Mercy: Still Practicing

From Calendar of Major Events, Jubilee of Mercy, 2015; used w/o permission.

The Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy ends today. Some Catholics celebrated the year’s start in Rome. I didn’t. Like most of us, I’ve been participating in my own way, where I live.

The biggest change in routine for me has been during Mass. We’ve been receiving the Eucharist under both forms: our Lord’s body and blood.

If you think that’s sounds gory and repulsive, you’re not alone.

“Do you also want to leave?”

Following our Lord has involved public relations issues from the start:

“Whoever eats 19 my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him on the last day.
“Jesus then said to the Twelve, ‘Do you also want to leave?’
“Simon Peter answered him, ‘Master, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.
“We have come to believe and are convinced that you are the Holy One of God.'”
(John 6:54, John 6:6769)

Receiving under both kinds has been a big deal for this parish, since our bishop had to sign off on the procedure, and we needed more servers. I hope we can continue after the Year of Mercy. But we’ll see what happens.

I like what we’ve been doing, particularly since receiving our Lord under both forms is closer to what happened at the Last Supper.

But I know “…that … the true Sacrament, is received even under only one species, and … those who receive under only one species are not deprived of any of the grace that is necessary for salvation….”1

And since, like Peter, I am convinced that Jesus has “the words of eternal life;” following our Lord is my only reasonable option.

The Meaning of Our Mission

It’s the Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy that’s ending today, not mercy. That’s part of a mission we’ve been on, ever since our Lord stopped being dead.

“…This is a time for the Church to rediscover the meaning of the mission entrusted to her by the Lord on the day of Easter: to be a sign and an instrument of the Father’s mercy (cf. John 20:2123)….”
(“Celebration of First Vespers of Divine Mercy Sunday,” Pope Francis (April 11, 2015))

“(Jesus) said to them again, ‘Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.’
“And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, ‘Receive the holy Spirit.
“Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them, and whose sins you retain are retained.'”
(John 20:2123)

Mercy doesn’t make sense without some idea of what sin is.

Sin is an act or thought, or a failure to act, which offends reason, truth, and God. (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 18491851)

It is what happens when I don’t love God, and my neighbor, as I should; and do not see everyone as my neighbor. (Matthew 5:4344, 22:3640; Mark 12:2831; Luke 6:31, 10:2527, 2937; Catechism, 2196)

Sins by the Bushel

Sins aren’t all alike. There’s a sort of laundry list in Galatians 5:1921, enumerating “works of the flesh.” Next comes Galatians 5:2223, with a “fruit of the Spirit.” (Catechism, 18521853)

I could take those verses, ignore Genesis 1:31 and two millennia of Catholic teaching, claim that physical reality is icky; and I talked about that in Friday’s post. (November 18, 2016)

There’s a whole mess of ways I can sort sin into categories.

I can pigeonhole sins by their object, the virtues each opposes, and by excess or defect. Coming from other directions; I’ve got spiritual and carnal sins; sins against God, neighbor, or myself; or “…sins in thought, word, deed, or omission….” (Catechism, 1853)

What they’ve got in common is that each is something I can chose to do. Or I can decide that practicing charity is a good idea. The choice is mine, so are the consequences, and that’s another topic. (Catechism, 17301825, 1853)

I don’t go to the “drinking bouts, orgies, and the like” mentioned in Galatians 5:21 puts it; so I could decide that I’m so stinking holy that I’ll get a front-row seat in Heaven. That would be a really bad decision, which brings me to another way to sort sins.

Venial and Mortal Sin

There’s no such thing as a “good” sin, but some are worse than others — and the Catholic viewpoint on which is which isn’t what you might expect.

Dante Alighieri’sDivine Comedy” is an epic poem, great literature, but not an official Catholic document. The poet does, however, show a pretty good understanding of what the Church has been saying.

Dante puts punishments for lust about as far from Hell’s frozen center as possible.

