St. John Marie Vianney once said: “those who say: ‘I have committed too many sins, the Good Lord cannot forgive me’ is a gross blasphemy. It is the same as limiting God’s mercy, which has none; it is infinite.” In his statement, the Cure of Ars proposes that there is no sin beyond God’s infinite mercy. The penitent must desire mercy by recognizing that his sins promote separation from God’s love and mercy. God’s authorship of the entire created order is predicated on his love for all of us. This love is fully revealed in His son Jesus Christ whom he offers in death to destroy sin and death and thus liberate us from the evil of sin and permanent separation of his love for us.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church tells us that a desire for true happiness frees man from his immoderate attachment to the goods of this world so that he can find his fulfillment in the vision and beatitude of God. “The promise [of seeing God] surpasses all beatitude. . .. In Scripture, to see is to possess. . .. Whoever sees God has obtained all the goods of which he can conceive.
What is interesting about this quote is the proposal to detach ourselves from all immoderate goods, which requires a complete change or transformation of ourselves from the immoderate attachments of the world to the Kingdom of God. The progress toward a complete transformation from a detachment from sin to a life that aches for Jesus Christ are what I can describe as authentic metanoia.
A proper understanding of Metanoia
Genuine metanoia requires a confession of faith that Jesus is Lord and an understanding the content of the faith that God raised Jesus from the dead. Metanoia is not a simple turning away from your sinful ways; it is a complete change, a turning over toward a life opposite of sin that is not opposed to God’s redeeming love revealed in Jesus Christ. Metanoia is a life-long change in attitude; it is a journey of faith and conversion toward Christ because the fruit of Metanoia is our eternal rest in heaven. Metanoia demands that we change to be saved.
Jesus reminds us that we are called to be united with him through the reception of his body and blood. St. Paul refers to our interior conflict between god and evil, where we should avoid the acts of sins consumed and say no to them once and for all. These two examples reveal that the way to renounce our sins is to seek the way of the Cross; this is meant by embracing Redemptive Suffering and the act of faith exhibited by Jesus through his death on the cross.
How do we progress away from our sins?
The Catechism explains spiritual progress as our desire to seek an intimate union with Jesus Christ. This union is called “mystical” because it participates in the mystery of Christ through the sacraments, the holy mysteries and in him, in the mystery of the Holy Trinity. St. Gregory of Nyssa poignantly reminds us that Christian perfection has but one limit, that of having none. Some Lenten practices that may help you progress away from your sins are as follows:
- Establish a central time to pray either a rosary, Divine Mercy chaplet, Liturgy of the Hours, general intercessory prayers, or reading a chapter and verse from Sacred Scripture.
- Ask your Guardian Angel for protection and guidance from the near occasions of sin, especially those you have struggled with.
- Make a daily examination of conscience and go to confession.
- Faithfully attend Mass on Sunday.
- Perform spiritual and corporal works of mercy.
- Cultivate and Practice the virtue of charity.
- Consecrate your home to the Sacred Heart of Jesus and the Immaculate Heart of Mary.
- Remove any distractions that contradict Christ, e.g., inappropriate music, clothing, movies etc.
- Pray for Prudence and Wisdom in your daily tasks.
- Call upon the intercession of the Saints, especially your patron saint, always and during times of struggle.
These examples serve as mere entryways into our spiritual battle between good and evil daily. It comes down to asking yourself: Do I love my sins more than Jesus Christ?” Once we can answer this question without reservation, we have broken the chains of sins around our soul. The book of Wisdom provides us with some spiritual solace as we prepare for our Lenten journey.
O God of my fathers and Lord of mercy, who have made all things by your word, and by your wisdom have formed man, to have dominion over the creatures you have made, and rule the world in holiness and righteousness, and pronounce judgment in uprightness of soul, give me wisdom that sits by your throne, and do not reject me from among servants. For I am your slave and the son of your maidservant, a man who is weak and short-lived, with little understanding of judgement and laws; for even if one is perfect among the sons of men, yet without the wisdom that comes from you, he will be regarded as nothing.