The final blessing on Ash Wednesday has a word that left many people bewildered. What in the world is compunction? It is a deep remorse for our sins.
Our non-Catholic brethren would love this prayer. Those who believe that we Catholics are so guilt ridden. In the blessing, the priest prays: “Pour out a spirit of compunction.” This is really great. We should all constantly pray that we have a true feeling of guilt for our sins, faults and our failures. If you don’t have guilt, you will never change!
Guilt can be a kind of virtue, because with out it, you remain in the mire of your sins. Let’s rewrite a popular song from 1965: “What the world needs now, is guilt, sweet guilt!” Yes, you heard me correctly. Many homilies and Religious Education programs have failed to give people the proper formation, one that has obliterated a guilt that is good. This have been due to the overemphasis on the love of God and the goodness of man. We all know very well that God loves us. Only a loving God would sacrifice His own Son on behalf of sinners. The idea of man’s goodness has also been overemphasized to the point that we no longer have the need of a Redeemer. Man becomes good of his own power. Of course God loves us, but He demands that we “repent, and believe in the Gospel.” And yes, we were created in goodness, but we have a broken and fallen nature. In his Encyclical on Christian Education, Pope Pius XI wrote: “Every method of education founded, wholly or in part, on the denial or forgetfulness of original sin and of grace, and relying on the sole powers of human nature, is unsound.”
God is indeed loving, but He is also justice and, it is because of His mercy, that He fills us with a “spirit of compunction”. In our guilt, we see our real need for God, who loves us so much that “that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.”