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Abuse of Divine Mercy


“Knowest thou not that the benignity of God leadeth thee to penance?”
Romans 2:4

FootpathThroughAWheatField(Weeds) read in the parable of the cockle [the weeds among the wheat], that the servants of the good man of the house, seeing that it had grown up in the field along with the wheat, wished to pluck it up. “Wilt thou,” said they, “that we go and gather it up?” (cf Matthew 13:28). No, replied the master; suffer it to grow up, and then it shall be gathered and cast into the fire. “In the time of the harvest, I will say to the reapers. Gather up first the cockle, and bind it in bundles to burn” (Matthew 13:30). In this parable we see, on the one hand, the patience with which the Lord treats sinners; and on the other, the rigor with which he chastises the obstinate. St. Augustine says that the devil deludes men in two ways–by despair and hope. After the sinner has offended God, the enemy, by placing before his eyes the terror of divine justice, tempts him to despair; but before he sins, the devil encourages him to sin with the hope of divine mercy. Hence the saint gives to all the following advice: After sin, hope for mercy; before sin, fear justice. He who abuses God's mercy to offend him, is undeserving of mercy. God shows mercy to those who fear him, but not to those who avail themselves of his mercy to banish the fear of God from their heart. Abulensis says that he who offends justice may have recourse to mercy; but to whom shall he have recourse, who offends mercy itself?

It is hard to find a sinner so sunk in despair as to wish for his own damnation. Sinners wish to sin, without losing the hope of salvation. They sin and say, “God is merciful; I will commit this sin, and will afterwards confess it.” They say, observes St. Augustine, “God is good; I will do what I please” (Tract xxxiii in Job). Behold the language of sinners; but, O God, such too was the language of so many who are now in hell. Say not, says the Lord, that the mercies of God are great; that however enormous your sins may be, you shall obtain pardon by an act of contrition. “And say not, The mercy of the Lord is great; he will have mercy on the multitude of my sins.” (Sirach 5:6). Say it not, says the Lord; and why? “For mercy and wrath quickly come from him, and his wrath looketh upon sinners” (Sirach 5:7). The mercy of God is infinite; but the acts of his mercy, or his mercies, are finite. God is merciful, but he is also just. “I am just and merciful,” said our Lord to St. Bridget; “but sinners regard me only as merciful.” St. Basil writes that sinners wish to consider God only as good and merciful. “Bonus est Dominus, sed etiam justus, nolimus Deum ex dimidia parte cogitare.” To bear with those who avail themselves of the mercy of God to offend him, would not, says Father M. Avila, be mercy, but a want of justice. Mercy is promised, not to those who abuse it, but to those who fear God. “And his mercy,” said the divine mother, “to those that fear him” (cf Luke 1:50). Against the obstinate, threats of just retribution have been pronounced; and, says St. Augustine, as God is not unfaithful to his promises, so he is not a liar in his threats. “Qui verus est in promittendo, verus est in minando.”

GerritVanHonthorstSaintPeterPenitentBeware, says St. John Chrysostom, when the devil, not God, promises you divine mercy, that he may induce you to commit sin. “Cave ne umquam canem ilium suspicias qui misericordiam Dei pollicetur” (Hom. i. ad Pop. Antioc). Never attend to that dog that promises you the mercy of God. Woe, says St. Augustine, to him who hopes in order to sin. “Sperat ut peccet: vae a perversa spe” (In Psalm 144 [145]). O, how many, says the saint, has this vain hope deluded and brought to perdition! “They who have been deceived by this shadow of vain hope cannot be numbered.” Miserable the man who abuses the mercy of God to offer new insults to his majesty! St. Bernard says that Lucifer's chastisement was accelerated, because he rebelled against God with the hope of escaping punishment. King Manasses sinned; he afterwards repented, and obtained pardon. His son Ammon, seeing that his father's sins were so easily forgiven, abandoned himself to a wicked life with the hope of pardon; but for Ammon there was no mercy. Hence St. John Chrysostom asserts that Judas was lost because he sinned through confidence in the benignity of Jesus Christ. “Fidit in lenitate Magistri.” In fine, God bears, but he does not bear forever. Were God to bear forever with sinners, no one should be damned; but the most common opinion is, that the greater part of adults, even among Christians, are lost. “Wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there are that go in thereat” (Matthew 7:13).

