Summary: The tussle over paying for contraception has raised our awareness of sin; it should also raise our awareness of the need to repent, confess sin and receive the forgiveness of God.

Seventh Sunday in Course 2012

“Your Sins I Will Not Remember”

There’s a story told about one of the members of our extended family, a man who was a smoker until his first heart attack, and about what he did on this Sunday before Lent. As the story goes, he bought a carton of cigarettes and smoked the entire carton on one day, and then went cold turkey until Easter. I don’t know how true the story is, or what his moral culpability was, but it illustrates a point about sin. God established a natural law in our hearts, taught us what behavior is sinful. God did this so we may be healthy in spirit, soul and body.

Whatever the eventual outcome of the recent unpleasantness between the U.S. bishops and the federal administration may be, the tussle has had one positive result: It has raised our awareness of certain sins, our responsibility to avoid them, and the duty to stop paying others to do them. In regard to our education, it is providential that internationally renowned Dr. Janet Smith will be at our parish on Saturday, March 24, speaking on this aspect of the marital covenant. I hope you make plans to attend. There will also be a pro-life conference for teens with her the following day. Look for more information in our parish bulletin.

When we come together to celebrate this Holy Sacrifice, we say “Amen” several times. St. Paul teaches that our Amen is a response to the continual “Yes” of our Lord Jesus Christ. Jesus said “Amen” to everything the Father asked of Him. Jesus, in His human nature, learned that “Yes,” that “Amen,” that “Fiat” from the lips of His Mother, Mary. The first decision she is recorded as making in Scripture is her “Amen” to God, when the angel asked her to become the Mother of the Messiah. In every story of Her life, and of Her Son’s life, we see them ignoring their own convenience and safety in order to say “Yes” to God’s plan. Our “Amen” joins with theirs--from the first Trinitarian blessing as we begin, to the last Amen after the Communion prayer. Our “Amen” affirms our willingness to do good and avoid evil in each minute of our week. “For all the promises of God find their ‘Yes’ in Jesus, and that is why we proclaim our ‘Amen’ in Him to the glory of God.”

Except. . . Like the Israelites in the desert, we soon forget our “Amen.” We grow tired of saying “yes” to God’s plan. We fudge on our income tax return, gossip about a friend or co-worker, or neglect or even abuse our spouse or children or parents. We ignore our responsibility to help the poor, to visit the sick. We complain about others’ habits, and ignore our own bad behavior. God’s word to us today is that we have burdened Him with our sins, have wearied Him with our iniquities.

Let’s be honest here. St. Paul nailed it: All of us are sinners. Many are the times I have turned away from God’s plan to do things my way, usually to avoid some inconvenience or pain. One way clergy all over this country have sinned by omission is to avoid preaching challenging sermons that point out our personal and communitarian sin. One result, for example, is that Catholics all over the U.S., when they heard about the bishops objecting to Catholic institutions being forced to pay for birth control, asked “what’s the big deal about paying for birth control?” One cannot explain how artificial contraception hurts the spiritual, moral and physical well-being of the human person in a one-line sound bite. It’s counter-cultural: the whole of Western culture and media say it’s a good thing, and pretend that the Pill is a medicine. That’s why we all need to inform ourselves on the subject by reading the Church’s teaching and attending events like our seminar with Janet Smith, and discuss it with our children at the appropriate point in their development.

The bad news is that we sin. Even the just man sins seven times a day. But there is good news, and it is great news. God’s will for us has not changed. He made us in His own image and likeness, and destined us for eternal, beatific union with Him. He wants us to know Perfect Beauty, Goodness and Truth. He even condescended to become human in the person of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. He showed us how to live, and then suffered, died and rose again so that, through the sacraments, we could live as He lived. And, most wonderfully, when we sin, and repent, He blots out our transgressions for His own sake, and does not even remember those sins we confess.

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