Archive for August, 2008

God Does Not “Overlook” Our Sin

Posted in Doctrine, My Journey on August 31, 2008 by Sarah Long

Growing up in the Church of Christ, I thought that after baptism, every time I sinned, I had to pray to God for forgiveness. In response, the ever-patient and forgiving God would wipe my slate clean (the slate on which He kept track of my demerits) because of His inexplicable love for me. So every time I prayed for forgiveness, I was starting over – getting a second chance. One of the most difficult things to understand was why God would be willing to pass out “second” chances when we all knew I was on chance number five million. It was my job to stop sinning. Sanctification was understood in terms of the most basic definition of the word – a setting apart. So when God sanctified me, He excluded me from the class of people who are the “world” and included me instead in the class of people who make up his church. So I lost my sanctification every time I sinned and was re-sanctified every time I was forgiven.

When I became a Calvinist, I believed something a bit different. I believed that God had chosen me specifically (and many other people) out of the entire human family to be saved from my sin. I believed that because I was one of the chosen ones, it was impossible for me to die without having repented of all sin. The repentance and forgiveness still worked basically the same way in my new belief system. The reason God kept giving me chances was that He had chosen to save me, and His will would prevail even over my sinfulness. My sanctification was something that God was working out in my life so that I will sin less and less as my life goes on. However, I could not expect to reach complete sanctification in this life.

Now that I’m Catholic, I understand this entire process differently. I do not believe that God ever “overlooks” my sin. He forgives it, yes. But He doesn’t ever pretend it doesn’t exist or that it didn’t happen. He looks unflinchingly on what I am and sees both what I was designed to be and the horror that I have become. God works my sanctification, declaring me righteous only after I become truly holy. My holiness may be achieved in this life or after it (in Purgatory), but it will be achieved. (This, incidentally, is why I find Purgatory comforting, rather than scary.) The good news of Christianity is that it’s not my job to make myself perfect, but God’s. And the great promise is that God will not give up on my sanctification.

Advertisements

Poor in Spirit

Posted in Books, I couldn't have said it better on August 18, 2008 by Sarah Long

From Jesus of Nazareth by Pope Benedict XVI, in the section on the Beatitudes.

The poverty of which this tradition speaks is never a purely material phenomenon. Purely material poverty does not bring salvation, though of course those who are disadvantaged in this world may count on God’s goodness in a particular way. But the heart of those who have nothing can be hardened, poisoned, evil — interiorly full of greed for material things, forgetful of God, covetous of external possessions.

On the other hand, the poverty spoken of here is not a purely spiritual attitude, either. Admittedly, not everyone is called to the radicalism with which so many true Christians — from Anthony, father of monasticism, to Francis of Assisi, down to the exemplary poor of our era — have lived and continue to live their poverty as a model for us. But in order to be the community of Jesus’ poor, the Church has constant need of the great ascetics. She needs the communities that follow them, living out poverty and simplicity so as to display to us the truth of the Beatitudes. She needs them to wake everyone up to the fact that possession is all about service, to contrast the culture of affluence with the culture of inner freedom, and thereby to create the conditions for social justice as well.

The Sermon on the Mount is not a social program per se, to be sure. But it is only when the great inspiration it gives us vitally influences our thought and our action, only when faith generates the strength of renunciation and responsibility for our neighbor and for the whole of society — only then can social justice grow, too