Theological Meditations, Uncategorized

The Story of Sodom and the Importance of Perseverance

The readings for this Sunday reveal much about the nature of repentance. The first reading is taken from the eighteenth chapter of the Book of Genesis. To examine the larger context: Abraham’s nephew Lot moves to the city of Sodom. Sodom and its sister city, Gomorrah, were known for their degeneracy and debauchery, so much so that God intended His wrath to come down upon the cities. Yet, prior to doing so, God warned Abraham that His wrath would fall upon the cities, and Abraham, knowing his nephew lived there, feared the safety of his nephew. He asked God, “Will you kill the good and the bad alike? Suppose you find fifty good men within the city – will you destroy it, and not spare it for their sake?” (Genesis 18:23-24) God then replied, “If I find fifty godly men there, I will spare the entire city for their sake.” (Genesis 18:26) Abraham continues with a similar line of questioning for the next several verses, and God responds similarly, each time using a smaller and smaller number of hypothetical people. By the time you get to verse 32, Abraham asks whether God would spare Sodom and Gomorrah if there were as few as 10 godly people living there, and God answers yes.



In the following chapter, we see what happens: because Lot and his family are the only righteous people in the city, God sends two angels to Sodom to save Lot. Yet, because the rest of the city was unrepentant, they suffered God’s wrath as He destroyed the city.


What is the meaning of this story? One level of meaning that I see is that Sodom and Gomorrah represent humanity in its fallen state. Yet, the state of fallen man contrasts, in the starkest possible way, with the state to which man is called, for which he was created – namely, the glories of heaven. The notion that God would be willing to save Sodom and Gomorrah no matter how small the number of godly people there were within them represents how the state of glory presupposes repentance for our sins. This repentance includes, necessarily, sorrow for having offended God by our sinfulness, a hatred of our sin, and a desire to strive for holiness. This is the first step – and the most indispensable part – of our salvation. Yet, the holiness that we attain in this life is nothing when compared to the glories of perfect holiness, which is the result of perfect union with God, the Source of All Goodness. Yet, in some sense it doesn’t matter: Padre Pio, the great 20th century Catholic mystic, wrote, “One doesn’t have to be worthy, they only have to be willing.” That is to say, it doesn’t matter how sinful we are, how unworthy we are of the things of God; God can make use of the desire for holiness, no matter how small, to transform us into saints.


Thus, the fact that God was willing to show mercy on Sodom and Gomorrah if there were any godly people living there – no matter how small – represents the fact that the desire for holiness, no matter how small, can be used by God to bring about the conversion, perfection and ultimately glorification of the sinner. Yet, the fact that God saved Lot and his family while destroying the rest of Sodom and Gomorrah represents another major point: those in Sodom and Gomorrah who God destroyed were unrepentant. This showcases the difference between the saved and the damned: the saved are those who recognized their sinfulness and turned from it, whereas the damned are those who were callous to their sinfulness, and thus were either oblivious to it, or do not care about it. There is thus a nuanced, though altogether important, distinction between those who are aware of their sinfulness and struggle against it, but don’t see immediate results, and those who don’t see any growth in holiness because they do not strive towards it. Human moral striving is completely and utterly dependent on the grace of God; nonetheless, Divine grace does not preclude, but in fact includes, human moral striving. Grace is what enables us to willingly strive towards God. Nonetheless, humans, as volitional beings, must accept and cooperate with God’s grace.


The story of Sodom and Gomorrah also points towards another important truth: namely, what happens as we strive towards salvation. God saved Lot, yet His wrath came down upon the rest of the city.  God saved a righteous man while destroying sinners. What this represents is when a person strives towards holiness, God infuses into the soul the desire and ability to partake in such striving; as a person accepts and cooperates with such gifts, God preserves and enhances it, just as He preserved and protected Lot; further, the more a person strives towards holiness, the more God gives them the strength to resist and overcome sin, thereby destroying sin just as He destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah.


