3rd Sunday of Lent 24.3.19 Continuous commitment
In the process of coming to the faith, and becoming members of the Church we would all have had certain significant moments.
There were the sacraments of Baptism and Confirmation; Confession and Holy Communion.
For many there would have been a conversion experience whereby we see our faith in a new light, and we can make a personal commitment to live by that faith.
These are the bigger moments. We are grateful for them, but we also understand that we have to work hard to keep these moments alive. If I was converted to the faith some time past, I cannot simply rely on that past event; I have to make it current. I have to live the present time with the same enthusiasm as I had at that time.
The season of Lent makes us conscious of our salvation being a process, a continuous application of effort on our part, assisted and directed by the grace of God.
In today’s Gospel, Our Lord expels demons with great ease, and thus demonstrates that His power is far greater than theirs.
For our complete healing, however, we need to co-operate in the process.
We have to pitch in and help the process work. We have to show Our Lord we are willing to be His disciples; to make any necessary changes in our lives for that to be possible.
If we were stranded at sea we would co-operate with the rescue effort; and once pulled from the sea we would not dive back in!
We are freed from sin, and from the demons that lead us to sin; yet we can still desire that sin and be tempted to go back to it.
St Mary Magdalen shows us the way. She had seven demons cast out of her (Lk 8,2) and she then became one of our Lord’s best disciples.
Our commitment has to be continuous. We go to church on Sundays, and on the other days we live like it was still Sunday, at least as regards values.
Being good can seem hard work, given that it has to be all the time and in every situation! Virtues do not just pop up on their own; they have to be given the right conditions for growth, like a tender plant.
If it is hard it is made much easier by grace, which is always freely available.
The objective is that once the virtues take hold it will not be such an effort to be good. It will become second nature for us, the instinctive reaction - for example to be humble not proud; generous not mean; truthful not false.
Our Lord wants to free us from all traces of sin – in our thoughts, words, attitudes, actions.
He wants us not just to keep the rules, but to be transformed within, so that we no longer want to sin; the devil’s temptations have no hold on us.
Then we are ready to obey the instruction: Go and sin no more’ (Jn 8,11).
It is easy to lose one’s way. Think how many Catholics have received sacraments and/or had conversion experiences, and are now presently lost to the Church.
To be saved, and to stay saved, requires that we be continuously alert to all the factors involved.
We have to participate ourselves; we have to renew our commitment every day; we must avoid thinking we can do it on our own; and the other extreme of thinking that true holiness is impossible.
May the Lord cast out all our demons, literally and figuratively.