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Sunday, March 4, 2012

Sunday's Meditation: the Passion

If there is no sin and everybody goes to heaven including those who reject God, why did Jesus become man, suffer, and die on a cross, the instrument of execution for criminals? Isn't it because he took the criminals' place, i.e., ours? Who really deserves to be on that cross?

Is there no cost to us for this great grace? Can we blithely go along on our merry way pounding in the nails with every sin thinking that God will welcome us with open arms even if we refuse and resist his graces? Or are we called to a radical conversion of life that requires us to die to our old sinful self and embrace the will of God even when it seems to mean sacrificing our happiness, i.e., our sinful pleasures?

Every Lent the Church calls us to conversion. Will we insist that "God is good and He'll understand" about our deeply sinful choices or will we choose the "narrow way" of sacrifice and dying to our old sinful self? Does God require anything at all from us or is He like the Easter Bunny just waiting to dish out the nerds and lemon heads and jelly beans on Judgment Day?

Jesus articulates the two great commands:

"'You shall love the Lord your God with your whole heart, with your whole soul, and with all your mind.' This is the greatest and first commandment. The second is like it: 'You shall love your neighbor as yourself.'" (Matt. 22:37-38)
And who loves God?
"He who obeys the commandments he has from me is the man who loves me." (John 14:21)
Did Jesus' New Covenant create commandments of mush love that eliminated all the hard truths in the Old Testament and the teachings of the prophets? Here's what Jesus said:
"Do not think that I have come to abolish the law and the prophets. I have come, not to abolish them, but to fulfill them. Of this much I assure you: until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter of the law, not the smallest part of a letter, shall be done away with until it all comes true. That is why whoever breaks the least significant of these commands and teaches others to do so shall be called least in the kingdom of God. Whoever fulfills and teaches these commands shall be great in the kingdom of God." (Matt 5:17-19)
St. Francis Borgia, the third Father General of the Jesuits, used to examine his conscience at the end of the day asking himself what he had done that day to put him in hell.  Sinners have converted in horror after being given the grace of seeing the place in hell reserved for them because of their sins. Would it not be a good practice this Lent to ask God to show us the punishment we deserve and ask for the grace to love Him as the First Commandment calls us to do?

We need to heed the warning of the prophet Hosea. God told him, "My people perish for want of knowledge." And who is responsible for the people's ignorance? The priests. "Since you have rejected knowledge, I will reject you from my priesthood; Since you have ignored the law of your God, I will also ignore your sons." (Hosea 4:6) But as Christian adults we have an obligation to take seriously the call to holiness whether our priests and bishops take the lead or not. I'm reading the Catechism and the Scripture this Lent as well as the lives of the saints. The secular books can sit on the shelf for a few weeks.

May your Lent bring an outpouring of graces and draw you into the depths of the Sacred Heart of Jesus.

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