What is relayed symbolically in the first reading, is said explicitly in the second reading, taken from St. Paul’s letter to the Colossians. In chapter 2, verses 13 and 14, St. Paul writes, “You were dead, because you were sinners…He [Christ] has brought you to life with Him, He has forgiven us of every one of our sins. He has wiped out the record of our debt to the Law, which stood against us; He has destroyed it by nailing it to the Crosst.” Mankind, due to sin, was alienated from God; yet, through Christ, mankind and God were reconciled. Jesus reconciled mankind to God by dying on the Cross, conquering the forces of sin and death and making satisfaction for human transgressions. When we, by grace through faith, are united to Christ’s saving act, our sin is cancelled out, we die to our old sinful selves, and are given new life in Christ. This act of being granted new life in Christ is not merely “starting over with a blank slate”; it is God justifying and sanctifying human nature, purifying it of sin; it is God infusing into the soul the capacity to strive towards holiness, overcoming the effects of previous sins, and being granted to knowledge and virtue necessary to avoid future sin. It involves the destruction of sin within us, and the infusion, enhancing and preserving of holiness, just as God’s activities in Genesis 19 include the preserving of the righteous citizens and Sodom and Gomorrah and the destruction of the sinners.


This requires grace on God’s side. Yet, on our side, it requires perseverance. It requires not only an acceptance of, but a constant loyalty to, a constant seeking of, the things of God. And this is the meaning of the Gospel reading for this week: In the parable from Jesus read this week, as presented in the Gospel according to St. Luke, chapter eleven, a man has a visitor late at night, and he, lacking a sufficient amount of food to feed his guest, knocks on his neighbor’s door asking for a loaf of bread to feed his visitor. The neighbor is initially hesitant to do so, as it is late at night, and he is tired. Yet, Jesus concludes, “I tell you, if the man does not get up and give it to him for friendship’s sake, persistence will make him get up and give his friend all he wants.” (v. 8) The message that Jesus is attempting to get across is that persistence in the spiritual life pays off. It is not that God is obliged to give us what we want. God is the Sovereign Lord of All, which means that God has authority over everything else that exists, but  nothing has authority over God. It is also not that God, as an omnipotent being, gets anything from answering our prayers.  Rather, the point that Our Lord is trying to make the opposite of persistence is hopelessness. If we do not have the confidence to ask for God’s assistance, if we don’t have a constant, radical openness to His gifts, and a desire to accept and cooperate with these gifts, then the foundation of the virtue of hope is gone.


It is through such spiritual persistence that we cooperate with God as He takes our desire for holiness and helps it to grow into the glories of heaven, the glories of union with God. It doesn’t matter how small our desire for holiness; if we have confidence in God and persistence, it is possible for us to attain salvation. And Christ promises that we will receive an answer to our prayers, the perfection of our striving: “So I say: Ask and it will be given you; search and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.” (v. 9) Jesus can make such a promise precisely because it is He who nailed our sins to the Cross; it is He who merited grace for us; it is He who gave us the promise of the Holy Spirit, by Whom we are united to, and become partakers of, Jesus’ saving mission.




