The history of Judeo-Christian salvation presented in the Bible opens in the book of Genesis in the Old Testament with a marvelous statement: “God looked at what he had done. All of it was very good!” (Gen 1,31). However, the obvious tragedy of evil, the overwhelming evidence of suffering, pain, violence, injustice, iniquity, and death… in the world, experienced in a thousand conflicts that are individual, or in the family, social or international contexts, cause men to ask, since the beginning, about the reasons for this disorder, for the attacks against the original harmony that God gave to his creation.
The biblical and Christian interpretation perceives the experience and the cause of evil as “sins” (plural, in the Old Testament) and as “sin” hamartía (Greek, singular, in the New Testament). This latter interpretation, of greater interest to us as Christians, as men and women of the New Testament, consists in a structural posture, a fundamental option of human life that is contrary to our Creator and compassionate and merciful Father, contrary to his will, and in the final analysis, contrary to brotherly love (especially toward the weakest), as revealed by Jesus of Nazareth. We should love in the same way and in the same proportion as God loves us. Thus, if life in God is life in love, sin is life without God, that is, without love, and the terrible manifestations of evil are understood as an absence of God’s love in the life of men and women, his creatures, his children. But, on the other hand, every definitive healing of any experience of evil in the world –-from a Christian viewpoint–- comes from the love of God among men.
In this historical juncture between modernity and post-modernity, people today are searching, without an absolute truth to orient and regulate their life. Human life today is lived out in the moral relativism of half truths, of pocket truths, of a life style that is “yours to choose,” according to which nothing has value or all has equal value in the practical sense that it gives satisfaction here and now; for we live each day without a transcendent vision of history and with the sad perspective of no future. The only thing that matters today is immediate satisfaction and all is valued or justified for that purpose.
In the world of moral relativism, laxity, subjectivism, and sentiments (as opposed to reason), a theological interpretation of evil, universal and objective, has lost its place, since everything is valid today, especially if it is prohibited, as long as it produces pleasure. On the other side we find the postures and behaviors of men and women, more appropriate to modernity, that tends to judge everything as evil, as sin, rigorously, scrupulously and, in the words of Jesus himself, “strain the gnat and swallow the camel”. Lent reminds us that not everything is sinful, although sin exists: the denial of God’s will that requires us to love each other as brothers for the construction of a better society and world than that in which we live and for which all of us are responsible.
“The Lord saw how bad the people on earth were and that everything they thought and planned was evil. 6 He was very sorry that he had made them…”(Gen 6,5-6). Lent, the liturgical season with a strong call for conversion (metanoia) is, above all, an important moment to again interpret the world and human history in light of the One upon whom our life depends. Through Christ, with Him and in Him, humanity has a new opportunity and Lent needs to be seen as an appropriate time to look again at our life and that of our neighbors according to God’s desire that we discover his love, yet at the same time, unveils our denial of God’s love and the love of our brothers. A time in which we need to discover our sin: our lying, our uselessness, our deceptions and fears; in reality, our lack of faith which is a lack of confidence in God who has been loving us and calling us eternally to his home, to life in Him.
The conversion to which the Word of God and the liturgy of the Catholic Church calls us in the season of Lent consists of an awareness of God’s love manifested in our life, in all that we are and have and, with that, the awareness of our sin as a fundamental posture contrary to the basic love of God. Lent is a season for sincere repentance, to conform our life to the life that Jesus proposes for us in his gospel and for an absolute confidence in the forgiving love of the Father.
All this, contrary to a society that is apparently satisfied, proud, egotistical, with its scientific and technical conquests that instead of leading us to “love one another,” have left us enclosed behind walls, full of the most sophisticated weapons designed to kill, far from life in the original Paradise for which we were created.
Lent is a call to build an ethical and moral society. The “amorality” (life without moral norms) and “immorality” (life that is opposed to moral principles) of so many, traverses these days the highways of the world, opening trenches of violence, blood, death, crisis, wars, divisions, hunger, injustice, iniquity, misery, etc.
The Christian theological system enables believers in Christ to again start something fresh, begin again, trust again in a loving Father, enjoy the embrace of his eternal love. The Sacrament of Reconciliation enables us to experience that the original harmony is still possible, that broken relations with God, with others and with nature can be finally healed and that the goodness of all things that God loved on the first day of creation is also possible today.
I invite you to live intensely this Lenten season of 2014 as a precious space and time which the Catholic liturgy grants us the possibility to seek again among us the lost
Paradise that God made when he “saw that all of it
was very good”.