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Sharpening our sense of sin and repentance

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“This is the time of fulfillment. The kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe in the gospel.” (Mk 1,15) These words are from the gospel of the Mass on the First Sunday of Lent that remind us of the need for repentance and conversion especially as we enter the season of Lent.

They remind us first of all to recover and sharpen our sense of sin, especially these days when that sense of sin is continually and aggressively eroded by all sorts of elements that tend to desensitize us of our tendency to sin. Not only that. There is a strong movement to justify all sorts of evils and sins, even regarding them as part of our human rights.

Besides, with all this talk and general thrust of the Church today on mercy and compassion, a very commendable campaign, I must say, we just have to make sure that we do not lose our sense of sin as a consequence or unintended side-effect.

We always have to be wary of the possible bad effects that our good plans and initiatives can have. The world is not perfect. Loopholes, hidden traps, mistakes, etc., can always spoil what otherwise is thought of as a very good strategy.

We might get too easy and presumptuous about God’s omnipotent and gratuitous mercy that we may not be able anymore to acknowledge sins, ours and those of others, that need to be forgiven.

In other words, we might get too intoxicated with divine mercy that initially would lead us to think it would just be ok to commit sin since it will be forgiven anyway. But later on as in a slippery slope, as we get used to committing sin that can get forgiven anyway, we would find ourselves not anymore considering anything as sin.

Our conscience would be distorted and would become lax. Little by little, we lose our capacity to hear God’s voice in our conscience. In its place, we would just hear our own corrupted voice.

This can happen because our capacity to identify what is good and evil depends on our relationship with God. If that relationship is not good, or is not healthy and working, then obviously we would have a bad or wrong notion of sin, or even lose the very sense of sin.

It is for this reason that we all have the need to base ourselves on the very foundation of reality, the very source of what is moral and immoral. This is none other than God, the author and creator of the universe.

Grounding our capacity to distinguish between right and wrong on another basis would set us on the offside. Sadly, this is what is happening these days. There seems to be a systematic distancing from God and a growing dependence on our own ideas, ideologies, philosophies, and other methods that practically ignore or are even hostile to God.

We need to remind ourselves strongly these days that we need God for us to know and judge properly. We just cannot depend entirely on our legal and technological systems, for example, no matter how sophisticated they have been developed.

For this to happen, we need faith to give substance and direction to our reason. Reason cannot stand on its own. It is incomplete without faith. In practical terms, this means we need to overcome our tendency to make ourselves the standard, the ultimate lawgiver.*

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