  1. To read the readings for this week, see:
Random Polemical Musings, Uncategorized

D-Day, Justice and Absurdity

Yesterday is the 75th anniversary of D-Day. Just to provide some historical context: by 1943, the Germans had dominated most of Europe. They had conquered most of Western Europe in a series of military campaigns between 1939 and 1941. Between 1941 and 1942, Germany also turned on its ally to the East, the Soviet Union, and successfully conquered parts of the Soviet Union. Although the Germans were turned back by the Soviets in a series of successful Soviet military victories – such as in the Battle of Stalingrad (taking place in late 1942 and early 1943) and the battle of Kursk (taking place in the summer of 1943), the German military presence in the East was not entirely defeated. Likewise, most of Western Europe remained under German control, except for those countries that were neutral, Germany’s ally Italy, and Britain (which, nonetheless, was still subject to German airstrikes). As early as 1942, the Soviets proposed a military strategy in which the British and American forces invade Germany from the West, while the Soviets invade from the East. This would divide the military personnel and resources of the Germans, thereby making it easier for them to be defeated. While British and American forces believed that such a strategy would likely work (though there were some reservations among the British chain of command, and even Churchill himself), the act of agreeing to such a strategy and working out its details was frequently delayed due to other military campaigns fought during this time (such as the invasion of Italian forces in North Africa). A series of different military plans were developed building on this strategy, mainly by American military leaders, but the one that took effect – Operation Overlord – was agreed upon by a series of meetings between Stalin, Churchill and Roosevelt in 1943. Combined American and British forces would sail across the British Channel and land on the beaches of Normandy northern France. If they could successfully defeat the German soldiers there, it would be easier for them to work their way into France and drive out the German occupation, which would, at the very least, serve as a major setback for the German attempts to occupy Western Europe. This operation was carried out a year later. Between April and June of 1944, in preparation for the invasion itself, a series of British and American planes bombed the bridges and train tracks leading to the area to be invaded, which would thus isolate the German troops stationed there from the rest of the German military presence in France. At 6:30 in the morning on June 6, British and Canadian forces landed Gold Beach, Juno Beach and Sword Beach, and shortly thereafter American forces landed on Utah Beach and Omaha Beach just west of the Anglo-Canadian forces. Shortly before the attack, Hitler figured out what the Allied plan was, and increased the number of mines on the beaches and the number of tanks in reserve. Thankfully, the Allies managed to counteract this. British anti-tank gunners managed to keep the German counterattack at bay. Within a day after the initial landing, most if not all of the beaches in Normandy that were under invasion had been captured by the Allies, and by June 12 (six days after the initial invasion), American forces had worked their way 15 miles inland, and retook the French city of Carentan. Throughout the Summer of 1944, battles between the Anglo-American forces on the one hand and the Germans on the other were intense. German forces stationed in and near the city of Caen initiated a series of counterattacks, some of which were successful. The Germans defeated the British in a battle taking place on June 13, as well as in a battle taking place between June 25 and June 29. Further, much of the military infrastructure built by the British and Americans just off the coast of Normandy was severely damaged or destroyed due to unfavorable weather. This caused some within the Allied chain of command to become doubtful of the chances of success. Thankfully, the Germans were also becoming emotionally worn, and their supplies were running low due to the battles. On June 28, the Allies retook the city of Cherbourg. Cherbourg was the last major German stronghold on the Cotentin Peninsula (the Peninsula on which the invasion took place). Within a month, the British and American forces were quickly heading southwards. Hitler devised a counterattack, but when Allied forces intercepted the plans, they were able to quelch the German attack. Some American forces stationed in the west near Brittany eventually met up with British and American forces from the east near Caen, and with this led to a stronger and more unified Allied front.  They began to move southward at an even faster pace, and Hitler, realizing that his forces had little chance at success, withdrew his forces from Normandy. More and more the Allies took northern France, and quickly headed towards Paris. Since Paris is in northern France, the German defeat in northern France led to a decline in the German military presence in Paris. On August 19, supporters of the French Resistance rose up against the few remaining German forces there, and were eventually joined by American and British forces. On August 25, German forces surrendered, and the capital of France was freed.


The liberation of France from then on out was now inevitable. Meanwhile, the German forces in Eastern Europe began to weaken and retreat. Within a little under a year, Allied forces were invading Germany from both the east and the west, resulting in the German surrender in May of 1945.


Such a victory was not without a high price. Within the first 24 hours of D-Day, 1,465 American troops died, 1,928 went missing, and 6,603 were injured. According to German estimates, between 4,000 and 9,000 German troops were killed, wounded or went missing. Between 11,000 and 19,000 civilians were killed during the pre-invasion strikes. Over the course of the entire period of French liberation, 200,000 Allied and 300,000 German soldiers died.


Now, as good as it is to remember those who died defending their country, especially if they fought in just wars, how does this effect the average, everyday Catholic in their spiritual development? Now, a lot of my Catholic readers may tune me out even upon saying this unspeakable name. He is the one Protestants who makes the Catholic Answers crowd break from their ecumenism – an ecumenism which really is just a delicate attempt to “reach across the isle,” so to speak, without falling into the liberal, “Let’s sit around the campfire and sing kumbayah” mentality – and speak with the same level of vitriol that Catholics spoke against Protestants in the 16th century. This because this man sometimes speaks with the same level of vitriol towards Catholics. But, this doesn’t negate when a person makes a good point.


