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If we had a huge barn, that was full to the top with our sins, but then we confessed them sincerely, in the Sacrament of Penance, and received absolution, we could be certain that our sins are entirely banished, and that barn empty. Then our souls would be beautiful, giving joy to Christ, and hope to ourselves.
Amazing results can spring from generous acts and prayers, in union with Christ our Saviour. Through every act of freely-borne penance, or patience in pain, it's as if we can reach out, in Christ, to draw people back from the edge of the Abyss: people who are trapped in unrepented sin, or who have terrible problems and weak faith. None of our sufferings need be wasted.
Some Catholics believe that Purgatory is no more than a peaceful ante-room before Heaven. There are deep caverns of Purgatory, however, where those who led sinful lives but were saved at the last moment by the Last Sacraments are permitted by our merciful God to do the penance they failed to do on earth. They enter Heaven, later on, in humility and gratitude.
People who spread the Faith, working to draw others from sinful acts and ways of life are acting, in the moral sphere, are as if drawing people away from a street that moves so swiftly downwards that people inevitably fall or crash. Of course, indirect evangelisation too is valuable, through good example, faithful work, and prayers and penances.
Union with God is only achieved in and through the Person of Jesus Christ, the Incarnate Son of God, and not through any self-chosen method of our own, whether arduous tasks or terrible penances.
We should recognise what God can do in our lives, at our consent. When a grateful person believes in Christ, surrenders to His wishes, and with prayer, penance and acts of charity allows Christ to transform her, whatever the cost, Christ works an amazing transformation. To change a person with sinful ways into someone who lives for the glory of the Blessed Trinity is like changing a go-kart into a Rolls Royce.
Many priests should preach more than at present about Confession. Just as an ordinary housewife can tell if her neighbours are alive and active, if she sees their washing pegged out on the line each day, so a priest knows that many of his parishioners are fervent about Christ and Salvation if they provide evidence by going to regular Confession, as well as doing good for others. What should a priest think if almost no-one goes to the Sacrament of Penance, but everyone goes to Holy Communion?
Whenever we offer up our sufferings, willingly accepting them in union with Christ in His Passion, we can know that we win graces for the Holy Souls in Purgatory, or for people on earth who are trapped in sin. We enable someone, somewhere, to leave gloom behind and to move towards the light of Heaven. We do their penance, for them.
Our prayers and penances can be offered in union with Christ, to help people in torment. As God looks upon the earth, He sees the wicked acts of brutality inflicted by human beings upon one another; but few are more cruel than the forcible removal of a child from its mother's body, as it is torn from the womb, and dragged away to die, by people who have power over others. It even happens that an abortion is followed by the sterilisation, against her will, of the unfortunate woman, denying her the hope of conceiving another child. Truly, these people are desperately in need of intercessions.
If we cannot sweep aside injustice we can bring comfort by our prayers. God has given everyone free will, which means that He does not step in, every time someone makes an evil choice; which is why there is all sorts of wickedness, including abortion of helpless babies - and even forced abortions against the will of the mother. By our prayers and penances we can help those suffering people to endure, and not to give in to despair.
Just as in a childrens' play-house there can arise nasty squabbles, and an adult has to swoop down to help the children to see reason, so in the Church, our joy can be spoiled by squabbles about doctrine or Liturgy, especially when the truth offered by those in authority is ignored; and so God swoops down from time to time, to help, by means of an inspiring vision, or a message, or a new call to penance, or a new gift of encouragement for the Church.
It is true that we are sometimes exhausted by our prayers and intercessions, as we grieve over the great evils in the world - such as abortion - as well as doing penance for our own sins, and for others; and it seems as if we always have another hill to climb, on the Holy Mountain; yet God treasures all our efforts, and delights in our love. Our efforts are all worthwhile.
Christ wants His faithful people to realise the truth: that all their efforts to serve Him and to pray for others are immensely worthwhile. Even when it seems as if there will always be another hill to climb on the Holy Mountain, we are doing great things for God and other people by our penances and intercessions. It's as if we are hauling a trolley-full of needy people towards Heaven.
By our penances, and our loving hearts, we can do much good. Christ sees that there are people in desperate need of help. Trapped in mortal sin, as if being swept away in a fast-flowing river, they are helpless to help themselves. We can offer up our sufferings in union with Christ, to bring down grace upon sinners, and the hope of eternal life.
Life is sometimes like a building-site, or derelict area: one where the ground has been cleared from sin by confession and penance. Any priest who has been out of active ministry and is about to return has some preparation to do just as any priest who has had severe spiritual problems has work of another sort to do: perhaps a work of reparation: hence the stony ground pictured here, and the willingness of this priest to set to work.
How to know Jesus Christ
Finding Christ, Finding Life: a talk by Elizabeth Wang, given at the French Church, Leicester Square, London, 2006. INTRODUCTION. You probably know that I’m an artist. The project I’m busy with, now...
Holiness, by Elizabeth Wang
This text is the complete version of the pamphlet entitled 'SPEAK ABOUT HOLINESS'. It is based on a talk given by Elizabeth Wang. Preface. This little book contains the full version of the text I wrot...
What is Mary Like? by Elizabeth Wang
This text is the complete version of the pamphlet WHAT IS MARY LIKE? “Now having met together; they asked him, ‘Lord, has the time come? Are you going to restore the kingdom to Israel?’ He replied, ‘...
The Purpose of the Priesthood, by Elizabeth Wang
‘The Purpose of the Priesthood contains encouragement and advice for Catholic priests. It reminds them about the central meaning of the Priesthood, and about the need to teach the Catholic Faith in it...
How to Pray: Preparation, by Elizabeth Wang
This text is published as Chapter 1 of How to Pray (Part One: Foundations), entitled 'How to Prepare'. An introduction to the life of prayer with much practical advice about how to deepen your prayer...
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