Grace: To have a felt sense of how sin ruptures my relationship with the God who made me out of love and for love.
Text for Prayer: Lk. 5:1-8
Reflection: In Mass on Sunday, we always pray three times, “Lamb of God, you take away the sins of the world, have mercy on us.” We ask again, in the Gloria, “Lord, God, Lamb of God, You take away the sin of the world, have mercy on us.” In the Creed we say, “We believe in one baptism for the forgiveness of sins.” Finally, immediately before communion, we say, “Lord, I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof, but only say the word, and my soul shall be healed.”
In our most perfect prayer, we are constantly mindful of our sins, both individually and communally. The most important lesson that this focus on our own sinfulness teaches us is that, in every instance, we are not reminding ourselves of our sin in isolation but rather in the context of prayer and acts of faith with other people who are sinful like us. Each mention of sin comes up in the context of our direct dialogue with God the Father, mediated through Jesus Christ, the Lamb of God. Most intimately, our sin is recognized in the immediate anticipation of receiving him most fully in the Eucharist. Our sinfulness, then, is best dealt with out in the open, alongside the other sinners with whom we are praying and before the Lord who is always so eager to restore us to right relationship with Himself.
It is essential at this moment in the Spiritual Exercises for each of us to come to a profound recognition of our own sinfulness and how it is that it breaks the relationship that the Lord desires to have with each of us, personally. Having considered the cosmic dimension of sin and how it is that the sin of Adam and Eve and of the angels has had such a catastrophic impact on human history, I now turn to my own sinful habits and consider the impact that these rejections of God’s love have on the very real relationship the Lord desires to have with me. The goal is for me to see how my own sins prevent me from the full enjoyment of the freedom and joy that a relationship with Jesus Christ makes possible.
The more particular I can be in coming to this recognition, the more particular and concrete the grace of reconciliation will become for me. If I am vague in my recognition of my sin, I will only be disposed to receive mercy and forgiveness in a vague way. But if I am specific and intentional about bringing my own failings before the Lord, I will see how fully He desires to free me from the burden of carrying them by myself.
However, this focus on my own sinfulness is not meant to throw us deeper into isolation or shame. There is a good distinction to be made between guilt and shame: guilt is something that we feel for what we have done wrong, in order that we might then change our ways and avoid doing it again in the future. Shame is the pain we feel for things that have happened to us through no fault of our own, and it is therefore always a negative and unhelpful thing. The goal, then, is to have a sense of the sadness of being separated from the Lord through our own fault so that we can then approach the Lord with sincere and repentant hearts, seeking a change that will last. When we approach the Lord in this way, we can be confident that He will free us from the guilt that brings us back to Him whom we have betrayed through our sins.
Questions: What do I miss in my life because of the sin that brings isolation? What relationships are suffering? What does the Lord hope for me when He sees me in the isolation which I bring upon myself through sin? What new life and love do I seek today? Can I feel disgust and fatigue for the ways that sin has brought me so low? Do I want to be free now?