Through her mission of mercy, the Catholic Church is a treasure trove of second chances
The Catholic Church is a treasure trove of second chances. At best, it is the source of perpetual new beginnings. Second chances are at the very heart of her way of life in the Lord Jesus.
We see this reality in small and big ways. Even on this Sunday, the Church does not disappoint.
In a small way, we see new beginnings this weekend. The Church begins the passion, which is a kind of “second Lent”. It is a sort of internal wake-up call to believers to deepen their Lenten practices, or – a second chance – to revive a failing Lenten practice. The tide of passion may be marked by veiled statues, hanging bells, or other similar customs.
After the Laetare Sunday celebrations last weekend, the Passion is a time for believers to restart their Lent. If they need it, it’s time for a fresh start.
In a broader way, we see a new beginning this weekend in the reading of the Gospel of Saint Luke. We are told of the woman caught in adultery.
The Lord Jesus returns from the Mount of Olives and people begin to gather around him. He sat down and began to teach. While the Lord was teaching, scribes and the Pharisees brought a woman who had been caught in adultery
and made her stand in the middle of the crowd.
They said to Jesus, “Master, this woman has been caught in the act of adultery. Now, in the law, Moses commanded us to stone these women. So what do you say?”
It wasn’t a sincere question. The rulers were testing the Lord, trying to gather charges against him.
In response, the Lord Jesus finally said, “Let him who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at him.
The crowd slowly began to disperse. Then the Lord Jesus said to her, “Woman, where are they? No one condemned you? She replied, “No one, sir.” Then Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn you. Go and sin no more.
The Gospel story is a billboard for second chances. He cries out a message of mercy and new beginnings. It is the heart of the Church’s way of life. This is its best and most endearing quality.
Mercy has a mission. This is not license, anarchy, or blatant permission to continue sinning. Mercy is given, new beginnings are given, that we can go and sin no more.
As fallen human beings, however, we have grown accustomed to sin. We can easily forget that we were not made for sin. We can underestimate what he steals from us.
In our theological tradition, we understand sin as a deprivation of being, which means that it diminishes who we are. It eats away at our existence and the goodness of creation. It is neither human nor real, but actually anti-human and anti-reality.
Sin diminishes what exists. It degrades us and is a rottenness of our humanity. It alienates us from ourselves and from the world around us. Sin steals what does not belong to it. It robs us of the richness of life and the goodness of our humanity. Sin is a spirit of darkness. He lies, deceives and manipulates goodness, truth and beauty. Sin promises false blessings and works to enslave us in its betrayal and duplicity.
As Saint John teaches in his first letter: “Everyone who commits a sin is guilty of iniquity; sin is lawlessness.
Sin is an existential calamity and a blight on our personal identity. When we sin, we lose a part of ourselves and become less of the person God created for us. Saint Paul addresses this consequence of sin and calls us to seek “full stature” in Jesus Christ.
As we seek our full stature in Jesus Christ and strive to be purged from sin, we are challenged by Saint Paul who, in his Letter to the Galatians, describes to us the sacrifice that must be made so that the grace of God acts: “And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.
Saint Paul continues: “May I never boast of anything but the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.
And so, the mission of mercy is ultimately that of self-giving. A second chance is given so that we can die to our sinfulness, serve others selflessly, and be the source of a second chance for someone else.