Happy Low Sunday or Divine Mercy Sunday! The anime Erased has got me thinking about the topic of salvation, as you know from my last article on the show. In the finale, Yashiro was given a final chance of salvation by Satoru on the hospital roof: the statute of limitations had expired on Yashiro’s attempted murders. He could have continued his ordinary and law-abiding life because Satoru had prevented his evil deeds. Yet, Yashiro could not give up his evil obsession and was caught in the very trap he set: “They have prepared a net for my steps; my soul is bowed down; they dug a pit for me; they themselves have fallen into the midst of it” (Psalms 57:6). Like the reprobate soul I described in the past article, Yashiro pursued his own destruction despite all the help Satoru gave him. (After all, if Socrates’ dictum that the one doing harm is harmed more than the one harmed is true, Yashiro himself received more benefit from Satoru’s acts than the children Satoru saved!) Yashiro refused to be deterred from sin and must now repent of it.
This brought to mind that there are two ways in which we are saved from sin: by prevention and by rescue, as it were. This solves the problem some Protestants have with the Catholic doctrines of the Immaculate Conception and Mary being preserved from all actual sin as well. (I’ll mention here that the early Protestant reformers Calvin, Luther, and Zwingli also believed in those Marian doctrines.) They contend that if Mary were preserved from all sin from conception, then she would not need Christ’s redemptive sacrifice and salvation which flows from it. Yet, Our Lord’s sacrifice was applied retroactively to Mary such that she was saved from sin in a more excellent way than any other person. God preserved her first from original sin and concupiscence and then from any other sin through the foreseen merits of Christ. Our Lord’s grace went before St. Mary and she always perfectly corresponded with it. Far from thinking that she did not need God’s salvation, Our Lady’s gratitude toward God for the inestimable favor granted her is more perfect than and exceeds the gratitude of all the other saints combined.
The rest of us must be saved from original sin, the sins we have committed, the sins we commit daily, and the sins we may commit in the future, i.e. we must be both rescued from sin and prevented from sinning. We rightly thank God for the superabundant mercy He has shown in forgiving our sins, but we should also thank God for saving us from the many and possibly horrific sins we might have done. St. Philip Neri one day saw some convicts led to the gallows and exclaimed: “There goes Philip Neri but for the grace of God!” We can think about this form of salvation more clearly when we consider how many times we have foolishly placed ourselves in the near occasions of sin but came out unscathed. How we deserved to fall and forfeit the grace of God! Yet, God, in His unfathomable mercy which extends even to the ungrateful and to the wicked, has preserved us from the guilt and sin our presumption merited!
We may hate Yashiro or be disgusted by him. But, if we examine our lives and our all too clear inclination to sin, I think we too might say, as we see Yashiro dragged off by the police: “There would I go but for the grace of God!”