THE NOW WORD ON MASS READINGS
for Tuesday of the Second Week of Lent, March 3rd, 2015
Liturgical texts here
WHEN it comes to weeding out sin this Lent, we cannot divorce mercy from the Cross, nor the Cross from mercy. Today’s readings are a powerful blend of both…
Addressing what are perhaps the most notoriously depraved towns in history, Sodom and Gomorrah, the Lord makes a moving appeal:
Come now, let us set things right, says the LORD: though your sins be like scarlet, they may become white as snow; though they be crimson red, they may become white as wool. (First reading)
It is Christ’s mercy that makes it possible for us to face the painful truth about ourselves. The Sacred Heart of Jesus is often pictured as a blazing fire, burning with ineffable love. How can one not be drawn to the warmth of this fire of Divine Mercy?
O soul steeped in darkness, do not despair. All is not yet lost. Come and confide in your God, who is love and mercy… Let no soul fear to draw near to Me, even though its sins be as scarlet… I cannot punish even the greatest sinner if he makes an appeal to My compassion, but on the contrary, I justify him in My unfathomable and inscrutable mercy. —Jesus to St. Faustina, Divine Mercy in My Soul, Diary, n. 1486, 699, 1146
But as one does draw near to Him, the light of this Flame also exposes one’s sins and the extent of one’s own inner darkness, often causing the weak soul to recoil in fear, disillusion and self-pity. As the Psalm today says:
I will correct you by drawing them up before your eyes.
Dont’ be afraid to see yourself as you really are! For this truth will begin to set you free. But I do not think it is enough to simply trust in His mercy. We are saved by grace through faith, cf. Eph 2:8 yes… but we are sanctified by “taking up our cross daily” cf. Luke 9:23 and following in Jesus’ footsteps—all the way to Calvary. The soul who says repeatedly, “God will forgive me, He is merciful,” but does not also take up his cross is a mere spectator of Christianity rather than a participant—like the Pharisees in today’s Gospel:
For they preach but they do not practice.
In order to root out the weeds of sinful habits, we cannot merely tear off the leaves in Confession, so to speak. Just like a weed, the sin will grow back unless the roots come out too. Jesus said, “Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself.” Matt 16:24 We have to leave the confessional ready to make sacrifices, to courageously enter into spiritual battle against the roots. And God will be there to deliver and help us, because without Him, we can “do nothing.” cf. John 15:5
Be on your guard, stand firm in the faith, be courageous, be strong. (1 Cor 13:16)
Spiritual battle entails that a certain amount of discipline—the cross—must enter our lives:
Why do you recite my statutes, and profess my covenant with your mouth, though you hate discipline and cast my words behind you? (Today’s Psalm)
Have you fallen into the same sin again and again? Then sincerely confess it again and again, never doubting God’s mercy—He who forgives “seventy-seven times seven.” cf. Matt 18:22 But then, let it begin to cost you a little. If you stumble into this sin again, give up something you were looking forward to: a cup of coffee, a snack, a TV program, a smoke, etc. Far from injuring your self-esteem (God forbid this generation be uncomfortable!), mortification is in fact loving yourself because, to sin, is to hate yourself.
You are loved. God loves you. Now begin to love yourself by becoming who you really are. And that means taking up the cross of self-denial, rooting out those weeds that choke the true self made in God’s image… a cross that leads to life and freedom. For “whoever humbles himself will be exalted.” Today’s Gospel
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