The Journey is On

by Fr. Dan Cambra, MIC

We Catholics are in the business of growing in holiness and bringing others along with us. Our journey toward Heaven begins with our singular resolve to identify our own sins, repent, and sin no more.

On the Feast Day of St. John Chrysostom on Sept. 14, I was doing a little studying up on this Doctor of the Church who died in the fifth century. I came across a homily of his that should interest all of us whose life mission is to help souls to Heaven.

Saint John Chrysostom identified what he called "five paths of repentance." Without assigning any order of importance to them (since St. John himself said each path leads to Heaven), let's take a look.

Condemnation of our Sins
Acknowledge your sins, says St. John, "for a man who condemns his own sins is slower to commit them again."

As the Catechism of the Catholic Church states, "Among the penitent's acts contrition occupies first place. Contrition is 'sorrow of the soul and detestation for the sin committed, together with the resolution not to sin again'" (1451).

A good first step toward shedding sin from our lives is to make an examination of consciousness, preferably nightly. We can refer to a Church-approved examination of conscience to aid us, or simply prayerfully put ourselves in the presence of God, thank Him for the blessings of the day, and ask the Holy Spirit to enlighten us to recognize our sins. Then, repent and allow Jesus to embrace us with the rays of His mercy.

If, during this time of COVID-19, we are unable to get to Confession, we should be making frequent Acts of Contrition.

Forgive Others
Unless we forgive people for the sins they have committed against us, we cannot become the saints we are called to be upon our Baptism.

As difficult as it may be, if we are to be followers of Jesus Christ then we must "forget the harm done to us by our enemies, to master our anger, to forgive the sins of those who are slaves together with us," St. John explains. "As much as we do this, so much will our own sins against the Lord be forgiven."

It wouldn't be a bad idea for us to sit down and list some of the things people have done to us that have caused us harm and then to ask God to help us to grow in forgiveness. We can pray for each of those people who have hurt or offended us. If they have died, we may write them a "letter" explaining that we have forgiven them. This can be part of the healing process. When we carefully consider how people have hurt us it can reveal how we ourselves may have perpetuated that hurt by hurting others.

Remember, Jesus told St. Faustina, "Do not lose heart in coming for pardon, for I am always ready to forgive you" (Diary of Saint Maria Faustina Kowalska, 1488). When people see that same readiness in us, the effects can be startling. When our actions in this world are guided by love alone, we have the ability to inspire a Christ-like consciousness in others.

Act with Humility and Modesty
We know from St. Faustina that the Lord "delights in humble souls" (Diary, 1092). What is a humble soul? It is one who recognizes his or her dependence on God — that without Him, we are quite literally nothing, and when set apart from Him, we are miserable.

"Humility, humility, and ever humility," St. Faustina wrote, "as we can do nothing of ourselves; all is purely and simply God's grace" (Diary, 55).

Practically speaking, we must do away with envious thoughts. We don't need to be the best looking, the smartest, or the most popular. Such things are temporary. Rather, we are to live knowing that our eternal home is with God who adores us.

What's a first step toward humility? Consider Jesus on the Cross. There's nothing as humbling as seeing what Jesus did for our sins.

The Church emphasizes almsgiving not only because it helps the needy, but because it helps us by priming our hearts to receive the Lord's graces.

Almsgiving helps us to overcome constant temptations, "teaching us to respond to our neighbor's needs and to share with others whatever we possess through divine goodness," Pope Benedict once said. Furthermore, by growing in charity, we recognize in the poor the very face of Jesus Christ Himself.

It's important for us to remember that almsgiving doesn't simply entail throwing cash at a problem. We can throw our hearts at a problem as well. Indeed, included among our aims is to always strive to promote the well-being of others, to make others know that you love and cherish them.

More to the point: "fervent prayer, sincere and focused prayer, prayer coming from the depths of the heart," says St. John.

The most powerful prayer is the Our Father, the prayer Christ gave to His disciples, the prayer the disciples incorporated into the Holy Mass. It's the prayer that precedes the Sign of Peace and reconciliation so that people can worthily receive Holy Communion. If we want to be worthily received into the eternal wedding banquet of the Lord with all the angels and saints, we need to be able to say that prayer from the depths of our hearts.

One more thing: Please remember that God calls us to be co-redeemers with Him. We can — and must — pray for the conversion of sinners; for those who are sick and dying; and for the souls in Purgatory.

Let the healing begin — the healing of ourselves and the healing of those whose lives we touch!

Image: Clemens Van Lay, Unsplash