James White, the famous Reformed Baptist preacher and apologist, recently published a livestream on YouTube commemorating D-Day. During the course of the livestream, he brought up two interesting points. The first is that those soldiers or veterans who spend a lot of time talking about their war memories are usually not the ones who did a lot of fighting. Yet, those who did the most fighting usually tend to be the ones who talk about it the least. Why is that? Out of a sense of humility, perhaps. A lot of soldiers fight not for the sake of glory but because of a sense of duty. Yet, a large reason is also because of the trauma experienced as a result of battle. And this leads to a second point: White sees a correlation between the Second World War and the social decadence and decline in religious devotion that marked the following generation. Commenting on the immense destruction of the Second World War – how some military campaigns or battles, taken alone, were sometimes more destructive than entire wars prior to that point – he notes that “a nominal Christianity can’t survive that.” The average European did not have a deep faith, and thus their trust in God was shattered by the destructiveness of the war. Without a living faith, and living, spiritually robust faith communities to support them, their ability to come to terms with the immense evil and destruction surrounding the war was pushed to its limits. This created a sense of jadedness which culminated in the cultural revolution of the 1960’s and 1970’s, which abandoned mainstream organized religion as something that was perceived as impotent to actually help man with real spiritual or moral dilemmas, and in fact was an obstacle to progress.


Whether or not this is true is something that can be debated and proven or disproven through further research. But, White does have a point: unless our gazes are set firmly on God, it is easy to see the struggles and hardships of this world as merely a meaningless absurdity.


There is some sense in which conflict – at least within the context of war – is absurd. Millions of people died in a conflict caused by an egomaniacal dictator who idolized his race and culture, who idolized the pursuit of power – all of which is born out of the idolization of the self, which is the cause of all sin, no matter how minuscule. How can one not see the moral and existential absurdity there? Yet, this absurdity speaks more to the reality of existence in its fallen state than to the nature of existence as such. The absurdity of human sinfulness – which expresses itself one way through war and conflict – is absurd precisely because it flies in the face of what it means to be human.


If you accept this, then you accept that there is justice. Something can’t be wrong unless it is a deviation from or a failure to attain what is objectively right. The term “justice” is derived from the Latin term jus, which literally means “right.” This is reflected in words derived from this: juste, an adjective that means, “correctly,” “rightly,” or “properly”; justitia, an adjective meaning “uprightness” or “justice”; and justum, a noun meaning “that which is just, right or proper in and of itself.” Justice always implies right order. It can, as it is most commonly used, refer to right order within relationships; yet, it can also refer to right order on an ontological level. Thus, there is a concept within Catholic thought called “original justice.” Original justice is a state in which man’s being is rightly ordered: man’s lower desires are ordered towards reason, and reason has its sights firmly fixed on God. Yet, sin negates such as state. This is the traditional definition of original sin: not as the inherited guilt of a particular sin, but rather as the negation of original justice.


Right order within man was thus offset by sin. This is why there is a certain amount of absurdity to life. Yet, God has not abandoned us; God calls us to a life of holiness, a life of justice, love, peace, chastity, purity, reasonableness, selflessness, and even in our fallen state gives us the means to live accordingly. It is easy for one without faith to see intense and destructive conflicts as a sign that life is intrinsically absurd. Yet, for one with faith, they see violence, hatred and conflict as absurd not because it is a reflection of the true nature of existence, but because it is a violation of the way things ought to be. There is an objective way things ought to be, and there is a God Who, in His grace and Providence, is restoring such a state. Thus, war is a sign of human fallenness; yet, fighting against the forces of evil that make war necessary, resisting evil and standing for justice, is only meaningful if it presupposes that life is not absurd, but meaningful.



  1. To read more about the history of D-Day, visit:;;;
  2. To see James White’s livestream, see:
  3. “The White Latin Dictionary (Latin-English and English-Latin): New Edition”, by John D. White, D.D. Oxon. (Follett Publishing Company, Chicago, 1938), pg. 828-820
Random Polemical Musings, Uncategorized

False Compassion = False Mercy

Compassion is at the core of Catholic ethical thought, precisely because it was at the core of the ethical teachings of Jesus. Yet, in today’s world, compassion is often emphasized at the expense of such things as theological orthodoxy, regular Mass attendance, obedience to Church authority (at least, whenever it suits you), and actually taking the time to read and understand the fullness of Scripture (that is, apart from the small handful of nice sounding verses floating around on the internet).


I’ve known people who exemplify this attitude to an extreme. There are people I have met who, while identifying as Christian, refuse to explicitly say that non-Christian religions are false, since they see it as somehow uncharitable. To condemn another person’s beliefs or way of life is unloving. Yet, these same individuals have also known some pretty shady or messed up people in their lives, and have a difficult time coming to forgive them.


