Saturday, July 15, 2006

The question of salvation

Oscar Romero, the martyred Archbishop of San Salvador, once said: "A preaching that does not point out sin is not the preaching of the gospel. A preaching that makes sinners feel good, so that they are secured in their sinful state, betrays the gospels call...A preaching that awakens, a preaching that enlightens - as when a light turned on awakens and of course annoys a sleeper - that is the preaching of Christ, calling: Wake up! Be converted! That is the Church's authentic preaching."

While there are so many good and faithful priests who do preach on the reality of sin and the need for reconciliation, there are those who have no love for the souls under their care. As a consequence, these priests neglect the souls entrusted to them and make no attempt to stress the reality of sin and the need for ongoing conversion.

When Jesus began His public ministry, He did so with the word "repent" (Matthew 4:17). And He advised the woman caught in adultery to "sin no more" (John 8:11). Likewise, in the case of the man cured at the Pool of Bethesda, Jesus advised him to "sin no more lest something worse befall thee" (John 5:14).When queried on the subject of how many would be saved, Jesus replied "few" because the "gate" to Heaven is "narrow" (Matthew 7:13-14). And while no one can pinpoint the precise meaning of the word "few," still, it is sobering that Jesus chose the image of a narrow gate.

Jesus is likened in the gospel to a stern master who has lazy servants flogged and murderous ones put to death (Matthew 21:41; Luke 12:47). And while it is true that Jesus is Mercy, He is also Justice. And for every parable illustrative of His mercy, there are three or four threatening divine retribution.

The Judgment Day is always described as a day of wrath and never as a day of rejoicing (Proverbs 11:4; Zephaniah 1:15; Sirach 5:10; Romans 2:5; Revelation 6:17). Why is this? If everyone (or even a large segment of mankind) is headed for Heaven, why does Sacred Scripture refer to the Judgment Day as a day of wrath?

The smug, self-satisfied "we-are-all-saved-already" attitude found in so many Catholic parishes is the result of the sin of presumption. Because there are priests who are betraying Jesus by refusing to preach on the reality of sin and the reality of Hell, a spiritual dry-rot has infected much of the Church. This is why nearly everyone receives Holy Communion at Mass but nearly no one goes to Confession.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church has this to say about presumption: "There are two kinds of presumption. Either man presumes upon his own capacities, (hoping to be able to save himself without help from on high), or he presumes upon God's almighty power or his mercy (hoping to obtain his forgiveness without conversion and glory without merit)." (CCC, 2092).

The words of Sacred Scripture remind us that such an attitude is very, very wrong: "Of forgiveness be not overconfident, adding sin upon sin. Say not:' Great is his mercy; my many sins he will forgive.' For mercy and anger alike are with him; upon the wicked alights his wrath." (Sirach 5:5-7).

If we are living a sacramental life, confessing our sins and receiving Jesus in the Eucharist as often as possible (at the very least on Sundays and Holy Days, which is our obligation) while praying each day for His grace and mercy, we have nothing to worry about. This isn't presumption. This is confidence in God's mercy as we strive every day to conform our will to His divine will. But God will not be mocked. He can neither deceive nor be deceived.

God love you all!
Paul

2 comments:

Dave said...

I have not heard one sermon on the reality of Hell and the fact that we could end up there in more than 30 years. Not one.

I am also concerned over statistics which indicate that some 80 % of Catholic couples are contracepting and that Catholic women abort their children at the same rate as non-Christian women.

This doesn't concern priests in and around the Manchester Diocese since they never speak on it.

Catherine said...

And don't expect that to change soon in NH. The Diocese seems to be coming apart.

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