To Begin... Again
This Blood that but one drop of has the power to win all the world forgiveness of its world of sin.” ~ St. Thomas Aquinas
Today’s Gospel (Matthew 18:12-14) reminds us that Jesus is always in search of his lost sheep, and thus it affords us the opportunity to reflect upon one of the more prevalent Advent themes, that of repentance.
Repentance has been called the “radical reorientation of one’s whole life.” The Catechism of the Catholic Church reminds us that Christ calls us to conversion and penance. However, this call to conversion and penance does not "aim first at outward works," such as fasting and mortification, "but at the conversion of the heart, interior conversion. Without this, such penances remain sterile and false; however, interior conversion urges expression in visible signs, gestures and works of penance" (CCC No. 1430).
Upon partaking of the Sacrament of Reconciliation, St Therssa of Avila would wait for her fellow sisters who were also confessing their sins, and with a gentle hand on their shoulder would encourage them to “begin again.”
“Don’t flirt with sin! You can’t handle sin!” That was the advice and warning of an old pastor of mine in New York City, channeling his inner Colonel Jessup from “A Few Good Men,” apparently all-too-aware of my proclivity for overstaying my welcome at any one of a number of the numerous Irish Pubs that dotted 3rd Avenue in Midtown Manhattan.
He had a point. Sin is ugly...it’s sneaky...it can grab you by the throat before you even know you’re mired knee deep in it.
Repenting from sin alleviates us of our guilt, this despite the fact they some residual shame can in fact remain. Perhaps that isn’t necessarily a bad thing. “So-and-so is shameless” you’ll occasionally hear said in reference to someone, perhaps a person who refuses to admit their fault pertaining to a specific matter, or maybe because they simply do whatever they like, with no regard for the consequences despite how awful those consequences may be. Regardless of the context, never is it said in a flattering or complimentary fashion. The proper and perfect development of one’s conscience is a tricky endeavor, one that requires much prayer and reflection coupled with a life rooted in the sacramental healing of the Holy Eucharist and habitual visits to the confessional.
What causes one to be shameless, to be unrepentant? What would cause someone to never say I’m sorry, to the people in their lives or even worse, to God? Perhaps it’s pride, maybe it’s vanity. Or maybe it’s just a life rooted in utter denial. It is a grave and dire mistake is what it is. it was the sweat and blood of Jesus’ agony on the cross that has freed us from our sins. If we accept it. How tragic it is that so many waste the precious blood of Jesus that was poured out for us. Tragic.
Advent is the time to repent, to bask in the glory and unrelenting light of God’s mercy, this “ocean of mercy“ that devotees of the Divine Mercy Chaplet reflect upon every day at 3:00PM. As Jesus revealed to Sister Faustina, “accept my mercy now or face my judgement later.”
It just doesn’t seem like a difficult choice.
"It is now the hour for you to wake from sleep, for our salvation is closer than when we first accepted the faith. The night is far spent; the day draws near. Let us cast off deeds of darkness and put on the armor of light" (Romans 13:11-12)
For more on the Lost Sheep discourse, please revisit my Daily Reflection from last year.