Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Pope Benedict XVI urges revival of prayer and confession in an era of "lost conscience"

Most of us are aware that sin destroys our relationship with God and that it also undermines our relationships with family members, friends and others with whom we come into contact. Reconciliation refers to that precise effect of Christ's redemption of the human race by His sacrificial death on the Cross which restores our relationship with God and breaks down the barriers of sin which prevent us from engaging in authentic relationships with others.

In the words of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, "Conversion is accomplished in daily life by gestures of reconciliation, concern for the poor, the exercise and defense of justice and right, by the admission of faults to one's brethren, fraternal correction, revision of life, examination of conscience, spiritual direction, acceptance of suffering, endurance of persecution for the sake of righteousness. Taking up one's cross each day and following Jesus is the surest way of penance." (1435).

In other words, our transformation in Christ, our daily conversion, is made manifest by such gestures of reconciliation by which we demonstrate our commitment toward the theological virtue of charity "by which we love God above all things for his own sake, and our neighbor as ourselves for the love of God" (CCC, 1822). We are told in Sacred Scripture that a faith without works is dead (James 2:14-19). An authentic reconciliation, therefore, will show itself in a charity which embraces both God and neighbor.

As Jean Jaouen so eloquently puts it, "..Christian compassion cannot be a cerebral, fleshless reality. It is completely impossible for one who loves people coldly to dissociate eternal salvation from the temporal well-being of a human person. A person is a whole. Time is eternity already begun yet still not completely visible. The conflict will be resolved if Christian apostles learn to live with their people while remaining present to the Lady who, with her Son, weeps over both the death of souls and the death of little children. 'Lady of heaven, empress of earth.' Through the Virgin Mediator and Queen, apostles will find a balance between the demands of heaven and those of earth." (Jean Jaouen, m.s., "A Grace Called La Salette: a story for the world," pp. 327-328, grassroots publishing international, Enfield, New Hampshire, English edition 1991).

A balance between the demands of heaven and those of earth.  Do we maintain such a balance in our own lives?  Or are we so caught up in the affairs of this world that we neglect our personal conversion?  It's no secret why there is no real peace in our world.  Peace is more than the mere absence of conflict.  Peace is the tranquility of order which results from people and other realities being as they ought to be.  As Pope Paul VI reminded us in his Christmas message of 1966: "Peace is not a primary good, but a resultant and derivative good that infers and requires a prior good.  This prior good is precisely order, justice, the harmony of things."

To put it simply: we will never be at peace with others if we are not at peace with ourselves.  And how can we be at peace with ourselves unless we are living an authentic prayer life and confessing our sins before the Lord Jesus?

Related reading here.


Gerry K. said...

"To put it simply: we will never be at peace with others if we are not at peace with ourselves."

Well put Paul. When we are at peace we are closest to God and better able to be a vessel of his will.

"Some of the last shall be first" to me can mean that some of the people who choose to follow Christ late in life can end up being among the most faithful.

"Some of the first shall be last" can refer to those who are merely Christian by name and not by action. We have a nun in our family who has scornfully criticized many things different family members do that seem trivial. It was God's will she be found stealing from her brother's house as he lay too ill to stop her.

The lesson I learn from this is to reach within myself every day and ensure that the peace Christ wants for us is in my heart and actions so that others can see him through me.

I pray for the lost sheep to return to the flock each day, and for those who have never been in his light to see it in how I treat them and want it for themselves.

Paul Anthony Melanson said...

Gerry, we must never resort to the scornful criticism which you have described. Such an attitude may not be reconciled with the Gospel message.

On the other hand, because dissent in the Church leads to polarization and destroys peace within the Church, faithful Catholics who refuse to accept a dissenting view must resist it for the sake of restoring an authentic peace, a peace which Pope John XXIII taught: "is not completely untroubled and serene; it is active, not calm and motionless. In short, this is a peace that is ever at war. It wars with every sort of error, including that which falsely wears the face of truth; it struggles against the enticements of vice, against those enemies of the soul, of whatever description, who can weaken, blemish, or destroy our innocence or Catholic faith." (Ad Petri cathedram, AAS 51 (1959) 517, PE, 263.93).

Each of us must examine his or her conscience every day. I recommend monthly (or more often) confession. I was at confession this past weekend and would you care to venture a guess as to how many Catholics were present? Two. Out of a parish of approximately 3-4 thousand people.

Even taking into consideration the fact that some parishioners will confess elsewhere, this is not a good sign. Especially during Lent. Wouldn't you agree?

