The Link Between Lent and Confession—by Guest Blogger William Hemsworth

The following article is my guest post on The Simple Catholic blog. Visit The Simple Catholic blog at thesimplecatholic.blog for great content.

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The Need For Grace

In the beginning of St. Paul’s letter to the Romans he lays out a case about the desire for people to know God.  He says that by nature they can know things about God and God has shown them.  The verse in question is from Romans 1:19 which states, “For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them” (NRSV).  We see that there is something else higher than ourselves, and we long to know what it is.  In contrast with this desire to know something higher than ourselves, there is a desire to sin.

The “something higher” that I am referencing is God.  Many of us have heard of God from an early age, and in different Christian assemblies.  Though many have heard of God they fall into the error of thinking that Heaven is within reach simply by doing good.  This is part of the equation.  There is a synergy between us and God.  Our natures are wounded from the fall, not totally destroyed as the Protestant reformers taught (Lubac 122).  We realize in ourselves that we do things that we do not want to do.  This is also echoed by St. Paul in Romans 7:15 where he writes, “I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate” (NRSV).  We know that we are unable to do it on our own and that eventually brings us to the knowledge that we need God.  We need his grace, his mercy, and his forgiveness.  Without his supernatural grace it is impossible to enter the beatific vision.  This grace is a gift that we need from God to enter into eternal life (STII, Q114, A2).

In a way the position I hold follows along with Henri De Lubac.  This position was arrived at through my journey through a few Christian denominations and reinforced through study of church teaching.  Man is not capable of heaven strictly on his own merit.  Man is wounded, not depraved, and able to see that he needs the help of God.  He uses his will to accept the grace needed to get to Heaven and live the Christian life.

 

Works Cited

Aquinas, Thomas.  Summa Theologia. Trans. Thomas Gornall.  Blackfriars, St. Joseph, IN:  Ave Maria Press, 1981.  Accessed September 28, 2018.

Lubac, Henri De.  A Brief Catechesis on Nature & Grace.  San Francisco, CA:  Ignatius Press, 1984.

God is Love

Beloved, if God so loved us,
we also must love one another.
No one has ever seen God.
Yet, if we love one another, God remains in us,
and his love is brought to perfection in us.

This is how we know that we remain in him and he in us,
that he has given us of his Spirit.
Moreover, we have seen and testify
that the Father sent his Son as savior of the world.
Whoever acknowledges that Jesus is the Son of God,
God remains in him and he in God.
We have come to know and to believe in the love God has for us.

God is love, and whoever remains in love
remains in God and God in him.-1 John 4:11-16

The second reading in today’s mass is from the first letter of St. John.  This letter is a personal favorite of mine.  There is so much theological depth and things we can use on an everyday basis.  This letter is an extension of the Gospel he wrote, and we see a lot of talk about love.  Today’s passage is especially challenging for us.  St. John writes that to love is how we remain in God because God is love.  In a world that seems to be about revenge and shaming to get what we want this may seem extreme.  In fact, it is outright countercultural.

If we acknowledge and accept Christ as the Son of God then St. John says that we have come to know the love that God has for us.  Since we know that love we have been called, and have the obligation, to love others.  Even those who may not like us.  This doesn’t mean that we need to have someone in our home who does us harm, but we have to acknowledge their worth as someone who is made in the image of God.  Remember that God is love, and if we claim Christ then we have an obligation to reflect that love to others.  Are we doing it?

Quote

The proof of love is in the works. Where love exists, it works great things. But when it ceases to act, it ceases to exist.
–Pope St. Gregory the Great

The Deeds of Jesus

Every Sunday in the creed we declare that Jesus is our Lord, but what does that mean?  What implications does that have on our lives?  In the Gospels Jesus tells us to love our neighbor (Mark 12:31), love God (Matthew 22:37), and show mercy (John 8:11).  How do his words correlate to his deeds, and what does that mean for us as his followers?  This post will take a deeper look at the scriptures referenced to illustrate how the words that Christ spoke correspond with his actions.

