1st Sunday of Lent 22.2.15 Perfect contrition
Lent is a time to get over sin and discover its opposite, which is grace. Mary, full of grace. What must it be like? To be totally free of sin.
Many people today think they are free of sin, but they are sadly mistaken.
They deny that they have sinned, or that there is such a thing as sin.
People are unclear what the laws are anymore. Do the Ten Commandments still apply? Yes, they do.
Or they will disclaim responsibility. They will say they cannot change from the way they are. They will keep doing as they do till the day they die.
‘I am only human’ now means I am linked with Christ’s humanity so we can draw upon His strength when we face temptation.
Others again will presume they are forgiven without the need to confess, relying on the love of God to clear up any damage.
Indeed, we should rely on the mercy of God. But first we must acknowledge that we have sinned.
Then we can repent, with a firm purpose of amendment of our behaviour and attitudes.
Repentance means that we have come to a genuine sorrow for the sin, and a desire not to sin again.
We can get better at this. The sorrow we feel for sin is called contrition.
Contrition can be perfect or imperfect.
Perfect contrition is being sorry for our sins because they offend God.
Imperfect contrition is being sorry mainly because we are afraid of punishment.
The imperfect can be made perfect. We can (and should) grow in our appreciation of what is involved.
How to make more perfect confessions? One thing we can do is to contemplate the Cross of Christ.
When I sin I am causing Him to suffer; I am putting in a few extra blows.
When we force ourselves to see this we do back off. Not just because we are afraid of punishment but because we are beginning to love Him.
We have a greater sense of His identity and His goodness. We do not want to harm something that is perfect.
We would not deface a work of art (even if we do not like it).
All the more so we would not offend the perfection of God. We come to see sin as unthinkable.
Gradually we form a better grasp of God’s own lovability. This will strengthen us greatly.
So we contemplate Our Lady, who was conceived - and lived - without sin. She was above all this: sin would never have even occurred to her, so absorbed was she in God’s goodness.
We call on her help to retrieve what has been lost. It sounds so obvious when we spell it out but we find it so difficult in the heat of battle to remember these basic truths.
We do not precisely know how sorry we are for our sins, but we know we can always become more so. Sorry enough that we will never sin again, or at least a lot less often.
It is no loss of happiness (as we might fear). Sin brings only the illusion of happiness. True contrition brings the real thing.
Hail Mary, full of grace - help us this Lent to share in that grace which you discovered so abundantly.