FRIDAY OF THE THIRD WEEK OF LENT
READ: HOSEA 14:2-10
Thus says the LORD: Return, O Israel, to the LORD, your God; you have collapsed through your guilt. Take with you words, and return to the LORD; Say to him, "Forgive all iniquity, and receive what is good, that we may render as offerings the bullocks from our stalls. Assyria will not save us, nor shall we have horses to mount; We shall say no more, 'Our god,' to the work of our hands; for in you the orphan finds compassion." I will heal their defection, says the LORD, I will love them freely; for my wrath is turned away from them. I will be like the dew for Israel: he shall blossom like the lily; He shall strike root like the Lebanon cedar, and put forth his shoots. His splendor shall be like the olive tree and his fragrance like the Lebanon cedar. Again they shall dwell in his shade and raise grain; They shall blossom like the vine, and his fame shall be like the wine of Lebanon. Ephraim! What more has he to do with idols? I have humbled him, but I will prosper him. "I am like a verdant cypress tree"– Because of me you bear fruit! Let him who is wise understand these things; let him who is prudent know them. Straight are the paths of the LORD, in them the just walk, but sinners stumble in them.
"Make it clear, Mother, that if I had committed all possible crimes, I would still have the same confidence. I would feel that this multitude of offenses would be like a drop of water cast into a blazing fire... How could there be any limits to my confidence?"--St. Therese
There are two extremes (which are also sins) that we have to avoid when we think about the moral life.
The first moral extreme is despair. By despair, "man ceases to hope for his personal salvation from God, for help in attaining it or for the forgiveness of his sins. Despair is contrary to God's goodness, to his justice - for the Lord is faithful to his promises - and to his mercy"--CCC 2091. When we despair, we assume that our sins are bigger than God's promise of redemption on the Cross. In sense we think that our sin can outweigh God's love on the divine scales of mercy and justice. There is no comparison. The root of despair is a lack of hope. We can be tempted, especially when we commit the same sin over, and over ,and over, to think that God will treat us like we would treat us. That eventually he just gives up on us. God never gives up on us. The insidious reality of despair is that it causes us to give up on Him.
The second is presumption. Presumption comes comes in two forms: "Either man presumes upon his own capacities, (hoping to be able to save himself without help from on high), or he presumes upon God's almighty power or his mercy (hoping to obtain his forgiveness without conversion, and glory, without merit)."---CCC 2092.
When we presume we think we can win God's love without grace, or win God's grace without repentance (which is also a gift of grace). At it's root, presumption is a result of pride, or a misunderstanding of the role of God's grace in our lives.
St. Therese gives us the truth between the extremes. A Confident and contrite heart. Confidence keeps us hopeful in God's promise, and encourages us to seek more grace; both, in the sacrament of confession, and in preserving through weakness. Contriteness keeps us from trying to take advantage of God's love and allows us to take our personal sin seriously without despairing.
When we come to the Lord with contrite and confident hearts, we experience the love, compassion, and tenderness that he promises in today's reading.
How are despair and presumption related?
Do you tend to despair, or presume more?
What is one way you can grow in contriteness?
What is one way you can grow in hopefulness?
On this Friday take some time to meditate on the Seven Last Words he spoke on the Cross. Allow Jesus to speak to you about His mercy, and Love.
R. I am the Lord your God: hear my voice. An unfamiliar speech I hear: "I relieved his shoulder of the burden; his hands were freed from the basket. In distress you called, and I rescued you." "Unseen, I answered you in thunder; I tested you at the waters of Meribah. Hear, my people, and I will admonish you; O Israel, will you not hear me?" "There shall be no strange god among you nor shall you worship any alien god. I, the LORD, am your God who led you forth from the land of Egypt." "If only my people would hear me, and Israel walk in my ways, I would feed them with the best of wheat, and with honey from the rock I would fill them." R. I am the Lord your God: hear my voice.
How will you avoid despair and presumption?