It’s no Caribbean resort. There’s an eternal hurricane in progress:

“…The blast of hell that never rests from whirling
Harries the spirits along in the sweep of its swath,
And vexes them, for ever beating and hurling….”
“…Into this torment carnal sinners are thrust,
So I was told, — the sinners who make their reason
Bond thrall under the yoke of their lust….”
(“The Divine Comedy: Inferno,” Canto V, Dante Alighieri, Dorothy Sayers translation)

Lust is a “disordered desire for or inordinate enjoyment of sexual pleasure.” It’s a bad idea and I shouldn’t do it. (Catechism, 2351)

It’s a violation of temperance, which does not mean that cherophobia is a virtue, and I’ve been over that before. (July 10, 2016)

Being human, feeling urges to experience pleasure, isn’t the problem. Forgetting that we’re human, letting those urges override our reason — that’s what gets us in trouble. Gets me in trouble. (Catechism, 17301738, 1809)

Committing a venial sin hurts us, but doesn’t destroy our charity. It involves “a disordered affection for created goods.” “Venial sin weakens charity … it impedes the soul’s progress in the exercise of the virtues….” (Catechism, 1855, 1863)

Mortal sin destroys charity. It’s not something I’m likely to do ‘by accident.’ Sin is mortal when — if — what I’m doing is a serious offense, something I know is wrong: and I do it anyway. (Catechism, 1857)

I put definitions near the end of this post.2

Mercy, Justice, and Me

Sometimes our need for mercy is as obvious as the the woman’s in John 8:111. Sometimes not so much.

I’m still learning moderation, among other virtues; so I’m a lot more interested in mercy than “justice.”

There’s more to say, much more, about love, mercy, and getting a grip; but today I’ll settle for a few more quotes.

“If you forgive others their transgressions, your heavenly Father will forgive you.
“But if you do not forgive others, neither will your Father forgive your transgressions.”
(Matthew 6:1415)

1 2 ‘Stop judging, that you may not be judged.
“For as you judge, so will you be judged, and the measure with which you measure will be measured out to you.”
(Matthew 7:12)

“Be merciful, just as (also) your Father is merciful.
“‘Stop judging and you will not be judged. Stop condemning and you will not be condemned. Forgive and you will be forgiven.
“Give and gifts will be given to you; a good measure, packed together, shaken down, and overflowing, will be poured into your lap. For the measure with which you measure will in return be measured out to you.’ ”
(Luke 6:3638)

“Therefore, you are without excuse, every one of you who passes judgment. For by the standard by which you judge another you condemn yourself, since you, the judge, do the very same things. … There is no partiality with God.”
(Romans 2:111)


Mostly my take on living as if love matters:

1 More about Mass:

2 Charity, mortal sin, mercy, sin, venial sin, works of mercy; definitions:

CHARITY: The theological virtue by which we love God above all things for his own sake, and out neighbor as ourselves for the love of God (1822).

MORTAL SIN: A grave infraction of the law of God that destroys the divine life in the soul of the sinner (sanctifying grace), constituting a turn away from God. For a sin to be mortal, three conditions must be present: grave matter, full knowledge of the evil of the act, and full consent of the will (1855, 1857).

MERCY: The loving kindness, compassion, or forbearance shown to one who offends (e.g., the mercy of God to us sinners) (1422, 1829). See Works of Mercy.

SIN: An offense against as well as a fault against reason, truth, and right conscience. Sin is a deliberate thought, word, deed, or omission contrary to the eternal law of God. In judging the gravity of sin, it is customary to distinguish between mortal and venial sins (1849, 1853, 1854).

VENIAL SIN: Sin which does not destroy the divine life in the soul, as does mortal sin, though it diminishes and wounds it (1855). Venial sin is the failure to observe necessary moderation, in lesser matters of the moral law, or in grave matters acting without full knowledge or complete consent (1862).

WORKS OF MERCY: Charitable actions by which we come to the aid of our neighbors in their bodily and spiritual needs (2447). The spiritual works of mercy include instructing, advising, consoling, comforting, forgiving, and patiently forbearing. Corporal works of mercy include feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, vising the sick and imprisoned, sheltering the homeless, and burying the dead (2447).”
(Catechism of the Catholic Church, Glossary)

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About Brian H. Gill

I was born in 1951. I'm a husband, father and grandfather. One of the kids graduated from college in December, 2008, and is helping her husband run businesses and raise my granddaughter; another is a cartoonist and artist; #3 daughter is a writer; my son is developing a digital game with #3 and #1 daughters. I'm also a writer and artist.
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  1. Pingback: Hate, Justice, Forgiveness | A Catholic Citizen in America

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