Saturday, March 6, 2010

Third Sunday of Lent: "if you do not repent, you will all perish"

Exodus 3, 1-8. 13-15; Psalm 103; 1 Corinthians 10, 1-6. 10-12; St. Luke 13, 1-9

The "rubbernecking syndrome", wherein we fall into a spell of fascination upon becoming aware of the misfortunes of others in the midst of disaster, can result in a peril of a different kind. We can forget that there is a fate far worse than perishing through earthquake fire and flood: to turn away from a loving and merciful God through sin.

The people in today's Gospel experienced something akin to "rubbernecking" when, as we do when becoming aware of an accident while driving on the highway, we forget the deadly peril of driving our own vehicle in a state of distracted fascination and fear. A wall had fallen on laborers in Siloam and some assumed God had punished them for sinning more than others had: " you think that they were worse offenders than all the others who dwelt in Jerusalem? I tell you, No; but unless you repent you will all likewise perish." (Lk 13. 4-5) The truth is that "all have sinned and have fallen short of the glory of God"; the worst effect of sin is not perceptible in this world as is the result of a construction accident or religious persecution. The fate worst of all is the loss of eternal life and love with God. Anyone can fall into this danger.

The Lord "tells us that, without Holy Baptism, no one will enter the kingdom of heaven (cf. Jn 3:5); and, elsewhere, that if we do not repent we will all perish (Lk 13:3). This is all easily understood. Ever since man sinned, all his senses rebel against reason; therefore, if we want the flesh to be controlled by the spirit and by reason, it must be mortified; if we do not want the body to be at war the soul, it and all our senses need to be chastened; if we desire to go to God, the soul with all its faculties needs to be mortified" (St. John Mary Vianney, Selected Sermons, Ash Wednesday).

Repentance in the heart leads to confession with the lips. The Lord commands us to mourn for our sins and, with contrition, to embrace a firm amendment to avoid the near occasions of sin in the future. This contrition is not something added to the Gospel as an option but is of necessity if we are to love God and receive the gift of salvation. The disposition of contrition is required of us, therefore, when receiving the sacramental gift of divine forgiveness in Confession.

Among the penitent's acts contrition occupies first place. Contrition is "sorrow of the soul and detestation for the sin committed, together with the resolution not to sin again." (CCC 1451)
When it arises from a love by which God is loved above all else, contrition is called "perfect" (contrition of charity). Such contrition remits venial sins; it also obtains forgiveness of mortal sins if it includes the firm resolution to have recourse to sacramental confession as soon as possible. (Cf. Council of Trent (1551): DS 1676.) (CCC 1453)

Let's pray for each other until, together next week, we "meet Christ in the liturgy", Father Cusick

(See also nos. 1453, 1454 in the Catechism of the Catholic Church.)

Meeting Christ in the Liturgy (Publish with permission.)

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