There I was, the day before Thanksgiving, in Walmart looking for a few last minute items for the next day’s feast. Just me and dozens of others who had forgotten to buy jellied cranberry sauce in a can (that is almost, but not quite, totally unlike real cranberries). I made my way to the coffee aisle–for nothing was going to be more necessary on Thanksgiving morning than a strong cup of joe–and saw a worker stocking the shelves. (Apparently others felt the need for caffeine.) I’m always grateful for those doing hard work, especially when it makes my life easier.
“It’s busy in here today,” I said. “I hear there is some holiday this week. Something about giving thanks.” I was trying to lighten his load with a bit of holiday humor.
He laughed and said, “Yes, I’ve heard that, too.”
“Well,” I said, “I’m thankful that this coffee is only $3.88.”
“And I’m thankful,” he said, “that you are buying our store brand of coffee. It helps me keep my job.”
“And I’m thankful you have this job and put this coffee where I could get it!”
This went on for a while, a nice respite from his job, and an oasis in the crazy grocery shopping desert for me. As I turned to leave, cheap coffee in hand, I said, “The thing I am most thankful for are all the ways God has blessed me.” I figured this was a safe way to share the fact that God is the giver of all we would celebrate on Thanksgiving. I mean, how could anyone get mad at me for saying something so generic as that? Then this young man looked intently and intensely in my eyes and said,
“I am thankful that He has washed my sins away.”
My words were generic, safe, common. He spoke directly and specifically. The reason for us to return thanks to God is not that things in life are generally good and make us happy. It is because by the great love sacrifice of Jesus, our sins are washed away.
Our sins are washed away.
And I was reminded of this by a kind man putting coffee on the shelves at Walmart.
I think we often try to soft-soap the Gospel. We say it is so we don’t offend others, but in reality I think it is so we don’t face confrontation. Jesus was never afraid of offending others. He did it all the time, not out of arrogance or rudeness, but out of mercy and concern for their soul.
In our efforts to evangelize (to share the Good News), how often do we speak directly and to the point? How often to do we share the specifics of the Gospel: That Jesus wants to wash away our sins?
I thought of little else at Mass the following morning. Jesus washed my sins away. As I approached the Eucharist, I did so with a renewed sense of awe and wonder at the greatness of our God who entered into His creation so that he could wash away my sins.
As we enter the season of Advent, let us not forget why Jesus entered our world. And let us not beat around the bush when it comes to sharing this great good news with all we meet.
Come, let’s talk this over, says the Lord; no matter how deep the stain of your sins, I can take it out and make you as clean as freshly fallen snow. Even if you are stained as red as crimson, I can make you white as wool! (Isaiah 1:18, TLB)