Lent is a time for self-reflection on our sins: how we got into committing them, how we rid ourselves of them, and -- this is important -- how we can compensate for them. Perhaps we think little of that latter thing. We have more often in mind our sins as transgressions of reason and God's laws and we feel the need to be freed of them through Confession. Yet we should also recognize that our sins have disrupted the objective moral order, causing external damage, so to say, as well as the interior harm done to ourselves. This needs to be redressed. The scales of justice have to be balanced after the objective order has been disturbed.
The Church and sacred scripture borrow the language of commerce to explain sin and its redress as a kind of spiritual transaction. (God's side is another matter. His it is to pardon, to forgive as He pleases, usually through absolution of the priest.) On our part, sin has contracted a debt owed to the offended majesty of God. This is the objective 'damage' done to Him by our sins. Such debts incurred through our misdeeds demand repayment, satisfaction. We must have some means of paying this debt; hence the necessity to do good works: prayer,d enial of the use of some good things, giving alms to the needy, etc. Of ourselves we are unable to make full repayment for sin to the all-holy God. While He may have written off the debt of sin without requiring any satisfaction, He did not do this. He asks, demands compensation from us, even though He substantially paid the whole debt Himself by becoming man and by suffering and dying for our justification and salvation. That redemptive act of Christ more than compensated for all the offenses contracted against God. Yet, out of justice, He expects satisfaction to be made also by the offenders, each one contributing some part. Through belonging to the great society oand union of the Church we are able to offer God Christ's acquired sum of good works He did for us as payment for the debts of our own sins. (An aside: This seems unfair. How is it that we can borrow from another's accumulated 'treasure,' appropriate it to ourselves and use it in payment for our sins? A mystery!) We know that we can indeed offer from the pool of wealth that is the merit of our Lord's Passion and death, and the added sum of merits of the Blessed Virgin Mary and the saints, against our indebtedness to God for our sins. One draws from this 'bank account' when gaining indulgences (grants given through the Church) and when one offers Christ's sacrifice of Himself in the Mass, in union with the priest; or when one says, in the chaplet of Divine Mercy, "Eternal Father, I offer You the body, blood ... of Jesus." We offer God a sum not our own. This is possible through our incorporation into the Church by which we have, so to speak, a joint bank account of the merits of christ, Our Lady, and the saints.
We should all want to leave this life, when we die, debt free. Otherwise, we shall remain in purgatory until we will have "paid the last penny" in payment of the whole amount of our debt to God (cf. the servant in the parable threatened with being sold in payment of a debt). Only when it will be fully paid will the scale of justice in our regard be rightly balanced and we will become justly fit for heaven where "nothing defiled" can enter.
Lent is now here. We ought to do two things: 1) pay off the debt of our sins by works of penance; 2) draw upon the merits of Christ and the saints by our prayers, the co-offerings of Mass, and gaining the Church's indulgences for ourselves and for the souls in purgatory -- helping them pay their debts out of our love for them.
Do as much good as you can while you have time for yourselves and for others. "Now is the acceptable time." This is the reason we have Lent.
P.S. James Likoudis will be here today after the 9:30 Mass for a book-signing. Jim is an outstanding layman -- he would no doubt blush to hear his praises -- author and lecturer, defender of the faith. Onetime national president of Catholics United for the Faith (CUF) which in a time of terrible confusion and revolution in the Church fought to preserve our Catholic patrimony in doctrine, worship, and catechesis. (Believe it or not, there was a time in recent history when things were worse than they now are. CUF is one of the reasons for the betterment of the present state of the Church in this country. I welcome Mr. Likoudis, who has written compellingly about the rapprochement of the Orthodox Churches with the Catholic church. We wish him much added grace and rich blessings.
Sunday, March 12, 2017
Fr. Perrone: How to rid yourself of sins this Lent
Fr. Eduard Perrone, "A Pastor's Descant" (Assumption Grotto News, March 12, 2017):