Imagine a book titled, All the Sins I Always Wanted to Commit but Never Did. This book would be about God’s mercy, God’s daily attempts to keep us from sinning. The people of Nineveh could have written it (Jonah 3:1-10). These folks were bigtime sinners. The prophet Jonah was sent to warn them that if they continued their lives of debauchery they would be destroyed. One would think that such major league sinners would laugh the prophet out of town. Amazingly, they did no such thing. Recognizing the mercy of God trying to keep them from destroying themselves, they changed. With their change of heart they left behind a whole list of uncommitted sins.
God’s mercy is about trying to save us from destroying ourselves. It is available to anyone who is open to receiving it. When Jesus calls his first disciples, he says to them, “Believe the Good News (Mark 1:14-20).” The Good News is that Jesus saves us from the self-destruction of our sins. The call to follow him means that he will take us no matter who we are and what we have done.
God’s mercy is powerful and persistent. Think of all the times that we have planned to sin and we did not follow through. It is impossible to sin accidentally. Sin is a conscious choice that each of us makes. The reason that we have not sinned when we could have is because we let God’s mercy save us. An obstacle was thrown in the way of committing the sin and like the people of Nineveh, we did not fight it. God’s mercy comes to us in many forms. A homily, a friend’s challenge, a guilty conscience, even reading this reflection. Spending lots of time trying to hide our behaviors from others is an indicator of God’s mercy telling us not to do it. The more effort that it takes us to sin is God’s mercy trying to keep us from doing wrong.
All the Sins I Always Wanted to Commit but Never Did will not be a best seller. It will not be a lurid account of sins committed. It will be about all the sins that were never committed because of God’s mercy. Sin sells, mercy does not. Who needs a best seller when we have God’s mercy helping us to be our best selves.