Tuesday, February 21, 2012


Lent is a privileged liturgical season for reflecting upon our human nature: the fragile and vulnerable nature of human existence and, especially, upon the experience of evil (and good) in which we live and develop throughout our historical existence, both personally and in community. We refer to the experience of evil that is lived, evidenced and manifested in conflicts (whether personal, family, social, national, international, natural disasters, etc.) and which, in our Christian theology and worldview, we know as “sin,” as contrasted with other worldviews and theological systems in which evil is called fault, guilt, stain and taboo.

As the Gospel informs us (Cf. Mt 4. 1-11; Mk 1.12-15; Lk 4.1-13, passages appointed for the First Sunday in Lent in the Liturgical Cycles A, B and C) Jesus experienced the temptations of evil and sin illustrated through the three significant appetites of every human being: power, pleasure and possessions. The reality of sin comes to all humankind in the form of temptations, which none can escape: “He that is without sin…”(Jn 8.1-11). However, in the Gospel account of the temptations, Jesus overcomes, and with his victory he shows us the possibility and the pathway of triumph over evil, over sin, in this world.

Therefore, Jesus is, for Christians. “the Way, the Truth and the Life” (Jn 14.6), the new well from which springs eternal life (Jn 4.5-42), the light of the world (Jn 9.1-41), the Savior (Jn 3.14-21), life that confronts the reality of death (Jn 11.1-45) and, finally in the unique sinless person, the One: “being made in human likeness” (but without sin) (Phil 2.7).

Yet the subjects of “sin” and its counterpart, “forgiveness,” are dealt with differently in the Old and New Testaments. In the Old Testament sins are mentioned (in the plural) as faults and transgressions. The law of forgiveness includes punishments (and in later Judaism: rites) for the purpose of healing, vindicating, harmonizing, balancing the life and repairing the damage done, in order to reintegrate the person in the life of the community. The New Testament speaks of sin in the singular (using the Greek word hamartía) as a deliberate human act (conscious and free) against all that is divine in the sinner, as a denial of the divine aspect in man. Sin is understood as an interior detour, as a “fundamental option” of humankind to deny their Creator and Father. It is a denial of our primary vocation -- that of becoming like our Father, that is, perfect, compassionate and merciful. In the New Testament sin is a diabolical posture (not divine), sinful (an irrational act, like that of an animal), inhuman (not divine) through which human beings disseminate evil fruit, sins (now in plural).

In order to correct, straighten out, erase, heal and save humankind, Christ, with the Good News of his life and proclamation, with his surrender to death on the Cross and his resurrection, conquers evil, liberates, redeems, justifies the human being from within (Mt 15.19), like the good tree with good fruit (Mt 7.17). Therefore, the forgiving and saving work of Christ is not one of cleansing sins but of healing sin, healing humankind from within, structurally and integrally so that sin is no more (1 Jn 3.6).

If the objective of the disciple, of the son, is to become like the Son (Eph 5.1) and, through Christ, be with Him and in Him, in his understanding and following, to be made in “the image and likeness of the Father”, then Lent reminds us also of the need to live in a permanent state of conversion, of a change of life, of transforming our life to be like Christ’s life, as well as our principles, criteria and attitudes like the criteria of the Gospel. The logic of the world must become God’s logic, or the wisdom of the cross, until we can exclaim with Paul “where sin abounded, grace abounded even more” (Rm 5.20), “I no long live, but Christ lives in me”. (Gal 2.20). Conversion, especially during the Lenten season, is equated in the liturgy with the Transfiguration (Mt 17.1-9), since to be converted is to be worthy to hear —as Jesus did— the voice of the Father that tells us: “this is my Son, the beloved, listen to him.”

Lent, therefore, reminds us of our sin, our need for conversion, but above all, it reminds us of our need to return to the Father’s house where there awaits for us the compassionate and merciful embrace of the Father who does not deal with us as daily workers or as servants, but as his children (Lk 15). Thus, Lent is also a season for joyful confidence, for gratitude, for humble hope in God’s compassionate love. Conversion and joy, are clearly are part of the entire life of the disciple, involving the Christian’s entire objective.

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