Sunday, March 18, 2018

Fr. Perrone: the precious gift of God's mercy and the serious danger of "mercy abuse"

Fr. Eduard Perrone, "A Pastor's Descant" [temporary link] (Assumption Grotto News, March 18, 2018):
My subject today concerns whether Christ might be suffering from mercy abuse -- surely an eyebrow-raising topic. We have been fortunate to have had in recent years a much trumpeted exposition of the Divine Mercy. Both in the liturgy and in devotional life, in the canonization of two saints (John Paul II and Sister Faustina), in sermons, literature, and film, the theme of Christ's inviting welcome to sinners has assumed a significant place in the Catholic Church. There must be providential reason for this. It's due, I believe, to the fact that Christians have been much adrift in an environment increasingly hostile to their faith. They have needed to know that there is a safe haven whither they can turn, confident of being able to find God securely amidst the maddening clamours of secularism. Also, Christians themselves have too often wandered off like the proverbial erring sheep into sordid byways. Affected by the moral pollution surrounding them, they have themselves succumbed to the powerful downflow of a putrid culture. Guilt resulting from having sinned grievously and committed various serious crimes (think of abortion, sodomy, divorce, cohabitation, contraception, drug addiction -- just for starters) will inevitably lead sinners, should the devil only succeed, to total despair -- sin being a real torture to the Christian when he awakens conscious of his former wickedness. Since such grave sins would spell certain spiritual death (viz. hell) for so many, Christ in His great compassion and love for souls has wished the message of His mercy to be emphatically publicized as an encouragement for them to have hope. Such, anyway, is my analysis for the urgency of the message of Divine Mercy in our time.

... with a firm purpose of amendment!

If the need for divine mercy is truly great, how is it that I question here there be such a thing as mercy "abuse"? A long time back, when attending public high school, I first heart the criticism leveled against Catholics that forgiveness for them is cheap because they have ready access to Confession -- the implication being that for other transgressors forgiveness has to be earned by heart wrenching pleading in a near desperate hope that mercy will be accorded them. At the time, it was a shock to my innocent Catholic ears to hear that Confession was considered by some to be an easy thing. I had always been taught that Confession called for serious preparation, integrity, and determination to make amendment of life.

I fear that some may be using Confession as a catharsis (mental relief), that is as a natural remedy for their guiltiness as opposed to supernatural act which remits sins and confers grace. Do some people use Confession merely to shake off guilt but don't have the firm intent never to commit sin again? The fear of a positive reply to this question is the reason for my writing. Is our Lord perhaps being abused by those appealing to His ready forgiveness while lacking a determined will never again to sin? The question is meant to be probative. Mercy abusers confess the same sins every Confession on account of the guilt feelings they have but they lack the steely intention to refuse the next opportunity temptation makes its round. Fod for thought -- thought for change.

On a different subject. Today is Passion Sunday in the traditional liturgical calendar for it inaugurates a shift in the prayers and chants, focusing them more nearly on the approaching days when our Lord will undergo His sufferings and death for our salvation. Today would be the feast of Saint Joseph but this must be deferred until tomorrow on account of the precedence of the Lenten Sunday. Don't however neglect to honor the good Saint on Monday. There is prepared a fine St. Patrick's Day Lunch after the 9:30 & noon Mass today: $8/adults, $3/children.

Next Sunday is Palm Sunday -- already! -- the gateway to Holy Week. Altar boys who wish to serve the principal Palm Sunday Mass at 9:30 with the procession of palms must come to a practice in church this Saturday, March 25 at 1:00 p.m. The rehearsal should last only about an hour. Our altar boys will also have their annual retreat, beginning on Wednesday evening of Holy Week. For this they need to submit the registration forms provided for them today.

Fr. Perrone

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