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Summary: The horror of living a life of willful ignorance leads to enslavement to passions and sin.

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Monday of 5th Week in Lent 2013

Gaudium et Spes

“Vos autem nescitis.” “But you do not know.” These words of Jesus in today’s Gospel reverberate through the Gospel of St. John. Over and over again Jesus tells the Jews–and, by extension, us–that we do not know Him, that we do not know the Truth. Jesus is the light of the world, but we are so blind that we cannot see either Jesus or the Truth that is in Jesus. Jesus wept over the Holy City because they did not recognize the day of their visitation, the precious moment in time that their Creator had come to redeem them and give them the most valuable of gifts–the Holy Spirit. And shortly, we will come together to celebrate the week in which He willingly went to His death, and when His first prayer as the nails sunk into His mortal flesh was “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.”

Ignorance is not bliss; ignorance is the key that unlocks the gates of hell. Now I am not talking about what theologians call “invincible” ignorance. If someone, for a reason not his fault, does not know about Jesus Christ, His gift, His call, he cannot be called to account for what is outside his control. What I’m talking about is willful ignorance. It’s what we are guilty off when we hear the Truth and, because it convicts us of sin, we ignore it, or try to suppress it. The soldier who pounded the nails into Jesus’s hands and feet had probably heard about the power and the good works and the words of this Jew he was murdering. He needed forgiveness, and if he accepted Jesus’s word of absolution, he may very well have been saved. The same is true of Peter, who repented, and of Judas, who did not. John ran off when Jesus was arrested, but he later went with Peter to the place of trial and supported Mary at the foot of the cross. They very well knew what they were doing, and so they, too, needed Christ’s forgiveness. His forgiveness is available to all of us, and that is what gives us hope and joy. As the Council Fathers taught: “Christ entered this world to give witness to the truth, to rescue and not to sit in judgment, to serve and not to be served.” (Art 3)

The temptation every one of us faces is to live in a lie, to view our own person as the center of the universe, to forgive our own faults and sins, but judge those of others, to look for honor and respect but deny that to others. In other words, to reserve for ourselves the honor and service we owe to God and our neighbor. It’s the attitude of the newborn, who craves affection, attention, food and a dry diaper but does not recognize the need to move beyond that self-absorbed, infantile stage of life.

Seeing beyond ourselves, our own passions and desires, means the development of a right conscience, one that conforms to the Truth: “the more right conscience holds sway, the more persons and groups turn aside from blind choice and strive to be guided by the objective norms of morality. Conscience frequently errs from invincible ignorance without losing its dignity. The same cannot be said for a man who cares but little for truth and goodness, or for a conscience which by degrees grows practically sightless as a result of habitual sin.” (Art 16) Telling ourselves or others that a sinful habit is OK is not compassionate. It is unjust to do so. A few years ago an auxiliary bishop up north found out his brother had left his wife and children and adopted a homosexual lifestyle. So he started preaching that perverse conduct is permissible. Very recently a prominent politician found out his son practiced homosexual conduct, and he switched his position on so-called homosexual marriage. The Truth tells us that morality is not relative, or determined by the behavior of your relatives. It tells us that certain actions are harmful to everyone–the persons involved, their families, and society as a whole. It is not an act of health to enslave yourself to your unjust passions. The Council Fathers said it well: “Only in freedom can man direct himself toward goodness. Our contemporaries make much of this freedom and pursue it eagerly; and rightly to be sure. Often however they foster it perversely as a license for doing whatever pleases them, even if it is evil. For its part, authentic freedom is an exceptional sign of the divine image within man. For God has willed that man remain "under the control of his own decisions," so that he can seek his Creator spontaneously, and come freely to utter and blissful perfection through loyalty to Him. Hence man's dignity demands that he act according to a knowing and free choice that is personally motivated and prompted from within, not under blind internal impulse nor by mere external pressure.” (Art 17) Liberty is not the freedom to do whatever I feel like doing. It is the ability to avoid evil, and to do what is authentically good.


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