Monday of the Second Week in Lent

Lectionary: 230

Jesus said to his disciples:
"Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.
"Stop judging and you will not be judged.
Stop condemning and you will not be condemned.
Forgive and you will be forgiven.

Penance stirs difficult emotions and mixed reactions for many Catholics of the older generation – boomers and the like. We are invited to repent of our sins, and yet we need not be ashamed of ourselves. Even in the confessional I have heard, “Don’t be so hard on yourself.” after I gave what I thought was a pretty straight-forward account of my guilt.

I find it helpful to ask myself, “When did I know the right thing to do, and choose not to do it?” Sin can be far more subtle than that but it’s a good place to start. Sometimes, in retrospect, we know what we should have done and that we refused to do it.

Sometimes I am powerless to do the right thing. I simply could not say “thank you,” or “I’m sorry,” or “Let me help” when I knew I should.

Saint Ignatius of Loyola described that helplessness as an encounter with Satan. Seeing what I should do and being unable to do it, I realize there is a power greater than myself controlling my thoughts and deeds, and it’s not God. It might be rage, jealously, fear or greed. 

With reflection and prayer I bring that sad memory to Penance. The sacrament teaches me to be merciful toward myself as I admit that I have sinned. If I am surprised by my sin, or too eager to explain and make excuses for it, then I am not ready to admit the obvious -- I am sinful like everyone else. There can be nothing surprising about that. 

God has seen our sins from the tower of his cross and even in his agony blessed us.  

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I love to write. This blog helps me to meditate on the Word of God, and I hope to make some contribution to our contemplations of God's Mighty Works.

Ordinarily, I write these reflections two or three weeks in advance of their publication. I do not intend to comment on current events.

I understand many people prefer gender-neutral references to "God." I don't disagree with them but find that language impersonal, unappealing and tasteless. When I refer to "God" I think of the One whom Jesus called "Abba" and "Father", and I would not attempt to improve on Jesus' language.

You're welcome to add a thought or raise a question.