Lets see, I might combine a couple days readings into one post quickly and concisely. Yesterdays first reading was from the book of Jonah, and features the reaction of those people Jonah was to deliver the message of repentance to. One should recall first that Jonah did not wish to deliver that message because the people of Nineveh were enemies of Israel. They did not worship the same God of the covenant, They were hostile to Jonah’s people, and were from outside of that covenant. They also listened quickly To Jonah’s message and repented.
Penance, or repentance,or examination of conscience are common themes throughout Lent. For the most part, people view these acts of contrition from a personal perspective. Nineveh though brings up an an important point , and that is examination of conscience is to discern all ways one goes against God, both from a personal perspective, and also a cultural one. Jonah is a man of the covenant, yet he is disobedient to God. His culture might be obedient, but he personally is not. The people of Nineveh are not part of that covenant, yet they repent and are ultimately obedient to Gods message. Sometimes it is good to look at all one is legally allowed to do within the norms of society, and find those discrepancies where there are conflicts against the teachings and discerned wisdom of Christ’s Church. That is the difference between obedience to the letter of the Law, and an obedience to the Holy Spirit.
In a personal examination of conscience a person might look at the times they lost their temper, or were selfish, or cursed, or were guilty of theft, or impure thought. Many times those are flaws of a persons behavior. What though of a persons thoughts regarding issues that are either accepted or promoted in society, but go against the Churches teachings? Many times these social issues are quite debated in the media, and many times the mainstream opinion is directly opposed to Catholic faith. It often is easier to quietly go with the mainstream than to take an opinion opposite the popular one. They are topics people are constantly bombarded with, but often politely ignored. If Lent is a time to examine personal battles, would it not also be a good time to take a look at some of those issues which often come down to Church versus State. Wouldn’t it be a good time to examine those social issues in the light of Christ? To give hint at some of the social issues, marriage and divorce, gay marriages, immigration laws, abortion and euthanasia might be a few. There are so many more.
Note also that I say examine them in the light of Christ, not simply take the same political side. To examine the issue is to understand the Churches teaching, to see the difference between where each position leads. Many of these popular social issues have been formally examined by Church to see which position is on the side of Christ.Still though for a person to follow the same process does provide an opportunity to grow in Christ, and also to develop an ability to defend that position in an often hostile environment.
It is an examination of a social conscience. In that type of examination of issues, one particular saint immediately comes to mind. That saint is Thomas Aquinas. In his scholastic approach to Christianity, he looked at issues from angles and points of view to discern a Christian response. It might seem academic, or even political, but the nurturing of a social conscience can be an important component of this season that sometimes might easily be overlooked