The season of Lent is here again! And one of the hymns that resound in my ears, mind, and heart is the famous “God of mercy and compassion” composed by an English Redemptorist, Fr. Edmund Vaughan, C.Ss.R. Now, prayerfully recite or sing the first stanza with the chorus (or you may sing all the stanzas from your hymn book if you so cherish) after which we would employ a bit of Ignatian spirituality.
God of mercy and compassion, Look with pity upon me, Father, let me call you Father, Tis your child returns to you. Jesus Lord, I ask for mercy; Let me not implore in vain; All my sins, I now detest them, Never will I sin again!
After that simple spiritual exercise, what were the significant interior movements (that is, feelings, reactions, intuitions, desires, emotions, thoughts or insights)? Was your prevailing mood that of peace, agitation, excitement, boredom, confusion, or calm? What word, phrase or image from the hymn captured your attention, meant most to you, or made more impression on you?
I may not know your interior movements and dispositions since they are personal and private but I must confess that this hymn can be soul-soothing but also terrifying.
For inasmuch as with the lyrics, especially of the first stanza, we are moved to approach God with faith and hope as his children, and address him as Father of mercy, and thus implore his mercy and compassion in the person of Jesus Christ, our Redeemer-brother; a close attention to the final line of the refrain or chorus: Never will I sin again! is however likely to grip one with fear.
Thus even though initially one may be filled with hope and confidence, and drawn to God’s mercy and compassion, self-doubt may also set in and shrink us afterward or at the end.
The latter feeling, may arise from a recognition of our core-sinfulness and weak human nature: I am not good, I am not precious, I am not perfect; fill us with a self-doubt at the expression Never will I sin again!—making us feel as if we are scamming God. That is, making a dishonest pledge not to sin again when we know very well that we may or will surely sin again!
One thing, however, that we must come to appreciate is that Lent is a season of grace. As such, it is a time to focus on our core-grace: that God loves and dwells in me, and as such I am precious. Thus even though I am sinful, I am capable of goodness; despite not being perfect, I am significant because I have a dignity of a child of God which makes me wanted; for nothing can separate me from the love of God (Cf. Romans 8: 35-39).
Being so, Lent offers us the time to reflect on the goal of our life: to live with God forever; God, who loves us and gave us life (Cf. Principle and Foundation of the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius of Loyola). In so doing, we come to recognize how with our sins, we unlovingly respond to and disregard God’s love.
But to amend this and better respond to God’s life and love to flow within us without limit, we must desire his mercy, compassion and forgiveness and make the choice of what better leads to God’s deepening his life in us. Therein lies the heart and essence of our Lenten journey; this is what Never will I sin again! means and seeks to achieve; not to scam or deceive God but to make a conversional commitment geared towards improving and deepening the life and love of God in one’s own life.
Let us, therefore, in hope and confidence, during this season, approach God for mercy, pardon and forgiveness; and seek the grace to extend them to our brothers and sisters too. Let us not be afraid but with courage let us dare to say: Never will I sin again! For it is an expression and acknowledgement that one has sinned; an acceptance of guilt; a contrition; a heartfelt plea or cry to
God; an openness to and trust in God’s mercy and compassion; a hunger for forgiveness and repentance; an urgency for conversion; a commitment to improving one’s relationship with God. Indeed, Never will I sin again! is a desire to “arise and return to my Father”; an expression of a feeling and movement of God within one to do something concretely better in one’s life; and a strive day by day to turn away from our unreal self and image, to change our bad habits and attitudes and thus approach God’s love in order to take on our true image and lead godly lives.
As beloved children of so loving a God, we must not allow self-doubt and our persistent culture of sin to draw us back from committing ourselves to daily conversion. Let us not be afraid of our sins in the sense of them going unforgiven; God is so merciful that once we come to him in humility with a firm resolve, even when motivated by our genuine human frailty, he will embrace and strengthen us.
For God, indeed, is ready to welcome us back, give us a new opportunity, a beginning with renewed graces to be better.
And yes, we can be better! As such, Never will I sin again should be an expression from the heart in preparation for consolation in and from God; Never will I sin again must not be a desolate feeling of self-doubt and cannot be an attempt to scam God or deceive him as if he is not omniscient or as if he has ‘something to lose’
; Never will I sin again must be an openness to God in freedom and truth, with hope and trust for him to touch us, move within our being and life, so that we will experience his mercy; a gift we can appreciate well when we make a conversional commitment; a resolution to daily improve our lives.
As such, during this Lent (especially when you go to confess your sins) believe firmly in God’s mercy which frees you from guilt; make the resolution Never will I sin again! For it is a prayerful commitment and a response of our need to respond to God’s love and mercy which always precedes and sustains, and would thus urge us on in our firm resolve.
For in saying Never will I sin again! we are not literally saying that we shall not sin again but that through prayer, fasting and almsgiving, we will always open our hearts to God to experience his mercy and extend it to our brothers and sisters; and that we would not allow his moment of grace to pass in vain (Cf. Pope Francis’ Message for Lent 2020).
Source: Wisdom Elipklim