The Bible in Dialogue with Questions of the Day: Walk in the Light. Sin, repentance, forgiveness of sin

>Today’s readings present a golden opportunity to reflect on what the Church, the Christian message, is centrally about and in the light of this to see what message they have for our own day, for the society in which we live. The second reading is from the First Letter of John. Both this letter, and the Fourth Gospel, speak a lot about walking in the light. Christ is the true light. He reveals the Father’s love and the Father’s will. As the light he shines on human behaviour, and shows up what is good, indifferent and bad. He reveals sin. The Apocalypse (Revelation) of John speaks of the Risen Lord, the Son of Man, walking among the candlesticks (the different churches) praising what is good, exhorting the lukewarm, and calling on sinners and defectors to repent, to emend their ways. Each of the letters to the seven churches of Asia addressed in this book ends with Christ’s words: “Let anyone who has an ear listen to what the Spirit is saying to the churches”.

As the Vatican Council has reminded us Christ is present in his word since it is he himself who speaks when the holy scriptures are read in the Church. As in the Apocalypse of John, the risen Christ is still speaking, encouraging, revealing, and where required calling for repentance. All the readings in today’s Mass make mention of sin and repentance, and the gospel reading gives Christ’s command to his disciples that repentance for the forgiveness of sins be preached to all nations. Christians are to walk in the light. But what the light of Christ and its demands are must be conveyed to the believing community. With a view to this end in its document on the liturgy the Vatican Council decreed that in the Masses of Sundays and holidays, by means of a homily, the mysteries of the faith and the guiding principles of the Christian life be expounded from the sacred text during the course of the liturgical year (Vatican II, Sacred Liturgy, paragraph 52).

To walk in the truth, the truths of the Christian faith have to be known and made known to the Catholic community. There is a danger in traditionally Catholic communities, such as Ireland, that we may have a large number of what is called “cultural” rather than really practicing Catholics. The recent (2011) census of Ireland showed that 84% of the population entered themselves as Roman Catholic, which some say that if “ethnically” adjusted (that is excluding foreign nationals) could be as high as 90%. Some analysts have reflected on this that other statistics such as Sunday Mass attendance, marital and sexual morality and other matters may indicate that for many adherence to the Catholic faith is cultural rather than the practice of the Christian message. In the 2016 census the number signing themselves as Roman Catholics had decreased to 78.32%, with 9.84% signing themselves as of no religion.If we wish to “walk in the truth” we have reason to reflect on this. Let us have an ear to hear what the Spirit is saying to us, and seek methods on how to communicate the fuller Christian message, so that the word of God, and the power of grace, might bring us all into possession of the Christian inheritance that is ours (see Acts 20:32).

There is room for all of us, individually and nationally, to be aware of the reality of sin, and to repent and believe in the gospel.

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