Subject: O2: Hope in the Harsh

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THIS WEEK: Hope in the Harsh | Luke 13:1-9
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HOPE IN THE HARSH
[Jesus great invitation]

Recently I ran across a friend who was in much better physical condition
than I had ever seen him.

He explained: "It was pretty simple. My doctor told me if I didn't change my ticket my train was on its way."

Likely none of us would call the doctor insensitive, judgmental or harsh. In fact, we would readily recognize his admonition as an act of love. Desiring the good. Even if unpopular.

My friend explained the total, radical, permanent change this required. Not simply for a season, he could never again eat or drink things he loved. And it required a far more rigorous workout than moving his fingers on a remote.

My friend had been offered a new ticket. He had to decide that it didn't matter what others did. It didn't matter what he thought or felt. On the authority of the doctor alone, he had the choice to accept or reject. He accepted.  The impact wasn't simply on his physical health, but his spiritual health. It was profoundly impacting his marriage and family. As he put it, "We're all discovering a world we never noticed before."

The doctor's offer was hope in the harshness.

And so it is with the Divine Physician, Jesus Christ.

Jesus has looked at our charts. He sees what's inside. He is deeply interested in our eternal life with Him. And He offers this prognosis: repent.

Jesus begins His ministry battling the devil in the desert. We are doing the same during Lent. Repentance has everything to do with a battle we're in. Our eternal souls are at stake. It would be helpful for us to consider how the Enemy works to keep us in captivity. Yes, I'm saying "keep." This ought to shake us: The degree to which we are not saints is the degree to which right now the Enemy has dominion in our lives.

The Enemy will do anything to keep us from being inspired by the real horror of our sin. As so many mystical saints have commented, if we had but a glimpse of the true horror of our smallest sin, we would instantly die with fright.

Whatever horrible thing you've experienced in this life, whatever horrible movie you've seen, none of it comes close to our separation from God.

Here are three of Satan's ("Adversary") tactics.

First, he likes to have us rely upon our feelings as a gauge. So long as we feel good we must be OK, right? No. Sin is freely choosing against the good God has revealed. Sin is a failure of love. (CCC, #1849) Conquering sin requires that we know Love and what He requires, in our actions and our thoughts.

Second, to diminish the horror of our smallest sin, the Enemy might have us fix on those greater sins of others: "At least I'm not doing what she's doing!" He likes to whisper words fostering self-satisfaction. We're good people. We do good things. We even go to Mass and pray the Rosary. One of his most insidious attacks is spiritual pride or narcissism.

Thirdly, aware of the horror of our sin, the Enemy may whisper, "You're ugly! You can't overcome this." He's right. We can't overcome. Repentance begins with a crying out to the One Who alone can save us. Aware of the horror of our sin, it requires our seeking His transforming, restoring, empowering Love through the Sacraments. And it requires our seeking all the support in the right community to keep us on the path.

Hope in the Harsh.

So, there is great hope in the harsh call to repentance. Jesus' call to repentance is an invitation for us to recognize our affection for the lesser, that we might turn from them completely, totally and permanently seek the Greatest.

This week, take some good time with this Examination of Conscience. It is the great gift of our Great Doctor, offering us the diagnosis of our souls that we might repent, that we might not perish, but have eternal life. (Luke 13:1-9) Just do it.


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