THE ROMAN CATHOLIC CHURCH

Her Doctrine and Morals

Third Sunday in Lent

24 February 2008

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Dear Friend,

In today's Gospel we see our Lord casting out a demon. And our Lord tells us what happens to the soul when the demon has been cast out. The devil returns and brings seven others worse than himself to enter that soul once again.

The devils do not always manifest themselves by taking possession of a body, in this manner. They much prefer to be unknown and unseen. Very likely most of the people that we know or see are under the influence of one or more demons. Heretics and apostates often become blind to the truth due to the influence of demons.

If we wish to avoid a like misfortune, we must not allow ourselves to waste the graces and opportunities that God has given us. This season of Lent our Holy Mother the Church wishes us to examine our conscience so that we can make a good confession. The principal requisite for a good confession is contrition.

True contrition is supernatural. Contrition is supernatural, when we are sorry for our sins, not on account of their natural evil consequences, but from a supernatural motive, because thereby we have offended God and deserved hell. If one were sorry for one's sins only from a natural motive, say, on account of the temporal loss, or from shame, or because sin is base and degrading, and unworthy of a rational being, this would be only a natural sorrow. Such a sorrow is good in itself, but it is not sufficient to obtain the forgiveness of sins. The reason is because those who have only a natural contrition, do not hate and detest the sin as such, but only the temporal evils of sin; they are not sorry for having offended God, but only for the temporal evils which they have brought on themselves by sin; and as their heart is not yet averted from the evil God cannot forgive them. Alas! There are many sinners who have only natural contrition.

As for everything salutary for the welfare of the soul, so for true supernatural contrition, we need the grace of God, but because God wishes to be asked for His graces, at least for those subsequent graces by means of which we are saved, we must pray to Him to give us the grace of true contrition. The Saints did so. Saint Charles Borromeo every year entered into a spiritual retreat of at least eight days, in order to prepare himself for his annual confession. On the day on which he made it, he spent several hours on his knees, in order to ask God for the grace of true contrition, and yet St. Charles had scarcely a venial sin to confess. It is therefore desirable, not only to invoke the Holy Ghost at the beginning, but also after the examination of conscience, to pray God to give us the grace of true contrition.

God is the King of heaven and earth. A subject who rebels against his king deserves death; what does the sinner deserve who raises the standard of rebellion against his God and with barefaced impudence says to him: "I will not serve Thee." God is goodness itself towards us and showers upon us numberless benefits; is it not the basest ingratitude towards Him to return evil for His goodness and benefits? What a horrible crime the Jews committed when they crucified Jesus? What does the sinner do? He renews the crime of the Jews as often as he commits a mortal sin, for he that sins crucifies Jesus anew.

Consider how severely God punished the rebellious angels whom He cast out of heaven into the abyss of hell; Adam and Eve, who with their posterity, He chastised with his indignation and tribulations of every sort; the people in the days of Noah, whom he drowned in the deluge; the inhabitants of Sodom and Gomorrah, whom He destroyed by fire and brimstone. Let us consider what we lose by sin. We lose by every mortal sin sanctifying grace that grace purchased for us by the blood of Jesus; we lose all our previous merits as well as the supreme prerogative, obtained by our baptism, of being children of God and heirs, with His own divine Son, to the kingdom of heaven. What a loss! Lastly, let us consider what awaits the sinner. Hell. Hell with all its pains that will never end. Oh, who would not, considering all this, hate and detest sin above all things!

Let us do all we can to obtain by the grace of God true supernatural contrition. Without contrition confession is useless, worse than useless. Without contrition, true and supernatural, no sinner can be saved. All of them that have ever been, saved, have been saved by contrition, while, on the other hand, every soul in hell today is there for want of contrition. Let us then follow in the footsteps of the true penitents, excite ourselves in every confession — nay, daily, to a hearty sorrow for our sins, that God may pardon us here and give us penitents a place in His kingdom hereafter. Amen.

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