According to St. Augustine, he who offends God with the hope of pardon, “is a scoffer, not a penitent.” But St. Paul tells us that God does not allow himself to be mocked (Galatians 6:7). To continue to offend God as often and as long as the sinner pleases, and afterwards to gain heaven, should be to mock God. “For what things a man shall sow, those also shall he reap” (Galatians 6:8). He that sows sins, has no reason to hope for anything else than chastisement and hell. The net with which the devil drags to hell almost all Christians who are damned, is the delusion by which he leads them into sin with the hope of pardon. Sin freely, he says to them; for after all your iniquities, you shall be saved. But God curses the man that sins with the hope of mercy. “Maledictus homo qui peccat in spe.” The hope of sinners after sin is pleasing to God when it is accompanied with repentance; but the hope of the obstinate is an abomination to the Lord” (cf Job 11:18-20). As the conduct of a servant who insults his master because he is good and merciful, irritates the master, such hope provokes God to inflict vengeance.

Affections and Prayers

Ah, my God, I have been one of those who have offended thee because thou wert bountiful to me. Ah, Lord, wait for me, do not abandon me. I am sorry, O infinite Goodness, for having offended thee, and for having so much abused thy patience. I thank thee for having waited for me till now. Henceforth I will never more betray thee, as I have hitherto done. Thou hast borne with me so long, that thou mightst one day see me a lover of thy goodness. Behold, this day has, I hope, arrived; I love thee above all things, and esteem thy grace more than all the kingdoms of this world: rather than lose it, I am ready to forfeit life a thousand times. My God, for the love of Jesus Christ, give me holy perseverance till death, along with thy holy love. Do not permit me ever again to betray thee, or to cease to love thee. Mary, thou art my hope: obtain for me this gift of perseverance, and I ask nothing more.

Editor’s Note: This meditation is from St. Alphonsus Liguori’s “Preparation for Death” (1758).

Art: Footpath through a wheat field. The farmer has left a clear path through the crop but the weeds have taken advantage of the open space…, Pauline Eccles, 2 August 2008, CC-SA; Saint Peter Penitent, Gerrit (Gerard) von Honthorst, around 1618, PD-US, Wikimedia Commons.

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About Dan Burke

Dan is the President of the Avila Foundation, the parent organization of, the Avila Institute for Spiritual Formation, Divine Intimacy Radio and Divine Intimacy Radio - Resources Edition, Into the Deep Parish Programs, the Apostoli Viae (Apostles of the Way) Community, and the FireLight Student Leadership Formation Program, author of the award-winning book, Navigating the Interior Life - Spiritual Direction and the Journey to God, Finding God Through Meditation-St. Peter of Alcantara, 30 Days with Teresa of Avila, Into the Deep, Living the Mystery of Merciful Love: 30 Days with Thérèse of Lisieux, and his newest book The Contemplative Rosary with St. John Paul II and St. Teresa of Avila. Beyond his "contagious" love for Jesus and His Church, he is a grateful husband and father of four, the Executive Director of and writer for EWTN's National Catholic Register, a regular co-host on Register Radio, a writer and speaker who provides online spiritual formation and travels to share his conversion story and the great riches that the Church provides us through authentic Catholic spirituality. Dan has been featured on EWTN's Journey Home program and numerous radio programs.

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  • Patricia

    Today’s posting is very important! Perhaps we should print it and reread it every day. Some may say, well, that is “outdated” now. Christ has revealed Himself and His Divine Mercy to St. Faustina and He offer His great mercy to all. This is true, but read below to see the context of His mercy. It is as we read in today’s posting!