Part of me understands this: it is difficult to forgive those who hurt you. There is a whole psychological process involved in being able to come to terms with the harm these people have caused. At the same time, with the notion of “love” or “compassion” being on the lips of most people today, you’d think that forgiving others, even our enemies, would be not too far behind. Scripture is even clear that forgiveness and compassion go hand-in-hand. St. John writes, “And love consists in this: not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. Beloved, we also ought to love one another.” (1 John 4:10-11) St. Paul speaks very similarly: “But God demonstrates His own love for us in this: while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8) Through sinning, we make ourselves enemies of God. God is the Sovereign Lord of all, and thus is not obliged to forgive us. God is omnipotent, and thus is not in need of us. God has nothing to gain from creating and redeeming us, and nothing to lose from our non-existence. In fact, God has every reason to NOT forgive us, for all good things come from God, and yet we repay Him with sin. This is the ULTIMATE manifestation of ingratitude, for it is an offense against an All-Good God Who does nothing but love us. By our sin and ingratitude, we have made ourselves enemies of the All-Good God. God has NO reason to forgive us, and every reason to not to forgive us. Yet, God chose to forgive us anyway. What is more, we are only worthy of the things of God insofar as we remain pure of sin. When we are in a state of sin, we are worthy of God’s wrath, not His gifts. When God chooses to take us out of our sin, reconciling us to Himself and making us once more worthy of Him, at the time in which that happens, we are still in our sin. It is not until the moment God chooses to forgive us of our sins that reconcile us to Himself that we become worthy of union with God and all that results from that.


The fact that God could have mercy upon us, even though, through our sin, we have estranged ourselves from God and made ourselves deserving of His wrath, should overwhelm us. No love can be so great, so profound, as that of God having mercy upon sinners. And ALL of us were in need of God’s mercy at some point. And this is the point that John is very explicit about: once we realize that God has loved us in such a way, it should overwhelm us to such an extent, fill us with such a sense of gratitude, that we are moved to love others in a similar way.


Thise can be seen in the words of Jesus Himself: in Matthew 6:9-15, Jesus reveals the Our Father. The second to last line is, famously, “…and forgive us of our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us…” (Matthew 6:12). After teaching His disciples this prayer, Jesus then comments on this verse: “For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your Heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others of their sins, your Father will not forgive you your sins.” (Matthew 6:14-15) Being filled with God’s love moves us and strengthens us to love in a manner that imitates God’s love for us. If we fail to love others – say, by failing to forgive one another as God has forgiven us – we cannot be fully receptive to God’s love and forgiveness.


Jesus gets even more explicit. In Matthew 5:43-48, Jesus says that all people, even sinners, have the drive to love those who love them, to love those they get along with, and to hate their enemies. Yet, God loves all people. Perfect love, a love imitating the love God, thus involves transcending the desire to love our friends and hate our enemies, but to love ALL people, both enemies and friends, and it is only in THIS that we can be perfect as God is perfect.


To love or forgive your enemies doesn’t mean to approve of what they do, it doesn’t mean not holding them responsible for their sins, it doesn’t mean letting their negative influence enter into your life. In fact, if you love your enemies, you will hold them responsible for their sin, you will call out for their sinfulness, because only then is it possible that they may change, to grow closer to God and become a better person. And that’s what love us: the classical definition of love is to desire the good of the other. If you love your enemies, you desire that they change their ways, that they get right with God and stop acting like your enemies, because THAT’S what’s good for them.


Yet, when you push most people to speak about how they view love, or even examine how their views speak through their actions, it is this “I’m okay, you’re okay” sort of attitude. It is getting along with people, being friends with people, and of course living peaceably with others, being their friend, involves, to a big extent, being compatible with them, and thus, to some extent, not having a problem with their personality, with their views, with their way of life – or being so fond of that person that any personal differences don’t matter. And, of course, if this is love, then why would you love sinners? Why would you love those you don’t like, whose lifestyle or worldview may not only not be to your liking, but may also be intrinsically evil?


