Taking Chances

In 08 Musings by Jack Reagan on 2014/10/03 at 12:00 AM

Catholic theology teaches that God consists of three Persons: the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.  All are co-eternal, all equal, and all distinct.  Because, in His very nature, God is perfect, the interrelationship between the Persons is also perfect, meaning that the Trinity lacks nothing and needs nothing else to enhance it in any way.

Yet, God did create the world and the human race simply because He wanted to; there was no need to do so whatsoever.  He wanted to give humans the opportunity to participate to some degree in the divine life, not become divine, which is impossible for humans, but to enjoy a union with God that will never end.

In one sense, this was a pure gift.  God needs no human person or any number of them to make Him more complete.  (If He did need humans, He would be lacking something. And, that means He would not be perfect.)  The world could vanish tomorrow, and He would be none the worse for it.

This union with God is a potential gift, not an absolute gift.  There is a price of admission.  Humans are creatures of God and must honor and obey their Creator in order to attain this eternal union.  Those who do this satisfactorily are what is often referred to as “saved,” or as saints.  Those who fail to follow God’s commands will be eternally deprived of ever sharing divine life.  That is their own choice.

Mankind is morally weak.  He likes what we call “sin.”  (Modern man has deleted the traditional list of sins (i.e. the Ten Commandments), so that for him, the only real sins are racism, sexism, environmental abuse, and being intolerant of  wrong ideas.  Virtue is not easy to attain, and we are constantly “falling off the wagon.”  To reach the eternal reward is a lifetime chore.  God knows that we are weak and too often fall back in sin.  We don’t want to, but we do.  Any sin is an offense against God who is all-holy, but some sins are worse than others, for example, murder (including abortion), adultery,  skipping Sunday Mass for insufficient or no reason, blasphemy, etc.  The only remedy for serious (i.e. mortal) sin for Catholics is to seek divine mercy through Confession/Reconciliation in the Catholic Church.  This mercy is available to every sinner regardless of the number and magnitude of his/her sins.

Divine mercy is not an abstract idea; it is very real. If you have ever committed a mortal sin and confessed it, you experienced divine mercy.  If you lived in a state of on-going serious sin for a long time, but eventually went to Confession, you, too, have experienced divine mercy.  If you have lived in a state of serious sin for a long time, and you are still alive, you are experiencing divine mercy…but for how long?   The millions of lapsed Catholics are experiencing divine mercy…but for how long?

Divine mercy has its limits.  Divine mercy to any serious sinner is a gift.  It is not required of God.  This mercy must be sought by the sinner; it is not automatic. If you insist on living a sinful lifestyle, God will not interfere; it is your choice.  If you ignore divine mercy, you will not receive it. Perhaps worst of all, divine mercy is not available after death.  Then, there will only by judgment.  There is no faith or repentance after death; no faith because you will know with certainty what you once had to accept by faith; there is no repentance because you are now existing in eternity which has no past, present, or future.  Thus, you cannot see your error and claim sorrow for sin….too late.  The die is cast!  The sinner and saint have made their eternal choices, and God ratifies THEM.  He sends no one to Hell; we send ourselves there.  The  time to seek divine mercy is now.

There is a movement developing in Catholic and Protestant circles that suggests Hell may not be eternal, that God is so good that He could not bear to leave people in Hell, and eventually everyone will get to Heaven.  By this thinking, St. Francis of Assisi and Adolph Hitler would both be in Heaven eventually.  Certainly a comforting thought for the sinner, but totally false.  Why would God demand morality in this life if it didn’t really matter if you obeyed Him or not?  Why should people strive for a virtuous life while history’s egregious villains end up in divine favor?  Besides, Christ Himself referred more to Hell than Heaven in the Gospels because He knew it was really possible to go there. And, He never implied it was a temporary place.

I have heard too many sermons in which God’s “love” is extolled beyond reason.  It is usually put forth as a romantic, sentimental, unconditional, and totally undemanding “love.”  No matter how sinful we are, the most we hear from God is, “Tsk, tsk.” But, true love, in any relationship, is a commitment to another person.  Basically, love is an act of the will.  If the Bible says anything about divine love, it says over and over that love toward God is shown only by our obedience to divine law. (“If you love me, keep  my commandments.”)

I met a man who said that he was not at all worried about sin, damnation, and Hell because he didn’t believe in them.  When I was child, I was a firm and sincere devotee of Santa Claus, but my belief did not change reality; there was no Santa Cause.  This man’s beliefs, or lack of them, will not change reality. Sin, damnation and Hell are realities, and their existence is not dependent upon his or anyone’s belief or lack of belief.  Reality is truth, and it exists outside of us; we do not decide what it is.

Divine mercy is real, and if you need it (we all do), it is available for the asking.  After we die, there will be a realization in the sinner’s mind that s/he lived the wrong life, but it will be too late to do anything about.  Lord, have mercy on us NOW.


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