Jesus often spoke of what we now the call the perfect commandment.  Jesus spoke about loving God with all our heart and loving our neighbor as yourself.  The first verse mentioned above is Mark 12:31 which states, “The second is this ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’  There is no commandment greater than these” (NRSV).  To love your neighbor means so much more than greeting them when they are in their front yard.  Whether they treated him as he deserved or not, Jesus showed compassion to everyone (Collins 51).  He healed the centurion’s servant in Matthew 8:13, St. Peter’s mother in law in Matthew 8:14, and healed a multitude in Matthew 14:14.  In healing the centurion’s servant in Matthew 8:13, Jesus shows that his salvation is for Jew and Gentile alike.  In addition, this was a member of the occupying government and an enemy of the Jewish people.  He shows us what we must do with those we do not agree with.  We must still them as people as they are created in the image of God.

To go along with loving our neighbor, Jesus tells us “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind” (Matthew 22:37 NRSV).  How is loving God a deed of Jesus?  As the Son of God he is the only way to the Father, and Christ said we can only know the Father through him (John 14:6).  To love God with all your heart is to go where he leads and to do what he is telling us to do.  In short, we must follow his will if we love him with our whole being.  Jesus demonstrated this is many ways, with the most notable being his Passion.

In the garden of Gethsemane, we see the human will of Jesus manifesting itself.  He is so terrified about what he must endure that he begins to sweat drops of blood (Luke 22:44).  This is a medical condition known as Hematidrosis, and occurs when an individual in experiencing extreme stress.  He prayed that he may not have to endure, and this shows he is human.  He was scared, and above all it means he can relate to what we go through.  Though he was terrified, Christ knew his mission and because of his overwhelming love we are redeemed.

In John chapter 8 Jesus encounters a group of Pharisees who are circling a woman and looking to stone her for the sin of adultery.  According to Leviticus 20:10 this was the consequence for such an action, but adultery takes two people.  The woman was about to get stoned, but where was the man?  It is speculated that the man was in the crowd that was wanting to stone the woman, and this was a way to trap Jesus.  He knew what was going on, and said if someone present has never sinned then he could throw the stone (John 8:7).  Jesus told her to stop sinning, and did not condemn her.  He forgave her for the sin by saying “Neither do I condemn you.  Go your way, and from now on do not sin again” (John 8:11 NRSV).  Jesus showed mercy and did not just talk about it.  We see this several times in the Gospels, but this example is significant as the penalty was death for such a sin.  He gave the woman a new life and hope, and tells us to do the same.

 

Image result for jesus

 

Works Cited

O’ Collins, Gerald. Jesus: A Portrait. New York: Maryknoll, 2013

Book Review: Transforming Grace

Grace is an unmerited gift from God.  As Ephesians 2:8 says, “It is by grace that we have been saved through faith”.  However, it seems that we forget about this gift from time to time and set out to do things on our own.  We try to measure up to God’s standard, and forget about the grace that is needed to get us to that standard.  This is the topic of the book Transforming Grace by author Jerry Bridges.  Jerry is well known Christian writer and has written numerous book.  He has also served on the staff of The Navigators before passing to his eternal reward in 2016.

Grace is transformational.  God shows us the mercy and love that only He can give, and the kicker is that it is a free gift.  This does not mean that God doesn’t have rules that he want us to live by.  God isn’t saying that as Christians we can live any way we please, but we do have a tendency to create  rules that add more of a burden.  On page 135 the author writes, “We still practice this today.  We build fences to keep ourselves from committing certain sins.  Soon these fences-instead of the sins they were designed to guard against-become the issue.  We elevate our rules to the level of God’s Commandments”.

The book itself contains thirteen chapters that discuss grace and discipleship.  It also contains four discussion chapters to help the reader understand this great gift from God.  This is a good entry level book on the topic as the language is simple, and the analogies are relatable.  I learned a lot and so will you.

[Note.  This book was received free of Charge from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.]

Deeds of Christ

Every Sunday in the creed we declare that Jesus is our Lord, but what does that mean?  What implications does that have on our lives?  In the Gospels Jesus tells us to love our neighbor (Mark 12:31), love God (Matthew 22:37), and show mercy (John 8:11).  How do his words correlate to his deeds, and what does that mean for us as his followers?  This essay will take a deeper look at the scriptures referenced to illustrate how the words that Christ spoke correspond with his actions.

