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By Fr. Joseph, MIC (Mar 6, 2009)
Readings: Ezek 18:21-28; Mt 5:20-26
Do I not rather rejoice when [the wicked one] turns from his evil way that he may live? Ezek 18:23
In the military, when a retreat is ordered, the dutiful soldier immediately turns around and goes in the opposite direction. This common military command serves to protect the soldiers and allows them the chance to regroup.
The season of Lent can be seen as a spiritual "retreat." As we press on in the battle of self-denial, taking up our daily crosses, we are faced with countless situations in which our course needs to be redirected. When we fail to follow the Lord's commands and His way of love, we must turn ourselves around through repentance.
By repenting, we are doing two essential things: acknowledging that we have turned away from God and making a hasty retreat from sin, back to Him.
Today's first reading is very clear about what happens to us when we sin: "And if the virtuous man turns from the path of virtue to do evil, the same kind of abominable things that the wicked man does, can he do this and still live? ... he must die" (Ezek 18:24). As St. Faustina tells us, "A disobedient soul will win no victory ... will make no progress toward perfection, nor will it succeed in the spiritual life" (Diary of St. Faustina, 113).
When a soldier obeys the command to retreat, he turns away from danger and saves his life. There is no victory for him in disobedience. It actually may cost him his life. He must master this principle early in his training. In the same way, our spiritual obedience will restore our lives. Sin leads only to death, but when we obey the promptings of the Holy Spirit calling us to repentance, we turn away from darkness to the Light of Christ, to the One who wants us to have eternal life with Him. This is the ultimate victory. Clearly, repentance is a daily spiritual exercise we must master and execute whenever we have turned our backs on God.
Lord, please provide me the humility and courage to repent when I have turned away from You. Amen.