“All, from the least to greatest, shall know me, says the Lord, for I will forgive their evildoing and remember their sins no more.” (Jeremiah 31:34)
As Christians, we are quite familiar with God’s promise to forgive us of our sins when we repent of them. Even Jesus’ name meant that he would “save his people from their sins.” (Matthew 1:21) And forgiveness is one of the petitions we recite in the Lord’s Prayer. (Matthew 6:12)
But Jeremiah promises that God will not only forgive us of our sins, he will remember them no more!
This is so contrary to our human nature. For our part, we tend to resist granting forgiveness when we have been offended and may struggle even more with forgetting the offense. When we have been the offending party, we also tend to hold on to the memory of our offense even when we have repented of the sin and received forgiveness or absolution in the sacrament of reconciliation.
When I was in my early 30’s and working in New York, I received a call from my father’s boss inviting me to my father’s retirement party in Iowa after 40 years of service with the H. J. Heinz Company. I had just been transferred to New York to take a new position and had a business conflict with the date of the retirement party. At the time I thought it was an important meeting critical to my new job. I agonized over the decision for a while, but ended up opting for the so-called important business meeting.
It didn’t occur to me that I might be disregarding the Fifth Commandment to “honor your father and your mother.” When it finally did occur to me, I repented of my mixed up priorities and inordinate self-focus that was so prevalent at that time in my life. Today, I can’t even remember what the business meeting was about.
While I have considerable regrets for this failure, I take great comfort in God’s promise spoken through Jeremiah that this sin has gone into God’s shredder of repented sins and he remembers them no more.
This promise reminds me of St. Paul’s recitation of the various actions that constitute love in First Corinthians 13 — love “keeps no record of wrongs.” But then, as the apostle John reminds us, “God is love.” (1 John 4:16)
Do you have past sins that you may have repented, but continue to hold onto and worry about?