recently said, “The Good Samaritan indicates a lifestyle, the center of which is not ourselves, but others, with their difficulties, who we meet on our path and who challenge us.”

Jesus offers the ideal example of the Good Samaritan. Most of us are the priest or the Levite and occasionally God’s grace shows itself off and we become the Good Samaritan.

Jesus summarizes the essence of the Good News. It’s about the love of God and neighbor. Later Paul wrote, “Love does not keep a record of wrongs.” (I Corinthians 13:5).

Today’s readings offer us three examples of second chances:

1) God gives the sailors a second chance. Jonah 1 states: “Then they took Jonah and threw him into the sea, and the sea’s raging abated. Struck with great fear of the LORD, the men offered sacrifice and made vows to him.” I don’t care what religion you are a part of, most people recognize the sanctity of life. That God stopped the storm and allowed the sailors to recognize the truth of Jonah’s God,  now that’s a second chance.
2) God opens Jonah’s heart. In the belly of the great fish, Jonah remembers: “When my soul fainted within me, I remembered the LORD; My prayer reached you in your holy temple” (Jonah 2:8). A scholar of the Bible once said, “The only way liberals hear the authentic Gospel is in a life-changing experience.” Liberals, like Jonah, flee from the sharp two-edged sword of God’s Word.  Since the Good News offends them, they latch onto a substitute gospel.
3) Jesus presents the Gospel to a Teacher of the Law. “You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your being, with all your strength, and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself” (Luke 10:25-37). What is the next chapter for the teacher of the law? God will offer him repeated opportunities of becoming a good Samaritan. If that doesn’t work, perhaps the teacher will be swallowed up by some life experience and repent.

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