This may be one of the oldest excuses in the book, but it is a false excuse. As we learn through the story of the temptation of Jesus in today’s gospel, the devil cannot make anyone do anything. Why? Because God created us with free will. This free will God has endowed with a sovereignty which even he respects. God permits no one to relinquish this sovereignty but us ourselves. The devil may entice and even deceive, as in today’s First Reading; but only we can decide to give in to his enticement and deception.
Unfortunately it is from the exercise of freedom that sin is possible. Along with the sovereignty of our freedom comes the responsibility for our free choices. The responsibility for good choices is called merit or virtue; the responsibility for evil choices is called guilt or sin. Of course, to make a truly free choice we must understand the choice we are making. We may be mistaken, in which case we are not guilty of deliberate sin. An honest examination of conscience is the only way to separate sin from virtue. A good confession in the sacrament of penance is the way to open the soul to the grace of divine forgiveness and reconciliation.
This Lent is time again for us to “turn away from sin and believe in the gospel.” (Mark 1:15) The sacrament of penance is the most powerful means of persevering in this resolve, because its grace is the result of Christ’s obedient sacrifice for the redemption of the world. The Lenten discipline of prayer and penance finds its completion in a good confession and act of contrition. The prayer of absolution frees us from the sinful entanglements into which we fall. Take advantage of the opportunity for confession and the conversion it affords.
The penitential aspect of Lent is characterized by liturgical simplicity. The Gloria and Alleluia are omitted. The sanctuary is devoid of flowers and other decorations. All this noble restraint will give way to the joy and solemnity of Easter.
SAFE HAVEN SUNDAY II
On the First Sunday of Lent last year our diocese observed Safe Haven Sunday. Its purpose was to alert parents to the pervasive presence of pornography in online technology—the same technology students use for reading, research, entertainment and social communication. It was and still is hoped that by maintaining an atmosphere of openness and vigilance, parents can make their home a safe haven from pornography for their children. Nevertheless it is very likely that children of high school and middle school age, and even younger, have been exposed to pornographic images through the Internet or social media, whether deliberately sought or not. The goal of this year’s Safe Haven Sunday is to help parents become aware of their children’s exposure and talk to them about it in an open, non-intimidating way. Toward this end parents of students in our Catholic schools and religious-education programs have received copies of a book entitled Confident: Helping Parents Navigate Online Exposure—a step-by-step guide to having this conversation. Copies are available in the church entryways for parents who did not get them. Parents are encouraged to read this little book in its entirety and then decide how to begin the conversation.
May this Lenten season be one of grace and blessing for all of us, especially those who may have become estranged from the Church and desire reconciliation. Pray the Rosary this week for all participating in our Alpha series and those preparing to enter the Church at Easter and, as always, pray for peace.
May God bless his people with peace.