    The Divine Mercy and the Second Coming

    Why would Christ emphasize in our time a doctrine, the Divine Mercy, which has been part of the patrimony of the Faith from the beginning, as well as request new devotional and liturgical expressions of it? In His revelations to St. Faustina Jesus answers this question, connecting it to another doctrine, also sometimes little emphasized, that of His Second Coming. In the Gospel the Lord shows us that His first coming was in humility, as a Servant, to free the world from sin. Yet, He promises to return in glory to judge the world on love, as He makes clear in his discourses on the Kingdom in Matthew chapters 13 and 25. In between these Comings we have the end times or era of the Church, in which the Church ministers reconciliation to the world until the great and terrible Day of the Lord, the Day of Justice. Every Catholic should be familiar with the teaching of the Church on this matter, contained in paragraphs 668 to 679 of the Catechism of the Catholic Church. Only in the context of public revelation as taught by the Magisterium can we situate the words of private revelation given to Sr. Faustina.
    You will prepare the world for My final coming. (Diary429)

    Additional citations: (Diary848) (Diary 965). (Diary 1160) (Diary 1588) (Diary 1146). (Diary635).

    It is clear that, like the message of Fátima, the urgency here is the urgency of the Gospel, “repent and believe.” The exact timing is the Lord’s. However, it is also clear that we have reached some critical phase of the end times that began with the birth of the Church. To this fact Pope John Paul II alluded at the consecration in 1981 of the Shrine of Merciful Love in Collevalenaza, Italy, when he noted the “special task” assigned to him by God “in the present situation of man, the Church and the world.” In His Encyclical on the Father he urges us “to implore God’s mercy for humanity in this hour of history … to beg for it at this difficult, critical phase of the history of the Church and of the world as we approach the end of the second millennium.” (Rich in Mercy 15)

    From Diary, Saint Maria Faustina Kowalska, Divine Mercy in My Soul (c) 1987 Congregation of Marians of the Immaculate Conception, Stockbridge, MA 01263. All rights reserved. Used with permission.

  • Mark Dohle

    This kind of thinking only hurts those who are struggling…….we understand wrath, torture, so called justice, it is hard to understand mercy. Those who don’t care are not affected by this kind of post, those who struggle and fail often may in fact be driven to despair. Catholic guilt at work again. Read again how the Father greeted the prodigal son, he was not sorry, he wanted food and shelter, yet the Father embraced him……

    • Mark – thank you for your honest comments. I would also recommend you join us for this webinar. When desolation follows truth, it is important to understand where it is coming from. The answer is not to avoid the truth, but to be made alive by it. Here’s the link – hope you can join us:

      • BTW – Review Matthew 7 – also Jesus teaching. If the teaching doesn’t bring you peace or compel us to deeper devotion rather than despair, it is very important to understand why… blessings on you.

    • Patricia

      The Parable of the Prodigal Son could really be called the Parable of the Merciful Father. It is the third in a series of parables told by Jesus..the first two being the Patable of the Lost Sheep and the Parable of the Lost Coin…..the point is that if we lose something…. a sheep, a coin, a son, we Realize it is missing and desire to have it back… find what Is lost. The Father, because He loves each of us like His very own child, is always looking for us to come back to Him.
      The son came back when he was destitute without what His Father does for/ gives to Him. He realized he was wrong, although he had imperfect contrition, he came back out of need.”I shall get up and go to my father and I shall say to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you.” He realized his sin (anything that takes us away from Our Father’s house is a sin), and voluntarily came back. The Father was watching and waiting for him to return. He had not sent out a search party to bring him home, but rejoiced when he wanted to come home and he did return, after realizing his sin.
      This parable is a story with a happy ending, because we are told that if we realize our sin, turn back to out Heavenly Father, we will be greeted with rejoicing. The son would have been in despair if he said to himself, “I’ve really thrown my whole inheritance away, there is nothing left, and I have nowhere to go. I give up and fall I to despair because I can never be restored to my father’s graces. ” The next step after throwing it all away is to go back!