Jesus often spoke of what we now the call the perfect commandment.  Jesus spoke about loving God with all our heart and loving our neighbor as yourself.  The first verse mentioned above is Mark 12:31 which states, “The second is this ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’  There is no commandment greater than these” (NRSV).  To love your neighbor means so much more than greeting them when they are in their front yard.  Whether they treated him as he deserved or not, Jesus showed compassion to everyone (Collins 51).  He healed the centurion’s servant in Matthew 8:13, St. Peter’s mother in law in Matthew 8:14, and healed a multitude in Matthew 14:14.  In healing the centurion’s servant in Matthew 8:13, Jesus shows that his salvation is for Jew and Gentile alike.  In addition, this was a member of the occupying government and an enemy of the Jewish people.  He shows us what we must do with those we do not agree with.  We must still them as people as they are created in the image of God.

To go along with loving our neighbor, Jesus tells us “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind” (Matthew 22:37 NRSV).  How is loving God a deed of Jesus?  As the Son of God he is the only way to the Father, and Christ said we can only know the Father through him (John 14:6).  To love God with all your heart is to go where he leads and to do what he is telling us to do.  In short, we must follow his will if we love him with our whole being.  Jesus demonstrated this is many ways, with the most notable being his Passion.

In the garden of Gethsemane, we see the human will of Jesus manifesting itself.  He is so terrified about what he must endure that he begins to sweat drops of blood (Luke 22:44).  This is a medical condition known as Hematidrosis, and occurs when an individual in experiencing extreme stress.  He prayed that he may not have to endure, and this shows he is human.  He was scared, and above all it means he can relate to what we go through.  Though he was terrified, Christ knew his mission and because of his overwhelming love we are redeemed.

In John chapter 8 Jesus encounters a group of Pharisees who are circling a woman and looking to stone her for the sin of adultery.  According to Leviticus 20:10 this was the consequence for such an action, but adultery takes two people.  The woman was about to get stoned, but where was the man?  It is speculated that the man was in the crowd that was wanting to stone the woman, and this was a way to trap Jesus.  He knew what was going on, and said if someone present has never sinned then he could throw the stone (John 8:7).  Jesus told her to stop sinning, and did not condemn her.  He forgave her for the sin by saying “Neither do I condemn you.  Go your way, and from now on do not sin again” (John 8:11 NRSV).  Jesus showed mercy and did not just talk about it.  We see this several times in the Gospels, but this example is significant as the penalty was death for such a sin.  He gave the woman a new life and hope, and he does the same for us.

 

He is Faithful

Lamentations 3:22-33

The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases,     his mercies never come to an end they are new every morning;     great is your faithfulness. (NRSV)

 

                When I was a child I got in a fight with my best friend.  As most childhood arguments go it was over something trivial.  I was so upset that I took a multi-colored crayon and expressed my feelings about him.  The problem was I didn’t do this on paper, but on the side of my house.  Imagine the shocked look that my parents had when they finally got a glimpse of my masterpiece.

My dad yelled my name, and I courageously barricaded myself in the bathroom hoping to escape the wrath to come.  When I emerged from my hideout I was not met with yelling or a spanking, but with a concern on why I would do such a thing.  I pleaded my case, was told that if I was truly sorry that I would do something about it.  My dad handed me a paintbrush, a can of paint, and told me to go say sorry to my friend.

The point I’m trying to get across is that we all do something that we regret.  Like this scenario from my childhood we try to hide and pretend that it didn’t happen.  My parents are wonderful people, and they showed me incredible love and patience that day.  It is the same in our relationship with the Lord.  His love and mercy are always available.  He is faithful to forgive us even when we have trouble forgiving ourselves.  Is there anything you have been holding onto?  Pray, and give it to the Lord.  In 1 John 1:9 we read “If we confess our sins, he who is faithful and just will forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (NRSV).  Let Him love you and forgive you for everything you have ever done.

 

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