Central Idea: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners. Doctrine: Perfect and imperfect contrition. Practical Application: Formation of conscience
For Lectionary 132, click here.
Central Idea: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners.
Reading 1 Ex 32:7-11, 13-14
- At the very moment that God was revealing himself to the Chosen People through Moses, they rejected God and sinned by their revelry and worship of the golden calf.
- God gave Moses a chance to ask for mercy for them.
- God told Moses he intended to kill them all and start over with a new Chosen People, fathered by Moses.
- Instead of choosing to become a new Abraham, Moses intercedes for the Chosen People, asking God to relent.
Responsorial Psalm Ps 51:3-4, 12-13, 17, 19
A heart contrite and humbled, O God, you will not spurn.
- When we sin we separate ourselves from God. But God will always welcome us back if we have contrition.
Reading 2 1 Tm 1:12-17
- St. Paul clearly teaches a fundamental doctrine of the Catholic Faith: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners.
- St. Paul considers himself the prime example of God’s mercy. At one time, Paul was Christ’s foremost enemy on earth. Yet God treated Paul with patience, showed him mercy, gave him grace, faith, and love, and made him an Apostle.
Gospel Lk 15:1-32
- As St. Paul taught, “This saying is trustworthy and deserves full acceptance:
Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners.”
- Here, the Pharisees and scribes complained about Christ, saying, “This man welcomes sinners and eats with them.” Indeed, God seeks out sinners to save them.
- When we lose something of great value and then find it, we are overjoyed. We tell other people. Often, in reality, they could care less, but we can’t help expressing our good fortune.
- These three parables express that God is like the person who has lost something of great value, searches for it, and then finds it. He can’t help but express his joy. The others in heaven—saved men and angels—share his happiness.
- In each parable, there is the one who loses something, what is lost, the search, how what is lost is found, and then the rejoicing.
- The shepherd loses one of his sheep who strayed from the flock, searches for it, finds it, and carries it home on his shoulders, overjoyed.
- The woman loses her coin in her own home, diligently searches for it with lamp and broom, and finds it, overjoyed.
- The father loses his son through his son’s leaving him, watches the road for his return, finds him when his son returns to his senses and comes home, and is overjoyed. His older son is like the neighbor who doesn’t actually share in one’s happiness.
- How do these parables apply to God? God “lost” the human race through the sin of Adam and Eve, “searched” for us by sending the prophets, and finally his own Son, and the Church he founded, “finds” people by Baptism, and then rejoices.
- How do these parables apply to us? Each of us, individually, is the lost sheep, the lost coin, and the lost son. Those represent the sinner.
- How does God find us? He finds us through our repentance. God can’t find us until we want to be found. If the lost sheep does not bleat in its loneliness and fear, if the coin does not give off a tiny glint of light, if the son does not come to his senses, if we don’t repent, then God has made himself powerless to find us.
- Of course God knows where we are but he has chosen out of respect for our freedom and dignity to let us hide from him, as Adam and Eve attempted to hide from God in the Garden of Eden.
- Are these also not images of definitive separation from God, or hell? The sheep: lost, alone, hungry and thirsty and in grave danger in the wilderness? The coin: lost, of no value if it cannot be spent, stuck in some dark and dirty crack? The prodigal son: poverty-stricken, hungry, held in no esteem, surrounded by unclean animals?
- But we are found by our contrition. “A heart contrite and humbled, O God, you will not spurn.”
Doctrine: Perfect and imperfect contrition
- According to the Council of Trent, the contrition of a penitent person is “sorrow of the soul and detestation for the sin committed, together with the resolution not to sin again” (CCC 1451).
- When we realize we sin, often the first impulse is to either hide the sin or hide ourselves. We begin to recover when we experience healthy guilt. We ask, What have I done? Why have I done it? Can I fix it? And we say, I never want that to happen again.
- Again, the Council of Trent teaches that perfect contrition “arises from a love by which God is loved above all else.” As we say in the Act of Contrition, we are sorry “most of all because I have offended Thee my God who are all good and deserving of all my love.”
- What is the effect of perfect contrition? It “remits venial sins; it also obtains forgiveness of mortal sins if it includes the firm resolution to have recourse to sacramental confession as soon as possible” (CCC 1452).
- Many spiritual writers think that perfect contrition is difficult to attain because it is so difficult to love God “above all else.”
- Be we also say in the same Act of Contrition, “I detest all my sins, because I dread the loss of heaven and the pains of hell.” This is what the Church calls imperfect contrition, which “is also a gift of God, a prompting of the Holy Spirit.” Imperfect contrition “is born of the consideration of sin’s ugliness or the fear of eternal damnation and the other penalties threatening the sinner.” (CCC 1453)
- This “stirring of conscience can initiate an interior process which, under the prompting of grace, will be brought to completion by sacramental absolution” (CCC 1453).
- On its own, “imperfect contrition cannot obtain the forgiveness of grave sins, but it disposes one to obtain forgiveness in the sacrament of Penance” (CCC 1453).
- Imperfect contrition is truly a gift since it is sufficient to get us to do what it takes to recover from our evildoing.
- Imperfect contrition is a sign that while we may do evil, we are not the evildoers whom God rejects at the narrow gate.
- Contrition looks to be an emotion. It is really a response of the total person: intellect, will, and feelings. If we do wrong and feel guilt, we are fortunate. Our conscience is working properly.
Practical Application: Formation of conscience
- Your conscience is your reason sitting in judgment on your actions, approving or condemning them.
- But how does reason judge acts? It has to use standards. It has to use the moral law. Reason does not invent moral laws. It recognizes them. These standards are not based on what we wish were the case but on reality.
- Our standard for judging our actions is the moral law, known by reason, revealed by God, and taught by the Church.
- The Catechism of the Catholic Church tells us, “The reception of [the Sacrament of Penance] ought to be prepared for by an examination of conscience made in the light of the Word of God. The passages best suited to this can be found in the Ten Commandments, the moral catechesis of the Gospels and the apostolic Letters, such as the Sermon on the Mount[,] and the apostolic teachings.” (CCC 1454)
- Because we recognize and do not invent the law by which we judge our actions, it is important to teach children to memorize the Ten Commandments and to deepen their understanding of their contents as they get older.
- For us adults, the third part of the Catechism, “Life in Christ,” contains a rich summary of God’s Word on the moral law.
- This is what we need to use as our standard against which to judge our acts, whether in thought, word, or deed.
- To examine your conscience means to use your reason to look at your actions and to judge them against the moral law. Conscience also prohibits future actions that violate the moral law. It tells us not only what we should not have done but also what we may not do.
- The Church recommends we examine our conscience every day.