Sunday, June 16, 2013

"I'm Not the Best Catholic in the World. No Kidding. Repent."

"I know that God loves me."  These oft spoken words are far truer than any of us who have uttered them realize.  But, they are often uttered not with truth, but with a heart that is obstinate.  "I know that God loves me," is often uttered as a way of saying, "I have no need to repent."  In reality, only the heart that has true repentance can know the experience of God's love.  St. Paul himself says in Romans 5: "God proves his love for us in that while we were still sinners Christ died for us."  We can only know the proof of God's love when we confess ourselves to be sinners.  God's greatest act of love towards us was in giving over the Son to die for our sins.  When I truly know God's love, it brings me to a deeper repentance.  And when I truly repent, I truly know God's love for me.

Fairly often, I hear people say, "Well, I'm not the best Catholic in the world."  Of course, any Catholic could say that.  But, I think there is a problem with that phrase.  Quite often that phrase is not uttered with the humility of a repentant heart, but rather with the pride of an obstinate heart.  Frequently, that phrase is used when the speaker really means, "I'm not the best Catholic in the world, I'm not going to try to be the best Catholic in the world, and I'm a heck of a lot better than most people."  Additionally, this phrase is often used to alert those who don't like the Christian Faith or the Catholic Church that, "You can still respect me because I don't buy into everything the Church teaches."  If this is the position of our heart, then we cannot really be convinced of God's love.  

Today in the Gospel, a woman washes the feet of Jesus with her tears, dries them with her hair, and anoints them with costly ointment.  This is what repentance looks like.  She teaches us what it means to know God's love.  She didn't come to Jesus and say, "I'm not the best person in the world, but there are people who are a lot worse than me."  She humbled herself before Christ.  In that moment, she wasn't comparing herself to all of the other sinners.  She was comparing herself against the love of God.  In this comparison, we all fall short.  Like the jar that she smashes open, she opens herself and pours out her heart to the Lord.  When a person truly experiences the love of God, he wants to give himself completely to that love.  He is convicted in his heart, has tremendous sorrow for his transgressions, and has an ardent desire to avoid future sins.

When we say things like, "I'm not the best Catholic," it can sound as though we mean, "I'm not a great member of this association. I missed some of the monthly meetings and I was late paying my dues."  This is not what God wants for us!  He wants us to to know His love.  He wants us to know that He loves us so much that while we were sinners, He gave His Son to die for us.  A real encounter with God's love causes a heart to become repentant.  Overwhelmed by the magnitude of His love for me, I fall upon my face and repent of living a life so unworthy of such a great love.  And in turn, He who produced that repentance in me in the first place, pours out His mercy upon me and makes me experience His great Love even more.  And then, I repent even more!  The more we know God's love, the more we repent!  The more we repent, the more we know God's love.

The only way we should ever say, "I'm not the best Catholic" is if in our hearts, we are on our knees before the Lord, repenting from past sins and sincerely striving to avoid future sins.  The woman in today's Gospel knows that God loves her.  And in front of that love, she prostrates herself, weeps, repents, and pours out everything she has.  The rest of us sinners ought to learn from her example. 


  1. I am not the best Catholic. I know that God loves me. Thanks for reminding me that I need to get to confession.

  2. I am not the best Catholic either yet I know God still loves me. Thank you for this timely reminder. I really needed this. May God bless you!

  3. Great points, maybe I can put some of this in our church bulletin