We are on the eve of the Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy, which begins next Tuesday, December 8th on the Feast of the Immaculate Conception. It is my pray that many who have been away from the Catholic Church will find their way back into communion.
The Holy Father Pope Francis writes in his papal bull Misericordiae Vultus, “Jesus Christ is the face of the Father’s mercy. These words might well sum up the mystery of the Christian faith. Mercy has become living and visible in Jesus of Nazareth, reaching its culmination in him.”
This makes me think of Jesus’ words to the woman caught in adultery in the eighth chapter of the Gospel according to Saint John, “Then Jesus said, ‘Neither do I condemn you. Go, and from now on do not sin any more.” (John 8:11). Yes, Jesus has forgiven the woman’s sin, but remember his final words of admonition, “Go, and from now on do not sin any more.” That right there is mercy. John 8:11 shows me that Jesus is not condemning the woman, but rather he is condemning her adulterous behavior.
This brings me to recall a quote that is attributed to Saint Augustine of Hippo, one of the Catholic Church’s brightest saints. In his Letter 211 (c. 424) the phrase “Cum dilectione hominum et odio vitiorum” can be found. It roughly translates into English as meaning “Love the sinner and hate the sin” or “With love for mankind and hatred of sins (vices).”
So as Catholics we are not called to judge the soul of another, however we are allowed to judge actions. Think about it like this.
If you’re shopping with your child at the supermarket; and he takes a handful of candy from the barrel of candy & puts it in his pocket without telling you. This is called stealing. When you find out that your son stole the candy, it would be natural to admonish him for stealing and to explain to him that we should not take what does not belong to us without paying for it or asking first if we can have it. You would still love your son unconditionally, even though you may ask him to give back the candy.
No matter how you look at it; stealing is a wrong action, which is judged accordingly. This may be a silly example, but it can be applied to all of the sins that we as humans commit. God wants to forgive us, but he also wants us to come to him with an open heart ready to ask for forgiveness and mercy.
I hope those of you that have been away from the Church or just lukewarm Catholics make it a point to come back to the Faith. Remember the parable of the Prodigal Son. Your Heavenly Father will be there to welcome you back with open arms. God bless you all during this Year of Mercy and always.