Penance . . .
. . . is the most difficult part of being Catholic, especially during lent.
Fish on Friday is no big deal. Giving up this, that or the other thing isn’t mandatory. But penance is. And it’s hard.
It seems to me most people (including me) don’t like to look too closely at things they’ve done. We’re always ready to point out the sins of others. But our own? Well, how often have you or I reinterpreted something to make it more palatable to our conscience?
I think reinterpretation falls (usually) into one of four categories.
Type I: Christ died to redeem me, so even though I’m a sinner, I’m redeemed.
Type II: What I did was so minor compared to what others do, it can hardly be called a sin.
Type III: I do plenty of good things, why focus on a few little slips?
Type IV: They asked for it.
What, you may ask, brought this on?
Well, a sheet of paper found its way into the house. It details the examination of conscience in preparation for Confession.
I won’t preach to you about following all Ten Commandments. Let’s just look at Number Five – you know, the one that says Thou Shalt Not Kill.
Right. The examination of conscience document assumes the reader is not a murderer. Okay, I can work with that. Then it asks (comments in parentheses are mine – tvb)
Did I give in to feelings of anger, or jealousy? (I think jealousy belongs further down the list of commandments but . . .)
Have I kept hatred in my heart or refused to forgive someone?
Have I ever struck anyone in anger, intending to injure the person? (Are there any Catholic hockey players?)
Did I fight, give a bad example, or cause scandal?
Have I quarreled with or willfully hurt my spouse or children?
Have I taken pleasure in anyone’s misfortune?
Have I abused alcohol or drugs?
Have I had or in any way permitted or encouraged abortion?
Have I thought about suicide?
There you have it. A strict constructionist would say ‘I haven’t killed anyone, so I’m good to go.’ A Catholic (and everyone else, in my opinion) should look a whole lot deeper.
It’s Lent, and I have a lot to atone for. But at least I’m not deluding myself into thinking that a superficial adherence to the Commandments is enough.
Drive Thru Heaven
Last week I saw stories in both the STRIB and the Pioneer Press about Protestant pastors standing curbside, anointing with ashes, anyone who would stop and roll down their windows. What a hoot.
First, when did protestant denominations start distributing ashes? Second, do these people not understand religious rites?
In my opinion, one of the things seriously wrong with modern society is we want grace, but we’re unwilling to take the time to earn it. So we accept just looking holy.
“The Ten Commandments were not a suggestion.”