Saturday, March 20, 2010
God is perfect good. He is all merciful, all just, all wise, all holy, all powerful, all loving... every good is combined wholly and entirely in Him, and the good we see on earth is a mere reflection of His sublime Majesty. God can be likened to a perfect light, and likewise, all that is not of God can be likened to a darkness defying this brightness. Therefore every sin and every evil is as spittle in the Face of the Almighty, and brings Him great grief. He would not feel grief, but only just anger, if He did not love us... but He loves us, and has loved us for all eternity, with the greatest and most powerful love. Therefore every wrongdoing by which we oppose Him and bring suffering upon ourselves spurns this love. This is what brought Jesus to tears in the Agony of the Garden, and this is why the weight of the Passion was so intense for the Son of Man.
If this is true, does it not follow that contrition and reconciliation make up a substantial part of our spiritual life? Indeed, we are in great need of forgiveness and must be constantly receptive to the mercies of Christ. Did not He say "those who are forgiven more, love more"? Let us not then overlook the horror of even one small venial sin, and, meekly offering our weaknesses to Christ, let therefore be disposed in spirit to receive His blessings and His care.
Often times, as human beings, we focus on the tangibility of our guilt. Are we guilty, or no? What material sins have we committed? Are we really that bad? Although it is important to be aware of sin, and to make honest examination of conscience and humbly confess our faults, sin by sin, it is also important for us to be aware of our own sinfulness and unworthiness at all times, even when we seem to ourselves to be free from sin. This awareness helps us to identify imperfection in ourselves and to realize the full truth of the biblical phrase "even the just man sins seven times per day." This is not to say that we do not accept God's mercy and forgiveness or engage in scruples... rather, this is to say that we not only accept His mercy, but we accept that we ourselves are undeserving and that only His grace has made us worthy to receive these blessings.
The sorrow that we should feel for sin that is so hateful to God is called Contrition. The Baltimore Catechism identifies two forms of this sorrow: contrition and attrition. Attrition is sorrow for sin because of it is distasteful or because we are afraid of punishment. Contrition, however, is the more perfect sorrow for sin. This is sorrow because sin is hateful to God and causes Him to shed tears in His love. The most perfect contrition focuses on God Himself, and is sorry for sin for His sake alone. Does this not, then, indicate that we should look upon sin as God does? Does this not mean that we should don the eyes of the Eternal Light when looking upon this evil? Truly, if we were to do this to perfection, we would not be able to bear the sight of the ugliness of sin.
Mother Mary Francis describes mourning as the "proper reaction to penancing truth." Mankind has fallen from God's grace and engaged in the destructiveness of evil, thus bringing upon themselves the consequences of ungodliness... sorrow, fear, suffering, and death. These are realities, and meek acceptance of these truths brings us the blessings of strength to bear them, and disposes us to be healed. Indeed, this acceptance and perseverance in overcoming the grossness of sin is a great display of faith, hope, and courage. Rather than falling victim to the deception of sin, one who sees sin for what it is has eyes to see what is good.
Truly, he who does this is blessed. One who recognizes evil in this way is poor in spirit, for he does not claim for himself greatness or righteousness in his recognition of his fallen humanity. He is meek and claims nothing for himself, knowing God to be the only worthy landlord, and thus he is in free possession of all creation as God's son and heir. He longs for justice and peace, for these things are precious to the man who has seen the distastefulness of evil and the sweetness of good. He is merciful, for he sees that he, who is unworthy of mercy, has been shown Divine mercy. He is pure of heart and willingly suffers persecution for God's sake because, in identifying sin, he guards himself from its horror with every human strength and divine grace.
The consciousness of sin leads us to understand that it is not only a great evil, but brings with it deadly consequences. I once heard a priest describe our spirit as a board, which the sin of Adam has blackened with exposure to evil. Even after the board has been renewed in baptism, a stain remains in which the effects of original sin reside; mainly, inclination towards sin, susceptibility to sin, suffering, and death. These effects make our free will lean towards evil from a very early age, and give us the desire and free ability to engage in evil ourselves. Each sin we commit is like a nail in this board and, though it is removed in Absolution during the Sacrament of Reconciliation, it leaves a hole which must be filled. These sores in ourselves painful and retain within them impurities that make us unable to stand serenely before the good face of God.
Christ, through His passion, has done what no man can do and has removed wall that separates our despairing human nature from the God of all good. His holy oblation has appeased the Divine Wrath and made the loving embrace of God readily available to us. Each person must follow His example in order to walk the path that leads to eternal life. "I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me." Each of us must find healing for the impurities in ourselves by taking up the Cross of Christ and, through this participation and joint offering with Christ, enter into eternal purity. For if we do not participate in this sacrifice and show God that we love Him and desire to be united to Him in good, how could we presume to enter into His light? Would we not be a repugnance to Him, and He to us, if we were the dark and He was the light? But indeed God's love readily identifies our wish for good and by merit of His Holy Son's offering brings us happily into His embrace in the beautiful gesture of a Father welcoming His child. He is calling, and if we answer this call and follow His way He will forget all our sins and make us white as snow, accepting us into Heaven as if we had never before sinned against Him.