I am shocked? The mystery of evil and penance

I am shocked? The mystery of evil and penance
I am shocked. Gambling, here?   . . .

To evoke conversion and in man’s heart is the specific mission of the church, according to Blessed in his apostolic exhortation on Reconciliation and Penance.  St. Paul exclaimed – great is the mystery of our religion, great is the mystery of Christ, great is the mystery of the Church’s mission. 1 Tim 3:15

The Kingdom of God is like the sower, the mustard seed – the power of a secret fecundity, and power of growth. The Church, we faithful, are not and cannot be sterile. Think how sterile are so many noble visions and ventures to save the world, to help mankind, to rescue people. They run smack into the “mysterium inquitatis,” the mystery of evil. This is the flaw of so much liberal progressivism and idealism. They are ignorant of evil. They are shocked to find in the seeming irrecondite intractable fact of sin – in their ideal community, in the world they hope to save, in themselves!

Evil is found within the Church  – but we should not be shocked — we should not be Captain Renauld, in Casablanca, who exclaimed to Rick: “I’m shocked, shocked to find that gambling is going on in here!” Nor should we despair of the power of the gospel.

John Paul says so truly: ours “is not a mission which consists merely of a few theoretical statements and the putting forward of an ethical ideal unaccompanied by the energy with which to carry it out.” Ethical idealism is easy; we all can talk the talk – but we know how hard it is to walk the walk. From whence comes the energy to do good? From comes the energy to overcome evil? In vain do our schools search for the source of discipline, in vain does our military search for the springs of good character, in vain do our politicians search for the power of true compassion and even civility; and why do “the builders labor in vain?” Lest God build the house . . . And how would God build the house? We must look to the mysterium pietatis – Christ – who “though he was innocent chose the path of poverty, patience, austerity and one can say the penitential life.” (). And the Church finds the power for good in this mystery and therefore must “seek to express itself in precise ministerial functions directed toward a concrete practice of penance and reconciliation.”

So what is penance? We must return to the opening of the work on penance and reconciliation to capture the best statement of its essence and complexity; read section four –
The term and the very concept of penance are very complex. If we penance with the metanoia , to which the gospels refer, it means the inmost change of heart under the influence of the word of God and in the perspective of the kingdom. But penance also means changing one’s life in harmony with the change of heart, and in this sense doing penance is completed by bringing forth fruits worthy of penance: It is one’s whole existence that becomes penitential, that is to say, directed toward a continuous striving for what is better. But doing penance is something authentic and effective only if it is translated into deeds and acts of penance. In this sense penance means, in the Christian theological and spiritual vocabulary, asceticism, that is to say, the concrete daily effort of a person, supported by God’s lose his or her own life for Christ as the only means of gaining it; an effort to put off the old man and put on the new; an effort to overcome in oneself what is of the flesh in order that what is spiritual may prevail; a continual effort to rise from the things of here below to the things of above, where Christ is. Penance is therefore a conversion that passes from the heart to deeds and then to the Christian’s whole life.

This teaching is repeated in section 26 in terms of three “values” contained in penance: conversion, repentance, and the doing of penance as an external manifestation of the interior change.
“To do penance means to re-establish the balance and harmony broken by sin, to change direction even at the cost of sacrifice.” We cannot do that from within our own power. Grace must prevail. .

Join us!

* indicates required