Following up on Sunday’s Gospel, I would like to propose the following reflection. There was a woman who was so moved by Jesus’ mercy that she wept for joy and showed extravagant, grateful love. Are we that way? Too often we are not. And as Jesus pointed out, a big reason for that is that we do not understand the magnitude of our sin. We miss the greatness of God’s mercy; we lack gratitude for what He has done for us and thus our love is lukewarm.
There is an old saying, “If you don’t know the bad news, the good news is no news.” Not knowing or being only vaguely aware of how serious our sin is, we are out of touch with the bad news. Therefore, the good news of salvation and forgiveness of sin has little effect on us; it barely moves us. Because of this we are less grateful and less loving.
In order to unlock the good news, let’s spend some time on the bad news.
I’d like to begin by saying that your condition is grave—so is mine. There’s some serious stuff wrong with us; you might say we have a few issues!
Yes, I’ve got your spiritual “medical chart” (and mine) open, and I’m looking at the test results; the numbers don’t look good.
- The tests say we tend toward being dishonest, egotistical, undisciplined, weak, immature, arrogant, self-centered, pompous, insincere, unchaste, grasping, judgmental, impatient, and shallow.
- We’ve tested positive for being inconsistent, unfaithful, immoral, ungrateful, disobedient, selfish, lukewarm, slothful, unloving, uncommitted, and just plain sinful.
- Further tests indicate the presence of fear, indifference, contempt, impurity, hatred, laziness, cowardice, and anger.
- Test results indicate the presence of greed, jealousy, revenge fullness, disobedience, hardheartedness, pride, envy, stinginess, selfishness, pettiness, spite, self-indulgence, lust, careless neglect, and prejudice.
- Our spiritual “medical history” indicates that we have sinned against justice, modesty, purity, and the truth. We’ve committed sins against the human person: children, the innocent and trusting, the frail and elderly, the unborn, the weak and powerless, immigrants and strangers, and the disadvantaged.
- Further test results indicate the absence of important key indicators: failure to give witness to Christ, failure to join our will to God, failure to provide a good example to others, failure to seek God above all things, failure to act justly, failure to show mercy, failure to repent of our sins, failure to obey the commandments, failure to curb our earthly desires, failure to lead a holy life, failure to speak the truth, failure to pray for others, failure to assist those in need, and failure to console the grieving.
Well, you can see that we’re in bad shape! And though you might think that I’m exaggerating, I suspect that if you’re honest with yourself you’ll admit that you’ve committed many if not most of these sins.
Yes, without a lot of grace and mercy from God, we’re doomed!
But here’s the good news: the doctor, Jesus, is in! And the doctor has a prescription to cure us:
- daily prayer,
- daily reading of Scripture,
- reception of Holy Communion every Sunday (and Holy Day of Obligation),
- frequent Confession (at least four times a year—more often if mortal sin is a problem),
- frequent doses of the Catechism, the lives of the saints, and devotions such as the rosary and novenas,
- keeping good company, and
- custody of the eyes and ears.
Yes, we need help; we’ve got some stuff going on that will kill us eternally. But Jesus has a hospital (the Church) and medicine (the sacraments). There is spiritual “medical” advice available: from the Word of God, from sermons, from the teachings of the Church, and from encouraging “doctors” and “nurses” such as priests, religious, and fellow Catholics.
Whether we care to admit it or not we need regular check-ups and serious medicine. Jesus is guiding His Church in giving skillful advice and distributing powerful medicine.
Do you think of the sacraments as medicine? Many think of them simply as rituals. But the truth is that they are powerful medicine. I’m a witness to this. After more than twenty-five years of seeing the doctor, Jesus, and letting Him minister to me through sacraments, His Word, and His Church, a wonderful change has come over me. I’m not what I want to be, but I’m not what I used to be.
We’ve got it bad and that ain’t good. But the doctor is in (and you know you need Him)! Whatever your struggles, reach out for Him. He’s waiting to minister to you, especially in the liturgy and the sacraments. You can’t do it alone. Join us every Sunday at the “holy hospital,” the Church. Yes, the doctor is in! As you heal, your gratitude will increase. And grateful people are different people; they are more joyful, generous, forgiving, and loving.
Here’s a humorous little video that I created, which demonstrates that sometimes the doctor can give us a surprising diagnosis. For it’s often the case that we claim that everyone else has a problem, while in reality the problem is in us—and so is the solution. Please pardon the video; I have a face for radio!