It is the duty of our pastors, from the Pope down, to remind us that God’s infinite love can, alas, be rejected by rambunctious creatures who resent not being God, and yet also remind them that as long as they live, they are lovingly sought by the Good Pastor. Gueranger puts it well; “in a few days Thou art coming to us to clothe our misery with the garment of your mercy.” (Advent, p. 13) Forgiveness and mercy are always offered but alas, as C.S. Lewis put it, the doors of hell are locked “from the inside.” The sinner, misusing his freedom, can reject the loving forgiveness of the very God who waits for him with open arms.
God is infinite love and yet infinitely just; he “cannot” force his creatures to love him. Indeed, a “forced marriage” is an invalid one.
When commenting on the Gospels, it is crucial for any loving pastor to complement the texts full of mercy with those which remind us that as long as we live, we are “in danger”, “for the devil like a roaring lion is always on the lookout for someone to devour.” (1Peter, 4:8). Gueranger writes: “The day will come when Thou wilt disperse the spiritual and voluntary darkness of men with the awful light of Thy Justice.”
The word “awful” should be underlined, for indeed, it is terrible to fall into the Hands of the Living God. It is worth mentioning that the Little Flower when referring to Heaven tells us that it is the place where there is “perfect justice.” We would expect her to say, “It is the place where Love reigns supreme.” This remark is worth meditating upon.
Yet in the course of the last fifty years, I do not recall any homily reminding us that sin is something terrible. Not only does it offend God, but it also deeply wounds the sinner. The “tendency” today is to “water down” the divine message, so that it does not “upset” modern man and make him run away from the Church. I even know a priest who was reprehended by his bishop for having mentioned “hell” in his homily. It “shocked” some parishioners!
On a secular plane, what would we say of a medical doctor who never warns his patients that certain diseases are contagious and teaches them how to protect themselves from these deadly poisons? Preventive medicine is crucial for many of our ailments are self caused.
How many priests today “dare” condemn abortion, homosexuality, or same-sex “marriage” – sins of such gravity that, years ago, “they were not even mentioned among Christians”? Their claim is that it simply “does not harmonize” with the “climate of the time” which propagates the good news that “it is practically impossible to commit a mortal sin” as one priest claims. In that case, it makes no sense to inform us that God is infinitely compassionate and forgiving … for in fact there is nothing to forgive. Why make such fuss about peccadilloes, minor lapses and human foibles? On the other hand, as I wrote above, it would also be not only wrong but gravely misleading to thunder how sinful and repulsive a sinner man is, without mentioning God’s infinite loving mercy. Jansenism and Calvinism, under their various forms, are abominable deformations of the Gospel.
Both love and justice belong so essentially together that to mention only one of them, is bound to lead either to permissiveness (“God is so good, he does not mind the weaknesses of his children”), or to despair. This was Judas’ sin, and led him to take his life.
Indeed it is true that where sin abounds, so does God’s mercy, but this mercy must be asked for.
Why have so many of our pastors forgotten that it is the abysmal betrayal of Adam and Eve that has motivated an infinitely loving God to sacrifice His beloved son in order to save us? If their sin was not an abomination, God’s offer to sacrifice his only son to save humanity would be sheer sadism and madness combined.
Another crucial, but “forgotten”, truth is that in weighing the gravity of a sin, two things should be kept in mind: first, the hierarchy of evils; some sins are more grievous than others. Theft is condemned in the 5th commandment, but it is “trumped” by murder. One can in principle return the property stolen. The murderer cannot bring his victim back to life. But it is also crucial (is it ever mentioned?) that the gravity of the offense also depends upon the dignity of the person offended. Cruelty toward animals is morally evil. But to torture a child is much worse because he is a person. This leads me to a key insight: any offense of God, the Infinitely Holy, the Infinitely Good, the Infinitely Perfect One, is of such gravity that Christ alone, being the second Person of the Holy Trinity, could properly atone for the sin of our First Parents.
(Column continues below)
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Once again, the “climate” of the time makes us forget how fearful their sin was. We have lost sight of who God is (let us recall the priest who in his Sunday homily, referred to God “as the nice guy upstairs”). That a “well meaning” priest (for subjectively he probably wished to convince the people in the pews that God is not to be feared: he is essentially a jolly good fellow, who loves his children even when they are dirty) can make such a remark must make the angels sob. The Bible tells us explicitly that “the fear of God is the beginning of wisdom”. (Proverbs, 9-10) Indeed, the same Holy Book tells us that “we cannot see God and live.” In my youth, the parishioners would have risen up in protest had the homilist make such a vulgar remark about a God adored by the Seraphins murmuring: “Sanctus, Sanctus, Sanctus.”
Once again our anti-culture (as Dietrich von Hildebrand dubbed it) likes to remind us that God as creator, has linked certain activities with intense pleasure. Would it not be “ungrateful” not to fully appreciate these “gifts”? Is it clearly “unfair” to blame men for enjoying them to the full? God Himself has granted freedom to some of His creatures: in doing so, He clearly gave them “freedom of choice.” The obvious consequence it is therefore that a woman has a right to decide whether or not she will keep “the blob of tissue” developing in her womb. Moreover, an unwelcome child will be a neglected and unhappy child. Is it not “cruel” to give birth to someone unwanted? Christian morality, as taught in manuals, leaves no room for “compassion.” We have now progressed enough to practice this form of love by making abortion legally available to everyone. It should also be luminous that we should “help” crippled, diseased and elderly people – who neither contribute to the good of society nor enjoy life – to have a “dignified” death by assisted suicide.
Indeed, the Ten Commandments should be rewritten according to the demands of the time.
This “new” morality is a much more “human” morality, and will finally liberate people from unbearable burdens that stale traditions have crippled them with.
Why should we object to same-sex “marriage”, if some people can only find “self-fulfillment” in such relationships? Does not God wish his children to be happy? Or is He a sadist punishing them if they – having freedom of choice – make an abundant use of the pleasures that God Himself has related to food, drink or “sex” under any form. Whatever makes an individual happy should be endorsed.
We live in a word characterized by total confusion; evil deeds, moral perversions traditionally condemned, are now viewed with “compassion” and those who uphold not only divine teaching, but the natural moral law (so clearly perceived by Plato when he condemned homosexuality – see Laws, Book VIII) are accused of being pharisaical and lacking in Christian charity. Years ago, a colleague of mine – a committed Communist – sent a letter to the New York Archdiocese explaining why he had left the Church upon discovering that “she was not a Church of love.” Apparently the Gulags were.