Father Tom Collins gave this homily on the Gospel of St. Luke chapter 13: 1-9. Lent is a great time to reflect on the nature of evil and our need for repentance and conversion. Where are your decisions taking you? God gave us free will, not so we could choose "whatever," but so we could freely choose the good. Do your choices reflect the right use of free will or are you using your choices to capitulate with evil?
But suffering the consequences of evil does not give a person the right to capitulate with evil, much less to covenant with evil. Rather, by the grace of God, such suffering should lead a soul to renew and deepen its covenantal communion with Jesus Christ in the saving mystery of His suffering, death and resurrection.
This brings to light an important truth in the spiritual life. Each of the decisions of our life has eternal
consequences. The way we choose to perceive reality tends to form our attitudes toward God, ourselves, others and the world. These attitudes, in turn, direct us in the actions we choose to embrace so as to ratify and legitimatize both our perspectives and our attitudes. In this way, our character is either formed more perfectly in the gracious and regenerative image of God or deformed in a way that we seek to escape the awkwardly beautiful and transformative challenges of life by wallowing in excuses and in festering resentments. And, ultimately, our character determines our eternal destiny – either the joy of the perfect intimacy of divine love and mercy or the bitter despondency and self-deprecation of eternal damnation.
In view of our desperate condition of continuing vulnerability to the assaults of evil, God graciously offers each of us numerous opportunities to repent and to be embraced into His regenerative love. And since He is pure graciousness and mercy, repentance on our part is seen by Him as a humble and grateful desire to show Him hospitality. We show hospitality to Divine Mercy not by rejecting Him, but by welcoming His transformative embrace of reverence, love and gratitude. Thus it is that He wills to deliver us from evil by embracing us into the transformative mystery of His love and gratitude. But He does not impose Himself on us. His love, though freely and graciously offered, must be freely received by each person.
As gracious as He is, though, God has to ultimately respect our freedom. If we choose to reject communion with Him, Who is the perfection of integrity, holiness and love, we commit ourselves to abide forever in the agonizing alienation of disease, despondency, depression, despair, self-deprecation, and death. God freely and reverently offers us His love, but He will not rape us with His love in violation of our free choices, which He respects so profoundly.
Sadly, in a society that abounds in various “safety nets,” many tend to ignore the seriousness of the choices they make each day. They tend to view what was created to be a safety net for emergency situations as a hammock on which they can slowly atrophy into complacency. And just as they presume that various social services programs (e.g., disability insurance, Aid to Dependent Children, Medicaid, welfare, unemployment compensation, etc.) will always be available to them, they also presume that there will always be opportunities for them to finally take God’s invitation seriously. Some even embrace a perspective of reincarnation. They think, "If I misbehave in this life, I may come back into the world as a cockroach. But if I am a good cockroach, I can eventually become a human again, and maybe then I can live a virtuous life.” Such thinking is dangerous, and disastrous if not quickly rejected.
Ultimately, as indicated above, the way we choose to form our character – in full harmony and communion with the gracious, grateful generosity of our merciful Father or in a bitter alienation from the His mercy, integrity, holiness and love – will determine our eternal destiny. There will be no opportunities for us to “get it right” after our Final Judgment. Only by conscientiously allowing God to appreciate, reverence, love, forgive, heal and regenerate us in integrity of life and relationships can we discover that joy and peace, which this passing world cannot give us but which draws us to the awesome awareness of our true sacred and sanctifying dignity as God’s children.