More Spiritual Reflections

Spiritual Reflections


Lenten Penance Service

Sr. Dolores Banick, IHM
IHM Center, Scranton, PA
March 11, 2009

Lenten Penance Service

Readings:  Ezechiel 36:23-28; 2Cor 5:17-20; John 8:1-11      

What will it be?  

Throw the first stone—at someone else OR let Someone else, our loving God, turn our  stony hearts into fleshy ones?

It’s easy to throw stones at the ills in church and society and those responsible for them: from sex abuse in the clergy to corruption in court houses, in banks, and in politics.  And, truthfully, there is so much social sin and economic sin and political sin that it seems  there would not be stones enough to throw.  But the hidden danger, or maybe the spiritual trap, in all of this, is that making sinners “stand in front of us” on television and in newspapers, in community rooms and even around dinner tables, can and does take attention away from our own sins, thus masking the sin which is not so much everywhere but somewhere—here in someone’s stony heart.  

And so the power of this penance service and the scriptures just proclaimed: We are made to look sin square in the heart, not only to admit our own but to examine the way we deal with everyone else’s.  The question could be this: Am I committed to being religious or to being righteous?  There’s a disturbing amount of difference between the two.  We practice our religion religiously, doing the things we’re supposed to do and doing them very well. We do them so well and with so much devotion that the very act of doing them can be misconstrued as what makes us holy. Thus the scribes and Pharisees observed their religion religiously in bringing the woman before Jesus. To be righteous, on the other hand, is to do what is godly, what is right and just before God who, as is clear from the teaching of Jesus, embraces the unembraceable, touches the untouchable.  Thus Jesus puts it to those whose religion is self-righteous:  Let the one among you without sin throw a stone at her.  

So, at this penance service, let us ask God to make our hearts like the heart of  Jesus, like the Immaculate Heart of Mary.  With hearts like that we will be both authentically religious, observing the great commandment of our Christian religion and the vows of our consecrated life, and divinely righteous, like Jesus:  like Jesus with sinners, like Jesus with tax collectors, like Jesus with prostitutes, like Jesus with breakers of the law, like Jesus who put no limits on divine mercy and forgiveness: not seven times, but seventy times seven times.