19 July 2022, The Tablet

Timothy Radcliffe OP explains why to be fully alive is to hope and to forgive

The religious life

Timothy Radcliffe OP explains why to be fully alive is to hope and to forgive

In the second of two reflections for a time of conflict, hurt, and anguish, the former Master of the Dominicans invites us to let go of the burden of the past and to rejoice in forgiveness.

To be fully alive is to be able to hope, and to forgive. The Eucharist is an audacious expression of hope in defiance of a world that seems bent on its destruction. But to live fully with hope now, in this doom-laden time, we need also to forgive. We begin every Eucharist by remembering our sins and asking for forgiveness. This is an odd way to start a celebration! The cup blessed at the Last Supper was “the new and eternal covenant poured out for you and for many for the forgiveness of sins”. Approaching the climax, we behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world. Judaism and Islam both believe in a merciful God, but Christianity is unique in having forgiveness at its very heart.

But here we come to a difficulty. Many young people are not attracted to a religion which goes on and on about sin. People do not want to come to church to be told that they are terrible sinners and so need forgiveness. It sounds crushing and depressing. Life is tough enough without always being told that I am a sinner. It is as if you have first to convince people that their clothes are dirty so that they will buy your brand of washing powder. Which is why, when I preach, I almost never use the word “sin”.


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