Repent and Pursue Holiness and Virtue

10-01-2017HomiliesFr. Chad King

Our God is a God of love.  The all-powerful, all-knowing, Creator of the world; the Creator of you and I.  Our loving God has revealed Himself to us as our Father, and we are His beloved children.  Our God has made each one of us with such intentional purpose and love, and has a great plan for each and every one of our lives.  God has revealed his ways to us, in the Scriptures, through the Church, and in our own prayer, God has revealed how he wants us to live, He has revealed his will for us.  So, God has revealed his ways to us and has sent His Son to become human and redeem us from the waywardness of our sin.  My brothers and sister, our God, of unfathomable love, has done and continues to do everything He can to welcome us into right relationship with Him.  He says to us in our 1st reading: “You say, ’The Lord’s way is not fair’”.  Keeping in mind who the Lord is, the all-knowing and all-loving Creator and Father; isn’t it right and true for Him to say to us, “Is it my way that is unfair, or rather, are not your ways unfair?”

Today, as our readings do, I want to talk about sin, and more importantly what to do about it.  Our 1st reading goes on to say, “when someone virtuous turns away from virtue to commit iniquity (iniquity is another word for sin), it is because of the iniquity he committed that he must die”.  Notice, first, how it says when someone turns away from virtue to commit sin.  It’s isn’t just talking about those really bad people who all they do is sin, but it is talking about you and I, you and I who most likely often times are trying to live virtuous lives but who also fall into sin.  Let me make my first point from this verse, “When someone virtuous turns away from virtue to commit iniquity”- that means that you and I can’t be pursuing virtue and pursuing sin at the same time- virtue and sin are directly opposed to each other.  We aren’t just meant to avoid sin, we are to also grow in virtue and holiness- the both go hand in hand.  Sometimes when I hear confessions, it seems as if some people are just trying to avoid sin, and forget to strive for virtue.  I know for myself, I can get so wrapped up in trying not to commit the sins that I so often fall into, that I lose focus on Whom really keeps me from wanting that sin in the first place.  And so, if we don’t want to sin, then we should truly pursue virtue and holiness.   In order to make this a better habit,  it would be helpful to not just confess the sins we have committed, but the virtue and holiness we have failed to pursue as well. 

Also notice the verse says: “it is because of the iniquity he has committed that he must die”.  The sin that is being described is sin that has the consequence of death, which 1 John 5:16 also acknowledges, which we know as mortal sin.  Even though some people try not to think about it, there is such sin that can bring about eternal death in Hell.  Let’s confirm what makes a sin mortal, the Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches in paragraph 1857: “Mortal sin is sin whose object is grave matter and which is also committed with full knowledge and deliberate consent”.  So, it must be serious matter- according to God, not our own standard, we have to know it is wrong, and choose to do it anyways.  Therefore, there really is sin that if we don’t repent of, will lead to our eternal death in Hell.  And so, mortal sin is sin which severely damages, and breaks, our relationship with God.  When we are in a state of mortal sin we are risking eternity with our loving Father.  That is the theological definition of mortal sin, but how on a practical level should we understand sin in general- both mortal and venial?

I began the homily stating that God has revealed Himself as our Father who created us in love.  Therefore, God knows, wants, and has revealed through the Scriptures and the Church what is best for us.  Do you and I really believe that?  When we sin, in general, we’re saying, “I know what you want God, but I don’t want it; I want what I want”.  Whether we think about it or not, when we sin, we say: I know what you want God- I know I shouldn’t have sex outside of marriage, or I know I should not look at pornography, or use contraception, or miss Mass, etc, etc.  Whatever it be, whenever we sin, we are saying, “I know what you want God, but I don’t want it; I want what I want, I want to be God of my life, not you”.  We say, ‘I know this is really important to you, but I really don’t care that it’s important to you, it’s not important to me- so I don’t care.  Imagine if a friend said that to you, wouldn’t that severely damage the relationship- would you, could you, really call that person a friend if they chose not to care about what is so very important to you?  Yet, that is exactly what we are saying to God when we sin.  Some sin might not be as serious, some might not break the relationship; but all sin wounds and hurts the relationship; if not outright, breaks it.  So, what are we to do?

Our 1st reading continues, “But if he turns from the wickedness he has committed, and does what is right and just, he shall preserve his life; since he has turned away from all the sins that he has committed, he shall surely live, he shall not die”.  What this verse is saying is that if we have sinned mortally, doing good on top of the evil, isn’t good enough, we must repent of the evil.  Too many people think that as long as the good things they do outweigh the bad things- they’ll be OK.  But God is saying that if we have not repented of our mortal sin, it means we have not pursued virtue, but have pursued evil, and so there is no amount of good that can overcome un-repented mortal sin.  We must repent, we must turn from the evil we have done.  Un-repented mortal sin leads to eternal death in Hell.  Period, there is no other way God has given around that truth.

Jesus in our Gospel is talking to the chief priests and elders, the leaders of the Jewish faith.  As leaders, they thought they were the righteous ones, so didn’t need to repent.  But Jesus tells them that tax collectors and prostitutes, that is the worst of sinners, are entering the Kingdom of God before them, because they came to believe and have repented.  What an insult to the Jewish leaders, the worst of sinners are entering Heaven before you, because they have repented, you haven’t.  Contrast that attitude with that of Jorge Bergoglio, who is now Pope Francis, the current leader of God’s Church.  In one of his first interviews, he was asked: Who is Jorge Bergoglio?  He answered, "I am a sinner. This is the most accurate definition. It is not a figure of speech, a literary genre. I am a sinner…  But a sinner who is being saved by the love of God”.  Is there a better response?  Shouldn’t all of us say that? 

I know that some people have not been to confession for years.  Some have justified their sinful actions and think that they don’t need to repent; on the other hand, some people think their sins are too serious, that God could never forgive them.  And because they don’t think God has or would, they don’t forgive themselves.  That is why repenting of our sins is so important, especially our mortal sins, but our venial sins as well.  Repentance keeps us in right relationship with our loving Father.  In the beginning of every Mass, we acknowledge our sinfulness both to God and to each other.  That regularly calling to mind our sinfulness is what opens us back to that right relationship with God.  And it is through the Holy Eucharist that God forgives all of our less serious venial sins.  But if there are grave and serious mortal sins, we can’t pretend that everything is right with God, but we should intend and pray for the grace to do everything we can to make it right- because God wants repentance most of all.

And so, I ask you: how in the past, and when is the last time you have thought, ‘I know God has given me life and has instructed how I should live and keep that life, both here and now and for all eternity- but I don’t care, I want what I want?  When is the last time you wounded or broke your relationship with God?  Have you repented of all your sins in the Sacrament of Reconciliation?  Only in confession can we be forgiven of our serious mortal sins. Only confession restores our broken relationship with God.  But also, how many of us are trying so hard to not commit sin, that we also aren’t really growing in holiness and virtue?  Our 1st reading reminds us that both avoiding sin and pursuing holiness and virtue is necessary, they both go hand in hand.  Therefore, not only does frequenting the Sacrament of confession helps us not commit the same sins over and over again, but also helps us to pursue holiness and virtue.  And it is in our pursuit of holiness and virtue, that the attachment sin has on us will be weakened, and we will have the strength to turn away from sin. 

As a reminder: We have 3 scheduled and advertised times for the Sacrament every week, and, in addition, we are always available by appointment.  The mercy and love of God is waiting, how will you respond?