Yet, fondness and getting along with others is not love. This thus explains why so many people these days speak of compassion, but have a difficult time learning to forgive: they have an incomplete view of love. Love must be guided by the truth in order to fully express itself, but the view of compassion held by most people is an incomplete understanding of love, one rooted in denying the fullness of the truth.


This reminds me of a quote I once heard from the famous French theologian Fr. Reginald Garrigou-Lagrange: “The Church is intolerant in principle because she believes; she is tolerant in practice because she loves. The enemies of the Church are intolerant in principle because they do not believe, but they are intolerant in practice because they do not love.”


What this means is that faithful Catholics cannot accept, endorse, or even be open to every idea, because not every idea is the truth. We are committed to the truth, and one cannot claim to love the truth but also be open to falsehoods. But, because we are guided by the truth, we have a clear view of what constitutes true love. Adherence to the truth will, for the one open to God, lead to a growth in love. Yet, the enemies of the Church, the enemies of Christ, reject the Church as being close-minded. They have a single-minded devotion to be open-minded, to looking at things from multiple perspectives, to being nuances. Yet, this is just a means to an end; the purpose of these things is to actually figure out what the truth is. But, because they do not have a strong commitment to truth, they cannot properly know love.


When our love is not guided by the truth, it gives birth to false compassion. And false compassion cannot give birth to true mercy. False compassion leads one to be compassionate until or unless one is wronged, at which point one will hold a grudge, since false compassion could lead one to believe that love and compassion is ordered towards ones friends alone, rather than to friend and enemy alike. False compassion leads one to believe that mercy means excusing one’s behavior. To point out false beliefs or sinful behavior is not uncharitable or unmerciful, but is could be considered an expression of mercy par excellence. False compassion may lead one to desire to help others, to show mercy on the others, but not actually move beyond their comfort zone to do so.


Compassion, when not guided by the truth, is false compassion, and false compassion cannot lead to true mercy.

Theological Meditations, Uncategorized

Suffering for the Name of Christ

In the period following Easter, many of the first readings during Mass have been derived from the Acts of the Apostles, describing the ministry of the Apostles in the immediate aftermath of Jesus’ Death and Resurrection. The reason why this has been the focus is because the Death and Resurrection of Jesus Christ, in liberating us from sin, doesn’t concern some abstract reality outside of us; rather, it renews our relationship with God, and in so doing, renews the heart/soul and mind of man, moving us to a greater love of God and neighbor.


We see this in the ministry of the Apostles. They were willing to travel long distances, to far away places, frequently subjected to persecutions of all sorts (ultimately resulting in the death of all but one of them, with John spending the final years of his life in exile).  They were on fire with the love of God and the love of souls, with the desire to glorify God and save their fellow man. And that is because what they encountered was a real spiritual phenomena, a spiritual phenomena whereby they were liberated from sin, and whereby this same liberation was made possible for others. So, moved by a sense of gratitude towards God, they embarked on their Divinely-mandated mission of preaching the Gospel, of leading the early Church.

Continue reading “Suffering for the Name of Christ”

Theological Meditations, Uncategorized

The Fear of God, the Fear of Men, and Divine Mercy

Give thanks to God, for He is good, His Mercy endures forever. Let Israel say: “His Mercy endures forever.” Let the House of Aaron say, “His Mercy endures forever.” Let those who fear the Lord say, “His Mercy endures forever.” In danger I called out to the Lord; the Lord answered and set me free. The Lord is with me; I am not afraid; what can mortals do against me? The Lord is my helper; I shall look in triumph over my foes.

-Psalm 118: 1-7


Last Sunday, the Second Sunday in Easter, is Divine Mercy Sunday. It is all too appropriate to celebrate God’s Infinite Mercy immediately after Holy Week and Easter. God’s Mercy and Love is the antidote to despair, for God so loved us that He was willing to empty Himself to the point of becoming man and dying on the Cross. Think about it: God is infinite and omnipotent, infinitely above man, yet He chose to become man, to manifest Himself within the confines of the limited, finite, broken state of man. God, the Source and Author of Life, experienced death. If God was willing to go to such an extreme to reconcile mankind to Himself, if He could bring life even from death, one should never doubt His desire and ability to bring you to the fruits of His saving act. The only thing standing in between yourself and salvation is your willingness to embrace Christ.


