April 1, 2017
After the recitation of the Our Father at every Mass, the priest prays to the Lord: “In your mercy keep us free from sin…”
When people pray for freedom, perhaps they pray first for freedom from illness or violence or misfortune; but at each Mass we pray for freedom from sin, because sin is the basic form of slavery. During Lent, we undertake an examination of our lives in the light of God’s mercy. We discover again our own sinfulness and taste again the forgiveness won for us by Christ on the cross. To examine ourselves, we search our conscience; to obtain forgiveness, we confess our sins and receive absolution.
What is conscience? For some, it seems to be another name for moral autonomy, a little box inside that carries our willful convictions about right and wrong. For Catholics, conscience is an exercise in judgment, and right judgment on our part reflects God’s judgments about right and wrong. Since we are made in God’s image and likeness, if we listen carefully to how our nature itself basically orients us, our actions will conform to God’s will. What gets in the way between our actions and God’s will is our own sinfulness, our own willfulness. Conscience is not a matter of will; it’s a work of well-ordered reason.
To free us from personal sin, the Lord has given his Church the gift of the sacrament of Penance or Reconciliation. During Lent, Catholics are urged to confess their sins and receive absolution. The priest in the confessional is an active minister of God’s infinite mercy. A good confessor is also a frequent penitent, knowing personally both the reality of sin and the limitless, renovating power of God’s love, which constantly restores life. God uses the confessor to restore friendship broken by sin. Only as new creatures, freed from sin’s slavery, can we recognize and celebrate the Lord’s resurrection from the dead.
Freedom is a precious gift. Sometimes we destroy it ourselves, by our sinfulness; sometimes it’s taken from us, both legally and illegally. During Lent, we read Exodus, the second book of Moses, the story of God’s delivering the Israelites from slavery in Egypt by giving them public and social freedom in a land of his choosing. We read this story in the light of our own faith in Christ’s resurrection, his breaking the shackles of our sinfulness so that He and we can live freely and in perfect conformity with His Father’s will.
We might start our personal examination of conscience this Lent by asking how we have, individually and as a people, strayed and wondered from Christ and His teachings. With a well-formed and well-examined conscience, use Lent to confess your sins and experience anew the freedom of the sons and daughters of God.
God Bless! Fr. Dan