WEEK THREE: The Moral Life (Life in Christ)
DAY 1: Before They Were Famous (Human Dignity, Sin, and Mercy)
Every so often, on the Internet, you come across these fun features that show pictures of celebrities when they were young – before they were famous – and ask you to guess their identity. Try your hand at some of these.
Recognizing someone’s true identity can be challenging. In the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus tells a parable about recognizing the true identity of others (Matthew 25:31-46) - (Parable of the Last Judgment). The key to this parable is in recognizing Jesus’ presence in others. The righteous people say, “Lord, when did we see you…” They claim that, if they had recognized the presence of Jesus in the hungry, the thirsty, the stranger, and so on, they would have responded differently.
This week, we are going to explore how the way we respond to others has everything to do with recognizing the presence of Jesus within them. That begins by recognizing every human being’s dignity. Think about someone you know or know of who is a very dignified person. Chances are, when you refer to someone as being very dignified, it means that you see that person as someone who acts with honor and distinction—someone who acts as one with status that is worthy of respect. Human dignity is at the very heart of Catholic morality. The moral life is the third pillar of the Catechism of the Catholic Church. To live our faith—to live a moral life—requires us to have an understanding of, not only human dignity, but also, grace, sin, and mercy.
- Grace is not something quantifiable. It is not something that we store up. Grace is a relationship – our relationship with God. When we are in the state of grace, we are in a healthy relationship with God, filled with God’s life.
- Sin is the ignoring, injuring, or rejecting of our relationship with God. And since God has indicated clearly that loving him is inseparable from love of neighbor, we know that sin is also the ignoring, injuring, or rejecting of our relationship with others.
- Mercy is another word for compassion or kindness that is directed toward an offender. Mercy is what God always offers to us, despite our offenses. God’s mercy does not have to be begged for. It is offered to us as a gift. Sin is not the end of the story. Mercy is what awaits us. God’s merciful love calls us out of sin and redeems us – saves us, delivers us – from every evil, and restores us to grace.
Our Catholic understanding of human dignity, grace, sin, and mercy means that we see living a moral life as an act of worship – a way of aligning ourselves with God, who is love. It means that we cannot separate love of God and love of neighbor. Loving our neighbors is how we encounter God, in whose image we are all made. It means that we strive to treat people with respect, recognizing the Divine Presence within them.
Reflection Questions: Choose one of the following questions and share your thoughts with your fellow retreatants by adding your comments in the comments box below this post.
- Describe an experience you had of treating someone gruffly (or perhaps just ignoring them), only to find out later that the person was someone of lofty status. How did you feel? What do experiences like that teach us about human dignity?
- How does Jesus’ Incarnation—his becoming flesh—bring greater dignity to humanity?
- Why is it so difficult to recognize the presence of Jesus in others?
- What is your understanding of grace?
- What kinds of sin do you see as most prevalent in today’s society? What can Christians do in response?
- What does it mean to live as a person of mercy?
- During this Year of Faith, how can you help others to recognize and accept God’s mercy?
I confess to almighty God and to you, my brothers and sisters, that I have greatly sinned in my thoughts and in my words, in what I have done and in what I have failed to do, through my fault, through my fault, through my most grievous fault; therefore I ask blessed Mary ever-Virgin, all the Angels and Saints, and you, my brothers and sisters, to pray for me to the Lord our God.
- The Experience of Sin
- Thrift Store Saints
- The Two Standards
- Keeping Things Secret
- Christ’s Love and God’s Law
- Understanding Sin Today
CCC References: 1700 – 1876
◊ ◊ ◊ ◊
I hope you’re enjoying our online summer retreat, Preparing for a Year of Faith! Take a few minutes each day at your convenience to “gather” here on my blog as we seek to add some flavor to our faith lives by deepening our understanding of the truths of our faith as given to us in the Catechism of the Catholic Church.