2 continued

Meaning of the chapter title:

When salvation has come to your house, and Jesus is salvation personified, your reaction will tend to be like Zacchaeus the tax collector: “If I have extorted anything from anyone I shall repay it four times over.” (Lk 19:8).


At its best, the sacrament of Penance takes place after an act of perfect contrition. It is not a requirement in order to receive valid absolution, but everyone ought to, at least once, experience the sacrament this way.

This is not in any way to suggest that the sacrament is optional, but precisely the opposite. If after an act of perfect contrition, one gives himself permission to omit sacramental absolution, he is engaging in a dangerous self-deception. Perfect contrition’s primary effect should be to drive you to confession as soon as practically possible. Your spiritual attitude will ideally match the overflowing gratitude of the sinful woman that bathed Christ’s feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair (Lk 7:36-50).

The reason why a person would be so inclined to look for an excuse to omit a sacramental confession is that we are so weak and lacking in moral courage in our fallen state, especially if we have separated ourselves from God as a consequence of mortal sin.

This leaves you hungering and thirsting for righteousness—namely, your own. The beatitudes promise that one who hungers and thirsts in this way will be satisfied. Christ assures us and gives us hope. Let us see how.

Once you have accepted that Christ invested his Church with the power to absolve sins in his name, and once you have determined that you will consistently take advantage of this open invitation to restored friendship with God, you are on your way to overcoming the frustrating gap between yourself and the gospel ideals, and satisfying that hunger for righteousness within yourself.

The only other option is to begin to become less attracted to the gospel ideals and to become increasingly doubtful that anyone can attain them. Make no mistake: there is no middle ground. You will either increase in your faithfulness to the gospel ideals or you will fall away.

At this point, we need to loosen our grip on being in control, in power. Meekness is called for: we need to be meek in the face of God himself. We need to exercise the same meekness that the Prodigal Son entered into while he was feeding the pigs (Lk 15:17-19). If we do this, we will realize that we have yet to receive our full inheritance, though we might have feared we already squandered it. You will return to God ready to say you no longer deserve to be called his son or daughter, but God will have none of it. When you make your peace with God, you will be called a child of God. Of this there is no doubt.

And in this step on the spiritual journey one enters the heroic pursuit of salvation. It is a result of recognizing our almost constant need for forgiveness. Our conscience is becoming refined and sensitive during this time, so much so that the danger of veering into scrupulosity becomes a navigational hazard. This is largely due to the human effort that is a dominant component of this step. In the next step, our efforts at detachment, at breaking free of inordinate attachment, becomes something that seems to take on a life of its own.