Here is a warning by the Lord Jesus that no one should gloss over:
“And He was passing through from one city and village to another, teaching, and proceeding on His way to Jerusalem. And someone said to Him, “Lord, are there just a few who are being saved?” And He said to them, “Strive to enter through the narrow door; for many, I tell you, will seek to enter and will not be able. Once the head of the house gets up and shuts the door, and you begin to stand outside and knock on the door, saying, ‘Lord, open up to us!’ then He will answer and say to you, ‘I do not know where you are from.’ Then you will begin to say, ‘We ate and drank in Your presence, and You taught in our streets’; and He will say, ‘I tell you, I do not know where you are from; depart from Me, all you evildoers.’ In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth when you see Abraham and Isaac and Jacob and all the prophets in the kingdom of God, but yourselves being thrown out.” (Luke 13:22-28)
Hardly a time goes by when I read this text that I don’t wonder how it can be that some who faithfully attend Mass or worship services, and who even routinely receive Holy Communion, how they can be so surprised at the Judgment when they are cast away from the Lord.
But the more I reflect on that text and on my question, the more unlikely I think it will be for anyone to be surprised at the judgment IF – IF they have purposely sought the Holy Spirit to open their eyes to their sins. Certainly, we want to know about our ‘big’ sins, but we should never gloss over the ones WE consider ‘little.’ And to simply make a general confession to God along the lines of, “I have sinned in what I have done and what I have failed to do” – and not actually NAME those sins – is to risk sliding into a nonchalance about those sins.
Listen to St Augustine on the subject: “While he is in the flesh, man cannot help but have at least some light sins. But do not despise these sins which we call “light”: if you take them for light when you weigh them, tremble when you count them.
A number of light objects makes a great mass; a number of drops fills a river; a number of grains makes a heap.” Hear also St. Teresa of Avila: “. . . [H]ave such a fixed determination not to offend the Lord that you would rather lose a thousand lives, and be persecuted by the whole world, than commit one venial sin.”
And St Francis of Assisi: “Had I committed but one little sin I would have ample reason to repent of it for the rest of my life.”
The mature Christian, the one who sincerely desires to live a holy lifestyle before a holy God, will daily seek the Holy Spirit’s light to shine on his or her sins so those sins can be confessed and turned from.
No one wants to be woefully surprised at the Judgment. It will not have mattered on that final day how often we attended Mass, or how often received holy Communion, or how much money we have given to the Church and to her work. What will matter to God is how we sought to live a holy life and lifestyle. Routine confession and repentance of sin – the big ones and the little ones – will help ensure we are not cast away from His holy Presence.