Erased and the Two Forms of Salvation

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.

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Easter and Divine Mercy Sunday Approaching

We celebrated Laetare Sunday this week, laetare being the Latin word “to rejoice.” Similar to Gaudete Sunday of Advent, we rejoiced that the Lenten season was coming to a close.  We have about three week to go until Easter (March 27).  A week afterwards, we shall celebrate the still lesser known Feast of Divine Mercy or Divine Mercy Sunday.  In the ancient days of the Church, the newly baptized would wear their white baptismal robes for a week after Easter and finally doff them on the Sunday following Easter.  This custom eventually fell into disuse, but, through a series of visions to St. Faustina Kowalska of Poland, Our Lord restored the significance of the day, desiring it to be a feast day dedicated to the Mercy of God.  He also gave St. Faustina a new icon to recall His Mercy, which displays the blood and water which poured from Christ’s side as beams of red and white light:

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The original icon St. Faustina directed an artist to paint.

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Two Small Spiritual Books

A couple of days from the Feast of Divine Mercy appears apropos for writing a couple of reviews on spiritual books, which I distinguish from theological works by their focus on devotion rather than discerning doctrinal truths.  Don’t forget to obtain a plenary indulgence this Sunday!  (It’s not often that I get a chance to link back to the third post I ever wrote.)  After all, the more mercy we receive from God the more our confidence in God and generosity to others grows.  The less mercy we obtain, the less time we spend in prayer and the fewer our occasions of receiving the sacraments–especially the Sacrament of Reconciliation, the less confidence we place in God.  I have come across a few people who claim that they cannot enter a Church lest it burn down!  I know that they jested, but it does reveal a lack of confidence if nothing else!  Instead of being struck dumbfounded on these occasions, would that I had told them that their sins were the only things which would burn up upon entering a Church!

Divine Mercy

But, the spirit of confidence in God’s mercy imbues both St. Alphonsus de Liguori’s How to Converse with God and St. Francis de Sales’ The Art of Loving God.  De Sales wrote during the Counter-Reformation, while de Liguori wrote during the 18th century; but, de Liguori’s works have the savor of the Counter-Reformation, especially Prayer: the Great Means of Salvation and of Perfection.  Unlike the aforementioned book and St. Francis’ masterpiece, A Treatise on the Love of God, the two books in question are both very short.  De Liguori’s book is the size of a Lenten devotional one might pick up from church.  De Sales’ The Art of Loving God fits easily into a jacket pocket.

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Plenary Indulgence This Sunday!

This is a last reminder that this Sunday, Divine Mercy Sunday, offers the Faithful a chance to gain a plenary indulgence.  The conditions are described as follows:

The plenary indulgence is granted (under the usual conditions of a sacramental confession, Eucharistic communion and a prayer for the intentions of the Supreme Pontiff) to the faithful who, on Divine Mercy Sunday, in a spirit that is completely detached from the affection for a sin, even a venial sin, recite the Our Father and the Creed, and also adding a devout prayer (e.g. Merciful Jesus, I trust in you!).

So, go to confession this Saturday or that Sunday if your Church offers it then, receive communion, have a strong resolution to turn from sin, pray the Our Father, the Apostles’ Creed, and “Jesus, I trust in you.”  Should you die immediately after that, you’ll go straight to heaven without a moment of Purgatory.

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How many of my dear readers balked at this bold assertion?  A villain becomes a saint in the space of one or two days?  And quite painlessly?  No, they should have to suffer more!  Forgiveness should be more difficult!  But, we are forgetting the Parable of the Workers in the Vineyard, where those who worked one hour are given the same reward as those who bore the day and the heat.

We forget one more thing: mercy is unearned.  At least, mercy was not earned by us.  It was earned by Jesus Christ for all that would receive His mercy.  Either through the instrument of His Church or without the instrumentality of His Church, Our Lord can apply mercy to whomever He wishes.  Our very willingness to receive mercy, our tenderness of heart, is something Jesus Christ earned for us.  Therefore, we have no right to be like the Prophet Jonah and sulk because Our Lord shows mercy in a manner which doesn’t meet with our human values.

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But, we are so quick to doubt God’s Mercy and Love for us!  In the Parable of the Prodigal Son, the Father does not have the wayward son weep for a week outside of his door and fast on bread and water before taking him into His house.  Rather, He does so immediately.  To use an example from the life of St. Gertrude, she once wished to gain a plenary indulgence, but illness or business kept her from being able to obtain it.  The Lord asked her if she wished to have it, to which she responded yes.  After the Lord’s blessing, she doubted the very purity which she felt in her soul.  Knowing her doubts, Our Lord recalled to her that the sun can bleach dyed cloth to a pure white.  Our Lord said to her: “If I have given such power to a creature, how much more can I purify souls?”

And so, let us allow the Lord to shine down as much mercy as He wishes upon us two days from now on Divine Mercy Sunday.

