There are times in each of our lives when we deny the Lord. We choose sin over grace and holiness. We often tend to do this while completely ignoring any potential consequences of our actions. The values of the world may even encourage us to get away with as much as we can without getting caught. The bottom line is that when it comes to judgment day nothing is hidden from God.
In Church circles there has already been much discussion about the Apostolic Exhortation issued by Pope Francis last Friday. Delving through more than 250 pages of material within a couple of days has been somewhat of a daunting task. However, I wanted to read the document for myself and not simply rely on the interpretations of others. I would advise you to do the same. Without commenting directly on the text of Amoris Laetitia, it has stirred these thoughts in my mind.
Compassion and mercy are wonderful attributes. Jesus modeled this way of life and frequently taught these principles utilizing parables. However, we cannot forget that Jesus also encourages us and invites us to "sin no more." We are constantly drawn to holiness by the movement of grace within our lives. True conversion rests in our desire to turn away from sin and unite ourselves more fully to the will of Almighty God. If we settle for anything less than a desire to be completely united with God we are fooling ourselves.
Accepting mediocrity in any area of life will reap minimal results. Accepting mediocrity in our spiritual journey can have eternal consequences. The four last things were preached upon numerous times when I was a child. Hearing this teaching left an impact on me. Some would say it was a detrimental impact. Preaching about death, judgment, heaven, and hell was simply a "scare tactic" to get people to fall in line. It was a tool of indoctrination at its worst. I would have to disagree with that assessment.
Fear of the Lord is a gift. This fear needs to be properly understood. If we never move beyond the fear of hell as a consequence of sin, we may be stuck in our spiritual and moral development. That type of fear can be a good starting point, but eventually, we need to move from the fear of going to hell to a fear of offending God because of God's great love for us. In my opinion, the teachings I learned in my early years about the four last things helped me to focus my life in a way that always kept eternity in mind.
A solid foundation of catechesis aids in the process of moving from servile fear to filial fear. As we move through adulthood we continue to learn about our faith. Our growth in Christ depends upon fervent prayer, diligent study, and consistent Christian action. We cannot grow complacent and apathetic as mere consumers of religion. We are called to discipleship. We experience conversion in our own lives and then we bring that transforming love of God to others. Each of us has a role to play in the building up of the Kingdom of God. How will you answer the call? Feed my sheep!