      • GregB

        To me the Parable of the Prodigal Son is also about the steadfastness of the father’s mercy. Demonstrating this was the part that the older brother played. In the parable of the Prodigal Son the only person who is standing by the Prodigal Son in his moment of need is his father. This means that the father’s mercy, once given, will not be withdrawn, even in the face of the grumbling of the righteous(the older brother).
        To be fair to the older brother, he is pretty much out of the loop through out most of the story. Nobody thought to summon him when he was out in the field. He hears about his brother’s return from a servant. The older brother is truly late to the party. In reading the parable there is nothing said that would indicate that the older brother knew anything about the younger brother having confessed and having made an offer of penance to the father. The father’s pleadings end the parable. The parable is open ended as to what the response of the older brother was to the father’s ending plea.
        I wish I knew more about the Jewish family customs of the era. I wonder if there is anything about Jewish family customs that would alter my take on the parable.

        • Patricia

          It is a valuable insight when you write about the older brother being out of the loop and not knowing about his younger brother. It make the point that God deals with us individually….He knows our heart. That is why we can’t judge..we don’t know all the circumstances and conditions of the mind, heart, and soul. And He forgives and doesn’t take it back. He is the perfect Father.

  • Utelene Nugent

    The Christian Life without discipline, renders Mercy, just another commodity to be used at our convenience, which makes a mockery of the redemptive work of Christ.

    • Very well said Utelene! Good to see you commenting again.

  • Joan

    It is hard to understand mercy and I am always amazed at the mercy I receive from Our Lord through the words of my priest in confession. He tells me not to be too hard on myself so he seems to understand the anxiety I feel about my sins. It is easy to become discouraged and like Mark I love the hopeful parable of the prodigal son although the son did say “I have sinned against heaven and against you father”.

  • Jeanette

    I was astounded once when I heard a fellow Catholic say to someone else that she wanted to do just what is minimal in her spiritual life so she could get into purgatory. I believe this type of thinking is an abuse of God’s Divine Mercy. O how this must offend God when people think this way!

    • LizEst

      …and not only abuse of God’s Divine Mercy but very dangerous presumption. God bless you, Jeanette! Thanks for sharing!

    • Jim H.

      This is pre-Vatican 2 thinking. We are now called to be holy – every one of us universally called.

      • Jeanette

        Yes, we are called to be Saints: “Be perfect, just as your Heavenly Father is perfect.”

    • disqus_W8X6VR1yyA

      Not only is it presumption as you said, it’s a complete misunderstanding on just how BAD purgatory really is.

  • DianeVa

    I believe one of the most common examples of the abuse of divine mercy is in not attending Mass. Many Catholics and Christians believe that attending Mass or services is optional and if one misses God forgives them and will not hold it against them. The first 3 Commandments tell us to Love God with all our heart, do not have idols and keep holy the sabbath. A clear abuse of God’s covenant and His immense love and mercy for His children.

  • Patricia

    “Let the greatest sinners place their trust in My mercy. They have the right before others to trust in the abyss of My mercy. My daughter, write about My mercy towards tormented souls. Souls that make an appeal to My mercy delight Me. To such souls I grant even more graces than they ask. I cannot punish even the greatest sinner if he makes an appeal to My compassion, but on the contrary, I justify him in My unfathomable and inscrutable mercy. Write: before I come as a just judge, I first open wide the door of My mercy…….

    He who refuses to pass through the door of My mercy must pass through the door of My justice…” (1146)
    “Today the Lord said to me, Daughter, when you go to confession, to this fountain of My mercy, the Blood and Water which came forth from My heart always flows down upon your soul and ennobles it. Every time you go to confession, immerse yourself entirely in My mercy, with great trust, so that I may pour the bounty of My grace upon your soul. When you approach the confessional, know this, that I Myself am waiting there for you. I am only hidden by the priest, but I myself act in your soul. Here the misery of the soul meets the God of mercy. (1602)

  • Jim H.

    Mercy is for the repentant, not the presumptuous. Jesus says this over and over.

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