There is one very foundational truth that we know in mind but do not dare to live it 100% confidently in practice: God loves us unconditionally. If we are honest enough with ourselves, we will realize that trusting completely in God’s love seems to be a difficult thing to do. That is a paradox and a big challenge that we have to overcome. Perhaps none of us are too unfamiliar with the thought that sometimes appears in our mind: “I have to do this or that to be worthy of God’s love. If I don’t do it, God will dislike me.” However, if God’s love depends on our merits, our salvation does not really need God and the Cross of Jesus Christ has become too insignificant or even useless. (Galatians 2:16) Indeed, the Gospel, Saint Paul, Saint Augustine, the Council of Trent… clearly teach that we never make ourselves holy by what we do, by our merits because everything we actually can do is the grace of God.
Perhaps someone may ask: “If it is so, why do we need to live a holy life, why go to confession, why receive the Communion, or why do charitable works?” This question is not new at all. In fact, Saint Paul already solved it two thousand years ago. We live a good life because of our identity as beloved children of God. We live a holy life as a response to the Father who has loved us so much. All the things that the Church encourages us to do are the wonderful means and opportunities for us to experience more deeply the unconditional love of our Father so that our life may become sublimated and happy, right in the present moment. Our salvation has already been completed in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. As for God, He has given the whole salvation to you and me. There is only one thing we need to do is to receive it with a sincere and grateful heart as His children. How? Through the means which we humans can access, for example: the Sacraments, the Word of God, community, family, friends… All those means are the channels of grace that God uses to pour out His love for us. Hopefully you and I know how to make use of them to benefit our life. In all circumstances, let no one forget the foundational truth: God loves us unconditionally. Lent is a wonderful time for us to concretely experience this truth.
If you have not had a chance to do some “duties” that benefit you (e.g. go to the confession), trust in the love of our merciful Father and come to Him (e.g. receive the Communion) . If you have never done this before, now is the time to put you faith and trust completely in the unconditional love of God. In order to do that, you have to overcome your doubt of God’s boundless love. It sounds simple but it is not easy to do because it seems that there is always some doubt of God’s love in us. Doubting God’s love is a dangerous disease in spiritual life, a sin that is hard to be recognized but very destructive to the freedom of the children of God, preventing us to have the leap of faith. However, once we overcome that kind of doubt and come to a complete trust in God, we will see our life become much freer and more peaceful. A new horizon will be opened where God’s grace will work effectively to help us be more loving and improved. Only when we truly experience God’s love for us are we able to respond to God with our love.
May you have a joyful and peaceful Lent in God, who loves us with an unconditional love.
Jos. Viet, O.Carm.
 Except when one is in mortal sin. The Catechism of the Catholic Church speaks about this matter: “For a sin to be mortal, three conditions must together be met: “Mortal sin is sin whose object is grave matter and which is also committed with full knowledge and deliberate consent.” (1857). Note: 1/ These 3 conditions must be met all together to constitute a mortal sin. Basically, it is not easy to commit a mortal sin. 2/The Sacrament of Reconciliation is needed to bring one back to communion with God, with others, and with oneself. It is always available when there is a priest around. If it is not, one must not forget that God still loves him or her with God’s absolute and unconditional love.