Sunday, May 28, 2017

Without This, Nothing Else Matters


As I wrote a couple of days ago, I am re-reading the autobiography of St. Thérèse of Lisieux. It is a magnificent book by a great saint and doctor of the Church. One recurring theme in the book is St. Thérèse's complete and total reliance on God to do everything for her. She saw herself, apart from God, as a hopeless sinner, and recognized her utter helplessness to do anything good on her own. And this is coming from someone who never committed one mortal sin in her 24 years on earth.


As I have written in an earlier post, this is one characteristic that can be found in all saints - their recognition of themselves as lost sinners incapable of doing anything good apart from God. I believe this the ability to see ourselves as sinners is one of the greatest graces we can receive. We will never become holy, we will never become saints, we will never receive salvation unless we take this absolutely vital, indispensable first step.

And recognition of our sinfulness is not a step we take just once and then move on.  It is something we must do everyday.  This is what a daily examination of conscience is all about.  We make this admission every time we are about to receive communion:  "Lord I am not worthy that you should come under my roof, but say the word and my soul shall be healed."  

Unless you come to a full realization and admission of your sinfulness and unworthiness to receive God's great love and mercy, you will never be able to receive that love and mercy which will be able to transform you into a little Christ and walk with St. Thérèse and every other great saint, known and unknown.  Unless and until you confess your sinful nature, it doesn't matter what good works you perform, how many rosaries you pray, how many times you attend Mass, or any other outward action you perform.  Without repentance, you will never receive the Grace of God, and without the Grace of God, you will never be able to truly obey the two greatest commandments of loving God and loving your neighbor.  

The reason so many religious people are judgmental and condemning in their attitudes towards "sinners" is because they don't realize that they, too are sinners.  Far too many have become the pharisee standing in the synagogue and saying, look at me what a great person I am.  Thank you, God, that I am not like that nasty publican over there who can't even lift his head.  


When you come to a full realization of your sinfulness and how much you need God's mercy and forgiveness, you will never look down on anyone again because you will realize that it is only God's grace that enables you to do what is right, and that there is absolutely nothing good in your life for which you can claim credit. You will realize that everyone else is in the same boat, and that to judge them is to judge yourself.

You will realize that you are far more culpable for your sins than someone who does not profess Christ because you have received the saving grace of Christ and the "sinner" has not. Seeing someone caught in sin's trap will not lead you to judge and condemn but will produce mercy and compassion, just as Jesus Christ Himself felt for sinners. You will find yourself saying along with Christ, "Father forgive them, for they know not what they do." When I see people get up on their soapboxes and preach against "sinners", I know that person has either forgotten how much he has sinned and is in need of forgiveness, or never did come to a true realization of his sinfulness.

When we are honest about our sinfulness, the devil can't touch us. But once we start thinking that we have good in us apart from Jesus Christ, we become a prime target for the evil one. We are often shocked when we see someone, whom we thought was a very holy person, be exposed as a great sinner. I think of Father John Corapi. How did a man who was revered for his powerful preaching and "saintly life", fall so badly from grace? It is because he forgot who he was. He started to believe his own press about what a great person he was, and forgot that everything he had came from Jesus Christ. Then he started to trust himself. He was no longer drawing on the mercy and forgiveness of God and as a result, fell into the devil's trap.

I have stated that I believe Pope Francis is one of the holiest men to sit in the Chair of Saint Peter. A major reason why I say this is because Pope Francis is acutely aware of his sinfulness. He has publicly accused himself of being a sinner, and has publicly gone to confession as an example for the rest of us.


It is no coincidence that Pope Francis has also shown great compassion and mercy for those who struggle with their sins.  Many conservatives/traditionalists see this as heretical.  They don't realize that their words and actions are aligning them with the pharisee who praised himself for all the great works he did while he condemned the worthless publican.  


I no longer listen to people who engage in condemnation of the world. This is not the same as saying that I don't believe the world is in desperate need of repentance and God's mercy and forgiveness. But it is not up to me, a great sinner, to stand in judgment of anyone. It is up to me to pray for others and allow God to work in me in whatever way He can to bring His love and mercy to others. That is the message of Pope Francis.

The following is a quote from a talk given by Pope Francis to superiors general of religious orders in 2013, but it can really apply to all of us:
You should be real witnesses of a world of doing and acting differently. But in life it is difficult for everything to be clear, precise, outlined neatly. Life is complicated; it consists of grace and sin. He who does not sin is not human. We all make mistakes and we need to recognise our weakness. A religious who recognises himself as weak and a sinner does not negate the witness that he is called to give, rather he reinforces it, and this is good for everyone. What I expect of you therefore is to give witness. I want this special witness from religious.
To be witnesses of the Gospel  - that is the job we have been given.  We are not called to judge. We are called to love.  But we can never get there unless we take that first step of admitting that we are sinners.  And it is something that we must do every day of our lives.

Forget that you are a sinner, and you become easy prey for the devil.  Admit your sinfulness and complete dependence on God's mercy and forgiveness, and you have taken the first step to heaven.

7 comments:

  1. When you get a chance, Catholic in Brooklyn, check out the following link:

    https://www.catholic.com/magazine/online-edition/i-must-decrease

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    1. That is a great article. Thanks for the link. Some of the warning signs given in the article could be applied to Father Zuhlsdorf. But I do feel as I wrote above. When a priest or anyone else forgets that they are sinners in need of God's mercy, that is when they are setting themselves up for a big fall.

      Thanks again.

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  2. When you get a chance, Catholic in Brooklyn, hold your nose and check out the following links:

    https://youtu.be/w3Y3LeUtqJw

    https://www.churchmilitant.com/video/episode/vortex-obama-at-nd-changed-everything

    Catholic in Brooklyn, do you think Michael Voris had a desire to go after supposedly unfaithful bishops even before Obama's 2009 visit to Notre Dame?

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  3. Just a quick "thanks be to God!" for your blog, and your love for my favorite saint, "little Therese with the big ideas"! I'm always thrilled to find Catholic bloggers who are 100% faithful to the Church and don't try to convince me (subtly or otherwise) to "ditch the Pope." Again, thanks!

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    1. Thank you for your comment. I did a blog post in which I said St Therese should be the patron saint of bloggers.

      http://catholicinbrooklyn.blogspot.com/2014/10/my-candidate-for-patron-saint-of.html

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  4. Catholic in Brooklyn, what do you think would happen if John Corapi were to go on "Dr. Phil"?

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    Replies
    1. I think Dr Phil would see thru him right away. That would be very interesting to watch.

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