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To Abuse God’s Mercy Is Worse than Despair

Perhaps because of the Protestant influence on Americans, perhaps because of our innate Liberalism, it is common for us to excuse any fault of ourselves or others with these words: “God is merciful. He will forgive that…” This God who always forgives everything ends by being not so different from an accomplice to the sin and a collaborator with those who want to offend Him.

What is the correct understanding of God’s mercy that will help us avoid this abuse without any Liberalism or Protestantism? St. Alphonsus de Ligouri gives us the answer in his book The Way of Salvation and Perfection.

St. Alphonsus of Ligouri

The Devil tries to fool man in two ways to lead him to ruin. Before the sin, the Devil encourages the sinner to trust in Divine Mercy; after the sin, he impels man to despair, representing to him the rigor of Divine Justice.

The first means of seduction is much more pernicious than the second. “God is merciful,” such is the answer of the obstinate sinner when one speaks to him about the need for conversion. Yes, God is merciful, but in the way Wisdom expresses itself in the Canticle of the Canticles: “His mercy is for those who fear Him.” Our Lord exercises mercy toward those who fear offending Him, but not toward those who use His mercy as a pretext to insult Him. …

God is merciful, there is no doubt about that, but He is also just. The sinner would like God to be merciful without being just, but this is impossible. Indeed, if God were to always forgive and never punish, He would error in His justice. In this regard, the observation of the Father Master of Avila is pertinent: “If God would allow a person to take advantage of His mercy in order to more easily offend Him, such a patience would not be goodness, but a lack of justice.” God has to punish the ungrateful. He tolerates them up to a certain point, and then punishes them. …

“Be not deceived: God is not mocked” (Gal. 6:7). Actually, intending to continue to offend God and still hope to be with Him in Paradise would be to mock God. “For what things a man shall sow, those also shall he reap” (Gal 6:8). Whoever sows good works, will reap rewards; whoever sows sins, will reap chastisements. In Job is written: “Their hope is the abomination of the soul” (Job 11:20). Yes, the hope of those who sin thinking that God forgives them is abominable before God. This very hope causes a chastisement to fall over their heads sooner, like the boldness of a slave who lacks respect for his lord, abusing his goodness.

(St. Alfonso de Ligouri, O Caminho da Salvação e Perfeição,
Porto: Tipografia Fonseca, 1948, p. 26)

Posted Apruil 26, 2008

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