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The Triduum, Easter, and Divine Mercy Sunday

Well, my dear readers, we have come to the most important time of the year: the time when God’s mercy is celebrated far and wide.  Tomorrow, we recall the painful suffering Our Lord endured for our salvation.  Holy Saturday recalls His descent into hell so that the fruits of His Passion might be poured upon all the dead including Adam and Eve.  How can one neglect the eagerness with which Our Lord must have rushed to Adam’s side to proclaim to him that all was forgiven?  The second reading from the Holy Saturday Office of Readings makes for an edifying read.  In my own case, I am not sure whether anything more profound has been said of God’s mercy outside of the Scriptures.  Indeed, the Magnificence and Magnanimity of God toward us who are burdened by our sins, failings, and the thought that heavy punishment awaits us makes the heart rejoice!

Harrowing of Hell

The one Our Lord is lifting up is Adam and Eve is on his left.

One of the terrible things about this life is that we are constantly tempted to doubt God’s goodness.  There is evil in the world; we suffer evil done to ourselves; and we suffer through evil done by ourselves.  We barely make the slightest progress to amend our wicked ways and often find ourselves becoming worse.  We shout with St. Paul: “O wretched man that I am!  Who shall deliver me from this body of death?” (Romans 7:24)  We see our sins reflected in the wounds of Christ.  These wounds reflect Our Savior’s undying love for us, but how often does our wickedness crush our souls such that we are tempted to say with St. Peter: “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord” (Luke 5:8).

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But, God does not want to leave us.  When Peter first said that to Christ, Christ responded: “Fear not: from henceforth thou shalt catch men.”  Then, after Peter could not keep his eyes open to comfort our Lord in His agony in the garden, after Peter denied Him three times, and after Peter avoided Him during His three hours of agony on the cross, Jesus Christ says to St. Peter and the rest of the disciples:

36 …”Peace be to you; it is I, fear not.”

37  But they being troubled and frightened, supposed that they saw a spirit.

38  And He said to them: “Why are you troubled, and why do thoughts arise in your hearts?

39  “See my hands and feet, that it is I myself; handle and see: for a spirit hath not flesh and bones, as you see me to have.” (Luke 24)

St. Thomas the Apostle and Our Lord

This is as if to Our Lord is saying: “Be at peace and don’t fear to come to me.  I have really taken your nature upon myself and endured the agony of the cross to bind you to me forever.  Look upon my wounds!  Touch these wounds which I boast of because they redeemed you.  I did not come to condemn you.  I am not angry with you.  Do not be slow to believe that God is Love.  On that painful cross, mercy triumphed over justice so that I can show mercy to whoever comes to me.”

But, God’s mercy did not stop with forgiving us and saving us from eternal death.  He raised humanity above the angels and promised us a glorified body like the one in which He rose on Easter Sunday.  And by the indwelling of His grace, we can come to imitate His divine perfections and His most divine life.  All the above is accomplished through God’s grace.  The sole thing God asks from us is a good will, which He Himself grants and strengthens, to correspond with these graces.

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And yet, we are sometimes more willing to suffer for our sins than receive mercy for them.  When life turns difficult, we get the impression that God is punishing us for our sins–how do we know that we suffered X, Y, and Z because of our sins?  Such thoughts only impress upon us the idea that God is a wrathful judge!  Jesus Christ did not undergo the crucifixion so that He can be wrathful, but so that he can show mercy in super-abundance.

Hence, I should like to remind my Catholic readers that, besides our Easter duty to confess if we have committed a mortal sin in the past year and to receive Holy Communion at least once during Lent, we ought to gain a plenary indulgence on Divine Mercy Sunday (April 27).  This is how Our Lord’s revelation to St. Faustina describes it:

Ask of my faithful servant [Father Sopocko] that, on this day, he will tell the world of My great mercy; that whoever approaches the Fount of Life on this day will be granted complete remission of sins and punishment.

Mankind will not have peace until it turns with trust to my mercy.

Oh, how much I am hurt by a soul’s distrust!  Such  a soul professes that I am Holy and Just, but does not believe that I am Mercy and does not trust in My Goodness.  Even the devils glorify my Justice but do not believe in My Goodness.  My heart rejoices in this title of Mercy.  (Divine Mercy in My Soul, paragraph 300)

Divine Mercy Vilnius

These are the instructions for the indulgence:

The plenary indulgence is granted (under the usual conditions of a sacramental confession, Eucharistic communion and a prayer for the intentions of the Supreme Pontiff) to the faithful who, on Divine Mercy Sunday, in a spirit that is completely detached from the affection for a sin, even a venial sin, recite the Our Father and the Creed, and also adding a devout prayer (e.g. Merciful Jesus, I trust in you!).

So, go to confession again on Saturday, April 26th, and follow the rest of the instructions.  What do you have to lose?  Don’t say to yourself: “It sounds like cheating.  I deserve to be punished for my sins.”  Such hardness of heart!  Do you think that God prefers seeing you suffer for your sins over seeing you as clean as new fallen snow?  That He rejoices in your pain?  Of course not!  Rather, He would much rather bring you straight into heaven without judgment!  So, focus on God’s Mercy this Easter and celebrate the Feast of Divine Mercy in all its fullness.