Monday, July 13, 2015

Yes, Jesus Does Love Us All...But Do We Love Him Enough to Respond?


This morning, I came across an interesting article that was shared on Facebook by Vatican Radio. It talked about mercy and repentance in regards to divorced and remarried Catholics. True to Facebook, a number of responses began taking up the same old refrain—that by withholding Communion from the divorced and remarried, the Church was refusing to show mercy to the repentant. As one Facebook poster put it, "If God forgives...why can't we human being forgive our fellow men who have repented their sins?” Such a response is common nowadays. Unfortunately, when our attitude is that of regretting that a conflict exists between us and the Church teaching without the corresponding attitude of wanting to make things right, it shows that we do not understand what we are even saying when we say “why can’t the Church forgive?"
It is important to ask, What does repentance really require? If we have a wrong idea on what it means then we will have a wrong response on what we must do. Of course it doesn’t help that the English language has taken a rich word in penance and reduced in such a way as to give someone the impression of something out of Monty Python...
Repent essentially comes from the Latin paenitentia, which has a meaning of “regret (for act); change of mind/attitude; repentance/contrition.” It’s literally the same meaning as the Greek metanoia. When the New Testament uses the word “repent” in our English translations, it is using different verb tenses of Metanoia. Since metanoia = paenitentia, a proper understanding of repenting for our sins means to regret what we have done, changing our attitude over what we have done, and showing that we are sorry for what we have done.
The Catholic concept of the Act of Contrition expresses the attitude to be present in repentance:
My God, I am sorry for my sins with all my heart.
In choosing to do wrong and failing to do good,
I have sinned against you whom I should love above all things. 
I firmly intend, with your help, to do penance, to sin no more,
and to avoid whatever leads me to sin.
Our Savior Jesus Christ suffered and died for us.
In His name, my God, have mercy.
So, when we do wrong, we have to ask ourselves—do we really want to put that sin behind us and are we willing to change our lives in a way that seeks to avoid that sin in the future to the best of our ability, trusting in God’s grace to help? Or do we have no intention of turning away from our wrongdoing and expect God and/or the Church to change their rules so we don’t have to change?
In other words, Jesus died on the Cross for us so we could be saved. It is indeed an action which shows that God loved us far more than we deserve and far more than we could ever hope to repay. But the fact that His action is one we cannot repay does not mean that the act is a “Get out of Hell Free” card where we do not need to respond to it. Ultimately it is a question of love. Jesus loves us…but do we love Him enough to be bothered to respond?
That’s the question. Many of us just want “cheap grace,” where we want salvation, but get angry if we point out that we are called to respond to it. That’s not love. That’s a sense of entitlement. Our Lord spoke of His kingdom as so valuable, that we ought to be willing to sell all we own (i.e. give up everything) to gain it:

44 “The kingdom of heaven is like a treasure buried in a field,* which a person finds and hides again, and out of joy goes and sells all that he has and buys that field. 45 Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant searching for fine pearls. 46 When he finds a pearl of great price, he goes and sells all that he has and buys it. (Matthew 13:44-46)

So, why do we treat it like we’ll take it as a freebie, but won’t sell anything of what we have to gain it? What does that tell us about how much God really means to us?
We should think about that every time we think that a teaching should be changed to suit us, or think that God doesn’t really care about something He took the time to forbid. If we love Him, then let us show it in our actions. Because we need to remember that Jesus told us:

21 “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven,* but only the one who does the will of my Father in heaven. 22 Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name? Did we not drive out demons in your name? Did we not do mighty deeds in your name?’ 23 Then I will declare to them solemnly, ‘I never knew you.* Depart from me, you evildoers.’ 


24 *“Everyone who listens to these words of mine and acts on them will be like a wise man who built his house on rock. 25 The rain fell, the floods came, and the winds blew and buffeted the house. But it did not collapse; it had been set solidly on rock. 26 And everyone who listens to these words of mine but does not act on them will be like a fool who built his house on sand. 27 The rain fell, the floods came, and the winds blew and buffeted the house. And it collapsed and was completely ruined.” (Matthew 7:21-27)

Let us keep these things in mind when we are tempted to treat God’s love lightly.


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