• The Sacrament of Confirmation will be bestowed on those students who would like to receive it on Monday, April 27, at 5:30 PM, in the abbey church.
• Graduation will be on Memorial Day, May 25, at 2:00 PM, in the abbey courtyard. All are welcome to attend.
• Our own Fr. John Henry Hanson has published a new book. It would make great spiritual reading for Lent. Check it out here: https://scepterpublishers.org/collections/new-releases/products/home-again
• The Winter Sports Award Ceremony is this Sunday, at 7:00 PM, in the Perpetual Help classroom. All are invited!
As I’m sure you are aware, Lent begins this Wednesday. “Oh joy!” Yeh, I know how you feel. Penance is never exactly a fun thing to look forward to; however, like so many things in
life, if we understand why we need to do penance, if we understand the value of penance, we will
do it with a bit more fervor, perseverance, and we might even find it not so bad after all.
So, why do we have to do penance? A good question. Didn’t our Lord already die for our
sins? Didn’t He already make satisfaction for all the sins of the world?
Yes, Christ died for all of our sins. Yes, He already made satisfaction or atonement for all the wrong that has been done and will be done until the end of time. But God is merciful and just. He is merciful: He has done all the hard work, so to speak, when He died on the cross. He already merited for us; He already made satisfaction for us. But He is also just: He wants us to
do our part so we can truly be said to merit, so we can truly be said to make satisfaction or atonement for the wrong we have done.
Consider this analogy: Your son throws a baseball through your window. He needs to make satisfaction or atonement for the wrong he has done—he needs to balance the scales of justice, so to speak: to give back to you what he has wrongly taken (namely the beauty of your nice window). Now, let’s say you know your son cannot really pay back what he has taken from you
because he does not have any money. So, you pay the bill yourself, but you allow him to clean the garage to “pay back” in some way. You are merciful, first of all, in that you even allow him the opportunity to make satisfaction or restitution; and secondly, in the fact that you even pay for it yourself. At the same time, you are just, in that you do ask him to do his part insofar as he can. You are applying to his manual labor the money you yourself already paid. So it is with our Lord. He already paid back to God the Father for all the sins of the world—He is that merciful; but He wants us to try to pay back what we can for our own sins, even though He will simply be
applying to our works the satisfaction He already made. So far, so good.
Now, here’s another objection: Whenever we sin, the offense against God is in some sense infinite, since the One we offended is Divine. That being said, how in the world is our little fasting from food, or abstaining from meat, or giving up coffee or giving up watching television, and so on—how is that going to make up for an infinite offense against God? And furthermore, what does giving up coffee have to do with my sins? I didn’t sin by drinking too much coffee?
Well, first of all, yes, it’s true, simply speaking, we cannot really pay back perfectly for even one of our sins. See, when we sin, we take from God what is rightly His: namely the love and obedience we owe Him. But remember, Christ already made that payback on the cross. So, God accepts our little works of penance and calls it even, so to speak. He knows—like that father whose son broke the window—He knows that we cannot really make full restitution, so He accepts what we can do. He looks more at our heart than anything else, you might say.
Secondly, it’s true, materially speaking, our morning coffee which we decide to give up for Lent, has nothing to do with our past sins for which we must make satisfaction. But since when we sinned, what we were really doing was putting our will before God’s will, our comfort before the love and obedience that is owed to God—since that’s what happens when we sin, by giving up something, by fasting, by any other act of penance, we are taking something away from
ourselves and, in some sense, giving back to God the love and respect we failed to give Him when we sinned, and in such a way we balance the scales of justice.
So, we do acts of penance in order to pay back the punishment we owe due to past sins. The eternal punishment—hell—is washed away in confession; but temporal punishment, which we owe for every sin we commit, depending on the gravity of the sin, is not necessarily all washed away in confession. Acts of penance (or more appropriate called “acts of satisfaction”) take care of these. But there is one more reason why we need to do such penitential acts.
When we do penance (fasting, abstaining, giving up certain legitimate pleasures, extra prayers), we also get stronger in resisting future temptations. See, when we sin, our wills, our minds, our passion, all get out of whack, so to speak. A good dose of penance helps straighten
them out, helps submit them to God once again. You might think of the analogy of eating too much. After an evening of too much beer and pizza as you watch the Super Bowl (for an example), you need to run a few extra miles and watch your carbs for the next week in order to get that waistline down once again. The same thing happens when we sin. After exulting our
own wills over God’s will, we need to humble ourselves with some penance and get ourselves in spiritual shape once again.
So, to sum it all up quite succinctly: we do penance first of all to balance the scales of justice, to make satisfaction for our past sins; and secondly to avoid future sins, by getting ourselves in spiritual shape once again after earlier sins.
Remember that all of the days of Lent (except Sundays) are days of penance (just as all Fridays throughout the year are days of penance) in which Catholic are required to perform some form of penitential acts. Let us pray today for the grace to embrace penance and see in the upcoming season of Lent a great opportunity to pay back a little of the love and obedience we have failed to give God through our sins, and so prepare ourselves well for the commemoration
of His Resurrection on Easter Sunday. Amen.
• For the father of Mr. Johann Schoenfeld, who is suffering some very serious health issues.
• For all the benefactors of St. Michael’s Preparatory School, living and deceased.
• For all the students and families of St. Michael’s Preparatory School.
• For all faculty and staff of St. Michael’s Preparatory School.