In the readings for this week, we get a glimpse of the effects of Divine Mercy. The second reading is taken from the first chapter of the Book of Revelations. St. John describes his predicament: after spending a lifetime preaching the Gospel, he was then sent into exile to the island of Patmos off the coast of Turkey (v. 9). He then speaks of how he received his first revelations while on Patmos, those revelations which would go on to form the text. He hears a voice commanding him to write everything he hears, and when he turns around, he sees Christ standing behind him (vv. 10-16).


St. John then falls to the ground and begins to worship Him upon seeing Him (v. 17). This is the first effect of Divine Mercy: it releases us from the bondage of sin to serve the living God (Hebrews 9:14). To live and act in service of the Lord, to be a slave of Christ (as St. Paul was accustomed to calling himself [see, for example, Romans 1:1]), is true freedom. To be a slave of Christ means that our consciences are bound to God, it is incumbent upon us to serve God. Yet, God is, in fact, the source of our freedom. Sin is the term used for a type of evil more specifically called “moral evil.” Evil is the privation of some due good – that is, when some good that should be present in a particular person, thing, action, or situation  is absent or has been corrupted. Such a definition of evil is only fitting. Think about it: God is the Creator of the universe. God is also All-Good. If an All-Good – that is, perfectly good – God could cause or create something evil, then He wouldn’t be perfectly good, and therefore wouldn’t be God. Hence, everything that exists, by virtue of being created by God, is by its nature good. Yet, evil exists. Evil must thus not be a positive quality – that is, a quality that has some existence – but rather stems from the corruption or loss of some quality that should be there. Moral evil, or sin, are evil acts that we willingly chose to engage in. Moral evil is contrasted to natural evil (things like natural disasters or disease).


Insofar as man chooses to sin, he corrupts himself. Sin thus serves as an obstacle to man being all that he was created by God to be. The God-man, Jesus Christ, freed and purifies us of sin. This enables us to serve God. But since human life comes forth from God as its Ultimate Source, and is ordered back towards God as its Most Final End, to serve God is what makes man, man. Through sin, and the subsequent service of the Lord that follows, we become all that we are meant to be.


Divine Mercy thus, first and foremost, brings about the transition from being a slave to sin to being a slave of Christ, a slave to God, which is true freedom. But the second effect of freedom is seen in the first reading, taken from Acts of the Apostles, chapter 5, verses 12-16. It describes the Apostles performing miracles during their ministry. The power of God working through them was so strong, that, according to verse 5, people were healed even when St. Peter’s shadow fell upon them.


These events are described within the first few chapters of Acts. Thus, one shouldn’t be shocked if these event did take place, historically, sometime shortly after the Death and Resurrection of Jesus, in the very early years of the Apostles’ ministry. What this reading shows is that which was implicit in the second reading: namely, Divine Mercy isn’t merely the pardoning of sins in a legalistic sense, that is, God saying, “I’ll forget about your sins, now here’s a get-out-of-jail-free card.” Rather, Divine Mercy, far from being something external to the self, is something at work within us. The Apostles witnessed the Resurrection of Our Lord. They saw the pledge of Eternal Life made manifest in that event. Then, fifty days later, after Jesus had ascended into Heaven, they were filled with the Holy Spirit. After witnessing the Resurrection and being filled with the Holy Spirit, the Apostles began to preach the Gospel, perform miracles, and ultimately died as martyrs. In doing so, they brought many people to salvation.


But, when you look at verses 17-42 – the verses immediately after the ones we read this past Sunday – we see the story of the Jewish religious leaders arresting the Apostles and putting them in jail, during which time they tried to persuade the Apostles to stop preaching before finally flogging them. But, as the rest of the text continues, the Apostles did not stop preaching.


And this shows one of the effects of Divine Mercy at work within us: namely, the recognition that God, in having mercy on us, has destroyed and conquered sin. Jesus died on the Cross, but in doing so, He conquered death. He allowed Himself to be the victim of human sinfulness, but in doing so conquered human sinfulness. Trust in Divine Mercy thus creates a sense of humbleness before God which leads us to be bold before men. It is a sense of fear of the Lord which protects us against fear of the world, fear of sin, fear of men. It creates a sense of servitude towards the Lord which lays the basis for freedom from the things that bind us within our fallen, broken existence.

Continue reading “The Fear of God, the Fear of Men, and Divine Mercy”