Sep 9, 2014 1:49 AM

Yes Holy Father, Jesus walks with sinners but He asks us to sin no more...

Pope Francis has just reminded us that, "God 'walks with the righteous and the sinners.' He walks 'with everyone, to arrive at that encounter, the final encounter of man with Him.'" (See here).

Once again, it is what Pope Francis does not say that is troubling. Yes the weeds continue to grow among the wheat until Jesus returns. Yes, we are all sinners. But the notion that I can live as I wish, committing one sin after another, and that this is somehow "okay" because Jesus "walks with me" is erroneous. It is presumption. The Catechism of the Catholic Church reminds us that: "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).

Dr. Grisez explains that, "Remaining interested in God's promises and counting on him to keep them, those who sin by presumption continue to hope and even, to some extent, to shape their lives by hope. But, not consistently putting hope into practice, they abuse it, expecting pardon without repentance and the reward for following Jesus without the cost of discipleship. This unrealistic expectation is the essence of presumption. An element of pride underlies this sin. Rejecting God's terms for obtaining what he promises, the presumptuous expect to obtain it on their own. They suppose that God, like a blustery parent, threatens punishments which he will be too softhearted to carry out, and, like a permissive parent, accompanies his gift of freedom with a virtual guarantee to fend off the consequences of its irresponsible use. Such suppositions are inconsistent with faith, which not only depends on God's absolute truthfulness but also, assuring believers that God will do his part, calls them to do theirs, as grace empowers them to do.

However, the sin of presumption can be committed without denying any truth of faith. People determined not to fulfill the responsibilities of Christian life in some essential respect, yet, unwilling to face the prospective consequences, can resolve the tension by persuading themselves that somehow God will manage to save them despite themselves. This self-deception need not be logical enough to withstand critical reflection, since that is something the presumptuous manage to avoid...It also weakens hope. Rather than serving as the intention of all the choices which should make up Christian life, presumptuous hope renders many of them unnecessary and clears the way for a life-style apart from, and even sinfully at odds with, hope for the kingdom. Not being exercised, hope weakens as other interests grow strong. Eventually heaven, now taken for granted and regarded as irrelevant to present concerns, becomes a dim prospect, a mere fairyland which one used to yearn for but no longer finds exciting."

I remain very concerned over Pope Francis' preaching. Oscar Romero, whom Pope Francis seems to admire, 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.
I would expect Pope Francis to offer us a more solid Catholic preaching.


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