With fewer and fewer people coming to church even before the Coronavirus, one asks the question, “Why don’t more people come to Jesus?” Jesus offers us something wonderful. Do people understand what Jesus offers us, namely, salvation?
I just finished reading Clear and Simple: How to Have Conversations That Lead to Conversion by Andre Regnier (Ottawa, Canada: Catholic Christian Outreach. 2018). Regnier says, “The fact is, just as an emphasis on sin is harsh and fruitless apart from a witness to God’s infinite mercy, a celebration of God’s saving grace is meaningless if there is nothing serious we need to be saved from” (68-69).
What is it we need to be saved from? Our sins. Our mortal sins break our relationship with God. Our venial sins damage, but do not break, our relationship with God. We cannot fix what our mortal sins have broken. We need to repent. We need to return to God with contrite hearts but only Jesus can save us. He does this when He lays down his life for us on the Cross.
The problem is people has lost the sense of sin. Relativism says there is no universal truth, that there is no one right or wrong. Thus, there is no sin. Relativism is wrong. There is a universal Truth. It comes from God.
Nonetheless, people have lost the sense of what sin is. Prior to the Second Vatican Council many people went to Confession often monthly if not weekly. They went out of obligation as much, if not more than a healthy sense of sin. After the council, the pendulum swung to the other extreme. Many people seldom go. Some seem oblivious to the existence of sin. Others think sin only applies to the absolute worst behaviors of murder (even there some fail to recognize abortion and assisted suicide as sins against life) and adultery (with a very narrow definition of adultery of infidelity in marriage).
Some people might be willing to say they aren’t perfect but downplay their sins. No one got hurt, right? Everyone gets into Heaven, right? If everyone gets into Heaven, why did Jesus die? Why did God give the commandments?
We pray that everyone does get into Heaven. God wants everyone to get into Heaven. God invites everyone to Heaven but we must accept the invitation (see my homily for October 11, 2020, 28th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A. See also “Choosing a Moral, Immoral, or an Amoral Life”).
God stands ready to forgive anyone who comes to him with a contrite heart. God gives us the gift of the Sacrament of Reconciliation for us to receive the gift of his forgiveness and mercy.
Regnier speaks of those who have heard the gospel but have not fully responded with the following words, “They have an intellectual grasp of the Gospel, and they have a heartfelt desire for the Lord, but no one has called a response from they, so they have not given it” (40). I think the same can be true for confession. People feel guilt. They want to be freed from the burden of their guilt. But no one has invited them to hand their guilt over to God by confessing their sins. I invite you to examine your conscience. Then, come to confession, and receive the precious gift of God’s forgiveness. Be freed from your guilt. This is why Jesus died for you.