Wednesday, March 27, 2024

How do we as Christians broach and appreciate the grace of God?


The season and time for the penitential services in the archdiocese has just ended, as we are currently in the period called Holy Week.  Twive a year, the Archdiocese organizes penitential services in all our parishes to allow the people of God's church to come and encounter God's mercy and forgiveness through the celebration of the Sacrament of Reconciliation.  These celebrations are organized to encourage the congregation to experience God's underserving love and mercy through the forgiveness of their sins which may have kept them away from the Mass.  In the process of the celebration of the sacrament of reconciliation, there is a part where the penitent declares when he or she last went for confession.  There is always a tinge of sadness in me as a confessor priest to hear the penitent say that the last time they went for confession was at the last penitential service.  There are only two times a year that these penitential services are held for the congregation - once in Lent, and the other in the period of Advent.

I say 'tinge of sadness' because there is a certain revelation that the experience of God's great mercy and forgiveness is so blatantly missed that the penitent sees no reason why they ought to make confession as regularly as once every month.   Just leave it to the two times when these services are organized.  They obviously must have missed the point, and I do hope that I am wrong, but I dont want them to take God's mercy and forgiveness for granted.

One of the most dangerous and risky things about our human lives is that there is the sad possiblity of being used to sin.  Hard as we try to inculcate a sense of moral righteousness in our poeple, there is a sad prevalance of habitual sin in the lives of so many people.  The sad truth is that some people can be so used to some sins that they are in fact comfortable with being in a state of sin for the most part of their lives.

No canonized saint in the Church's history was a person who was a habitual sinner.  So many of them pursued the virtue of holiness that they were in fact habitual confessors.

Whenever Good Friday comes along, it never fails to strike me that it is on that one Friday in history when Jesus died on the shameful cross on Calvary, that there was a blatant demonstration of how much God loves us, who for the most part, are terrible and unworthy sinners.  Jesus nailed on the cross and suffering so unmistakably was a genuine show of the extent of God's love for his sinful children.  However, the sad truth may be that this fact is so missed and unseen that so many people display the crucifix on their front doors of their homes, but are still mired in habitual sin, forgetting and taking for granted how much God loves us.

Every Blessed Sacrament in a monstrance in an adoration room is Jesus himself, exposed for veneration and serves to remind us all about the extent of God's immense love for his wayward children.  Perhaps the fact that many adoration rooms are often empty and unvisited just shows how little the laity truly appreciate the love and mercy that caused Jesus to transform humble bread into his sacred body for all for their needed spiritual nourishment.

As a priest, this is a clear sign to me that one of my most important tasks as a shepherd of souls is to remind the laity of this incessantly through my preaching and teaching.  I must never tire of this task as it is something that God wills for me to do as a vital part of my priesthood and vocation.  I just pray that the people will never tire of hearing this but instead, change their ways and attitude toward the Lord in his presence in their lives.

It was theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer who coined the term 'Cheap grace" when he wanted to highlight the cost of discipleship.  People are accepting cheap grace when they take the grace that God has granted them for granted.  Deeply appreciating the cost of our salvation is one of the hallmarks of a saint.  May less and less people just receive forgiveness from God without repentance.  True gratitude for God's undeserved mercy changes one's life.  Let us live new and profoundly gratitude for God's amazing grace every day of our lives.