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The Ease of Mercy & the Difficulty of Virtue

June 10, 2014 by  
Filed under Book Club, Sarah Reinhard

Ease of Mercy and the Difficulty of Virtue

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The Sinner’s Guide (Week 10 of 16)

Reflect on this. Men act freely when they sin, for no man is forced to do wrong. But when they have fallen they cannot rise without the divine assistance. Now, God owes this to no man. It is His gratuitous gift when He restores the sinner to His favor. Hence He but exercises His justice when He permits him to remain in his misery, and even to fall lower.

The Sinner's Guide (Chapter 26, Paragraph 17)

I don't deserve it. I can repeat this over and over to myself in a downward spiral. Though it does me no good, there's a temptation to forget all about that which I cannot understand, which makes no sense, which overwhelms me in an instant: mercy.

How could anyone love a wretch like me? The old hymn echoes within me, and yet I find I can take it too far. I forget about Him and embrace, instead, my own failings and sin.

There, in the front of the sanctuary, is the reminder, His arms spread wide.

The principal cause of this illusion is that we only regard the obstacles to virtue, and do not consider the grace which God gives us to overcome these obstacles.

Rather, let your prayer be, with St. Augustine, “Give me grace, Lord, to do what Thou commandest, and command what Thou pleasest.” (Conf. L.10,31). This prayer will always be answered, for God is ever ready to cooperate with man in doing good. God is the principal cause, man is the secondary. God aids man, as a painter aids a pupil whose hand he guides, that he may produce a perfect work. Both concur in the labor, but equal honor is not due to both. Thus does God deal with man, without prejudice to his free will. When the work, therefore, is accomplished, he glorifies God, and not himself, saying with the prophet, “Thou, Lord, hast wrought all our works for us.” (Is. 26:12).

The Sinner's Guide (Chapter 27, Paragraphs 3 and 12)

If I'm not careful, I look right past the fact that Jesus is waiting to embrace me. I completely overlook that He's got this. If I will just let go–of my sin, of my attachment, of the things between us–He will cover me with His mercy, with more than enough grace.

God's a gentleman, as my priest reminds me. He knocks, he waits patiently, he respects a “no.” St. Augustine's prayer, then, becomes a sort of lifeline to keep me connected and on the right path. It's the formula for taking baby steps toward cooperating with the grace He's sending.

The virtue looks so unattainable. It's behind high walls and far, far away. It seems like I have to do the impossible to get there. But what I'm forgetting is that I don't go alone.

He is there with me. God has more grace than I have obstacles.

Reading Assignment:

Chapters 28-29

Discussion Questions:

1. When and how have you experienced the gift of God's mercy?

2. Have you cooperated with grace and overcome obstacles to virtue? How did that change your relationship to God?

Feel free to comment on anything from our assignment this past week!

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About Sarah Reinhard

Sarah Reinhard continues to delight ”and be challenged by” her vocations of Catholic wife and mother. She's online at and is the author of a number of books for families.

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