Paul Anthony Melanson said...

The point I am making is that we must not confuse fraternal correction with scornful criticism.

Amanda said...

I like the quote from Cardinal O'Malley which you cited in a previous post Paul: "It is important to express the moral teachings of the Church with clarity and fidelity. The Church must be Church. We must teach the truths of the Gospel in season and out of season. These recent times seem to us like it is out of season, but for that very reason it is even more urgent to teach the hard words of the Gospel today...Calling people to embrace the cross of discipleship, to live the commandments and at the same time assuring them that we love them as brothers and sisters can be difficult. Sometimes we are told: If you do not accept my behavior, you do not love me. In reality we must communicate the exact opposite: Because we love you, we cannot accept your behavior."

To some, the "hard truths" of the Gospel are nothing more than "scornful criticism" about "trivial" matters. But true charity consists in telling people the truth, in bringing them the truth.

Michelle said...

Gerry forgot to cite the rest of what Paul wrote in that paragraph: "And how can we be at peace with ourselves unless we are living an authentic prayer life and confessing our sins before the Lord Jesus?"

People who are living illicit lifestyles (e.g., engaging in fornication, adultery, homosexuality) cannot be at peace with God or themselves. Because of this, they cannot be at peace with others.

Nothing destroys peace more than a life lived in mortal sin. Mortal sin cuts one off from God's grace and wreaks havoc in one's personal life and relationship with others.

Paul Anthony Melanson said...

That point isn't understood by everyone Michelle. As the Catechism of the Catholic Church explains, "Sins are rightly evaluated according to their gravity. The distinction between mortal and venial sin, already evident in Scripture [see 1 Jn 16-17), became part of the tradition of the Church. It is corroborated by human experience." (1854).

The Catechism continues: "Mortal sin destroys charity in the heart of man by a grave violation of God's law; it turns man away from God, who is his ultimate end and his beatitude, by preferring an inferior good to him. Venial sin allows charity to subsist, even though it offends and wounds it." (1855).

In 1856, the Catechism explains that mortal sin, "by attacking the vital principle within us - that is, charity - necessitates a new initiative of God's mercy and a conversion of heart which is normally accomplished within the setting of the sacrament of reconciliation.."

jac said...

You are right when you say:
"To some, the "hard truths" of the Gospel are nothing more than "scornful criticism" about "trivial" matters. But true charity consists in telling people the truth, in bringing them the truth."

But when one tells the truth (in particular the everlasting dogmas of the Church) to people who don't know it or who don't care, many tepid catholics are calling you "judgemental" and "uncharitable" quoting the Gospel "Don't judge or you will be judged" and they label you as rigorist and even "jansenist" (thus showing their ignorance about this word's true meaning)
Out of fear of "offending", people stay silent and decline to tell the truth.
When I recalled once the Extra Ecclesiam Nulla Salus dogma to a catholic woman, she replied that I was offensive to other religion's faithfuls. The same when I spoke about the homosexuals.
Etc... Etc...
Yes, the Devil has skilfully manoeuvred and twisted the Gospel to silent the Church.
In my opinion that situation cannot last for a long time otherwise the Church will die.
The Pope will have to recall CLEARLY the main truths (including their most uncomfortable implications) so that people will be divised in two camps, a kind of schism:
- The people who will ever stay faithful to the Church whichever may happen.
- Those who are easy in compromising their faith with an atheist world quickly becoming antichristian.

Paul Anthony Melanson said...

Jac, that was actually Amanda's comment. But thanks for your comment. As for that Catholic woman who was offended by the dogma which teaches "Outside the Church there is no salvation," I suspect she probably just had a poor understanding of the dogma. Lumen Gentium 14 of Vatican II was clear in its teaching that, "This Sacred Council wishes to turn its attention firstly to the Catholic faithful. Basing itself upon Sacred Scripture and Tradition, it teaches that the Church, now sojourning on earth as an exile, is necessary for salvation. Christ, present to us in His Body, which is the Church, is the one Mediator and the unique way of salvation. In explicit terms He Himself affirmed the necessity of faith and baptism and thereby affirmed also the necessity of the Church, for through baptism as through a door men enter the Church. Whosoever, therefore, knowing that the Catholic Church was made necessary by Christ, would refuse to enter or to remain in it, could not be saved."

This does not mean that non-Catholics cannot be saved. Only that those who KNOW (they are not invincibly ignorant) that the Church was made necessary by Christ for salvation and who refuse to enter or remain within her cannot be saved.

Meditation Luke 12:48.

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