Actions and Intentions

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There’s an old saying that “the road to hell is paved with good intentions.” In these days when lots of folks don’t even believe in hell, that probably sounds very harsh. Our Scripture passages today speak to the importance not of intentions, but of actions.

In the first reading from Jonah 3, we read about how the people of Nineveh were told they had to repent. “When God saw by their actions how they turned from their evil way, he repented of the evil that he had threatened to do to them; he did not carry it out.” In the Gospel reading from Luke 11, Jesus commends the Ninevites because “they repented.”

Wouldn’t it be nice if we could be judged by our intentions rather than our actions? Sure it would. Unfortunately, that’s not the way it works. We’re told again and again in the Scriptures that we’ll be judged by our deeds, not our intentions. If intentions don’t cause action, they’re meaningless. I intend to lose 20 lbs. But if I don’t eat right and exercise more, that 20 lbs. is going to stay right where it is – it may even invite some friends to join it. My good intentions, without action, did me no good. It’s the same in the spiritual life. That’s the beauty of Lent. We (hopefully) turn our good intentions into actions.

Father, you know that the spirit is willing but the flesh is weak. Give us the grace and strength to turn our good intentions into actions that will help to sanctify us, through your Son, Christ Jesus. Amen.

Today’s Readings

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