NOW WORD ON MASS READINGS
for March 6th, 2014
Thursday after Ash Wednesday
Liturgical texts here
WE are a Church that has become soft on sin. Compared to the generations before us, whether it’s our preaching from the pulpit, penances in the confessional, or the way we live, we have become rather dismissive of the importance of repentance. We are living in a culture that not only tolerates sin, but has institutionalized it to the point that traditional marriage, virginity, and purity are made out to be the real evils.
And so, many Christians today are falling for it—the lie that sin is really kind of a relative thing… “it’s only a sin if I think it is a sin, but not a belief I can impose on anyone else.” Or perhaps it is a more subtle relativism: “my little sins are not that big a deal.”
But this is nothing other than robbery. Because sin always steals away the blessings that God otherwise had in store. When we sin, we rob ourselves of the peace, joy, and the contentment that comes with living in harmony with God’s will. Following His commandments is not a matter of appeasing an angry judge, but giving a Father the opportunity to bless:
I have set before you life and prosperity, death and doom. If you obey the commandments of the LORD, your God, which I enjoin on you today, loving him, and walking in his ways, and keeping his commandments, statutes and decrees, you will live and grow numerous, and the LORD, your God, will bless you… (first reading)
And so this Lent, let us not be afraid of the words “mortify”, “cross”, “penance”, “fasting” or “repentance.” They are the path that leads to “life and prosperity,” spiritual gladness in God.
Jesus is demanding, because He wishes our genuine happiness. —POPE JOHN PAUL II, World Youth Day Message for 2005, Vatican City, Aug. 27th, 2004, Zenit.org
But in order to set out on this path of happiness—the narrow road—one has to also refuse the other less demanding path—the wide and easy road that leads to perdition. cf. Matt 7:13-14 That is, we can’t be soft on sin, soft on our flesh. It means saying “no” to our passions; no to wasting time; no to indulgence; no to gossip; no to compromise.
Blessed the man who follows not the counsel of the wicked nor walks in the way of sinners, nor sits in the company of the insolent… (Today’s Psalm)
In other words, we have to stop “hanging around” sin. Stop lingering on the internet where it gets you into trouble; stop tuning in to empty pagan radio and television shows; stop engaging in sinful conversations; stop renting movies and video games that are violent and perverse. But you see, if all you focus on is the word “stop” then you’re going to miss the word “start.” That is, that in stopping, one starts to experience more joy, starts to find more peace, starts to experience more freedom, starts to find more meaning, dignity, and purpose in life—starts to find God who wants to bless you.
But to start on this path of holiness will, frankly, make you look pretty weird to the rest of the world. You’re going to stand out like a sore thumb. You’re going to be labeled an intolerant “fanatic.” You’re going to look “different.” Well, if you don’t look different, you’re in trouble. Just remember what Jesus says in today’s Gospel:
What profit is there for one to gain the whole world yet lose or forfeit himself?
But He also says, whoever loses his life for my sake will save it. That is, the one who starts getting tough on sin, is the one who gets the blessing.
If anyone wishes to come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.
….all the way to the eternal joys of Heaven. Let us stop being spiritual whimps and become warriors, men and women who refuse to be soft on sin.
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|cf. Matt 7:13-14