When Jesus finished these words, the crowds were astonished at his teaching, for he taught them as one having authority, and not as their scribes. (Matthew 7:28-29)
I remember a time I wasn’t astonished by Christ’s teaching. I rejected it.
In those days I prided myself on being an atheist, always ready to challenge Christians with unanswerable questions like, “Can you prove God exists?” or “Why does He permit cancer? Or war? Why do drunk drivers kill entire families?” So, when I was twenty years old and stopped at a traffic light, the thought caught me by surprise: "What if there is a God?"
The concept intrigued me, but only for a moment. Though I knew nothing about God’s word, intuitively I knew if He existed, He didn’t like my sexual sins, drug abuse, thefts, lies, arrogance . . . .
I would have to change.
But I didn’t want to change. I liked living as I did. So, when the light turned green, I ignored the question.
No one knows what became of the crowd who listened to Christ’s Sermon on the Mount (chapters five through seven of Matthew’s gospel). We do know, however, it’s never enough to simply be “astonished” by a sermon, a Scripture reading – or even an encounter with the Lord Himself as we are privileged to do in the Eucharist. What matters is a changed life, “doing” His commandments instead of just “hearing.” Isn’t that what Christ said to his audience earlier in this chapter? Only those who obey the God will enter heaven (verse 21-23).
I am grateful for God’s mercy because He did not ignore me forty-one years ago at that traffic light like I did Him. And I am grateful because His mercy is not limited to me. It extends to the entire human family. It extends to you.
Regardless of the times you've rejected Him, His total forgiveness remains only a prayer away.