15 December 2015

Homily at the Opening of the Holy Door (1)

"How much wrong we do to God and his grace when we speak of sins being punished by his judgement before we speak of them being forgiven by his mercy". This statement of our Holy Father Pope Francis, with which I have no disagreement whatsoever, is followed by a suggestion that we should go and look at S Augustine's De Praedestinatione Sanctorum XII 24.

Obedient to our beloved Holy Father's lightest suggestion, I duly turned up that locus in S Augustine of Hippo. And I am left a trifle bewildered. It is a discussion of the views of people who, in S Augustine's time, debated the very different destiny of those babies who died without Baptism, and those who died baptised. There were, apparently, those who argued that babies who died baptised went to heaven because God knew that, if they had lived, they would have lived well; the unbaptised went to a different fate because God knew that if they had lived they would have deserved condemnation. I've never met anybody who discussed that ... might it be a common discussion point amongst those subtle chaps the Argentinian Jesuits? ... and I can't see its relevance to the Jubilee Year of Mercy. And does the Holy Father really believe that unbaptised babies go to Hell? Even during a Year of Mercy? An unusual idea to grandstand.

I did notice a nearby passage (VI 11) in which S Augustine brings up and juxtaposes both Mercy and Judgement as he discusses the different fates of those Jews who refused the Gospel and those Jews, rather fewer, who accepted it. His discussion is based upon a careful exegesis of Romans 11:5-10. S Augustine concludes: "Here is Mercy and Judgement ... Mercy towards the Election [= those Jews who, chosen by God, accepted the Gospel] which has obtained the Righteousness of God; but Judgement to the rest [unbelieving Jews] who have been blinded". "Blinded" is a theme S Paul had deployed earlier in his life when he discussed Jewish unbelief in II Corinthians 2: 7-18; and the idea that those who rejected the Gospel have been deliberately blinded by God so that "seeing they might not see ... lest they turn and receive forgiveness", on the biblical evidence, arguably goes back to the teaching of the Lord himself as reported at Mark 4: 11-12.

Could this be the teaching of S Augustine which the Sovereign Pontiff had in mind?

What a bold Pope. Not many modern Pontiffs choose to address the philosophical and theological problems of Predestination. Nor do I often preach about it. Perhaps another Holy Year after the present one? A Jubilee Year of Predestination? With special indulgences for Calvinists? It could be celebrated with a double Holy Door; one entry for those predestined to Heaven, the other for those predestined to Hell. Confessarii specially commissioned by the Roman Pontiff could be there to tell everybody which category they were in. I bet that would get the crowds flocking along!! Wow!

13 comments:

Timothy Graham said...

A logo suggestion for the Year of Predestination: a tulip surmounted by a man with a long pointy beard in the lotus position, wearing a Geneva preaching gown.

Amateur Brain Surgeon said...

Were any Catholic man to one who enjoyed an occasional wager, he could make one with a friend like this:

"Sean, I'll bet you a bottle of Jameson that we will not hear Luke 19:27 either read or discussed at Mass in the next three years."

mark wauck said...

Perhaps our Beloved Holy Father's remarks should be interpreted in light of his famous injunction to young people: ¡Hagan lío! "Make a mess!"

Liam Ronan said...

I vaguely recall theological discourses on positive (heretical) and negative 'reprobation' in respect of predestination, God's Mercy, and His Justice.

In any event, as the Proverb states:

"The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom: and the knowledge of the holy is understanding."

Ma Tucker said...

I don't understand Pope Francis. You can't talk about mercy without there being an object of mercy identified. The object of mercy is the thing judged to be worthy of punishment. So judgment must come before mercy. It is senseless to talk about mercy first because mercy follows from a recognition of a judgment worthy of punishment. You have to have something to be merciful about don't you?

Liam Ronan said...

If you will indulge me just once more, Father, I should wish to offer a thought of mine insofar as the non-evangelization of the Jews is concerned.

If the Jews are not to be evangelized and thus run the individual risk of damnation for all eternity, who ultimately will have worked the gravest harm to the Jewish race: he who ended their temporal lives in the ovens of National Socialism or he who would risk consigning their eternity to the fires of Hell?

Just a thought.

Nicolas Bellord said...

It seems to me that the problem is that mercy means a great many different things or rather it can be manifested in many different ways. Is not mercy one of the ways in which God shows his love? Likewise we can show mercy to others as in the works of mercy, corporal and spiritual, that is to say in many different ways and those different ways surely require different methodologies guided by prudence etc. But justice is also a manifestation of God's love and something we should accord to others. In the case of justice for sinners as Ma Tucker has said justice must precede mercy as if someone has been judged not to have sinned there is no need for mercy. To make a generalised statement that mercy always precedes justice is therefore somewhat sloppy and can mislead.

Sue Sims said...

ABS, you are, of course, quite correct. However, you're probably unnecessarily concerned: the Jesus Seminar has voted to exclude the verse from the authentic sayings of [nice fluffy liberal] Jesus,so obviously there's no need to read it at all, let alone preach on it. [That was irony, just in case anyone's just about to send me to the stake.]

Rose Marie said...

I have to agree with Nicolas Bellord's analysis that judgement must precede mercy. To say otherwise is not only nonsensical but another attempt to just erase recognition of sin from our consciousness. I find all the mercy talk most disconcerting, especially as it is mixed in with proposals to allow, overlook, accommodate, or find positive elements in such sinful states as adultery and homosexual "commitments." In other words, I don't like the company that mercy seems to be keeping.

The Saint Bede Studio said...

Might it be possible that the virtue of compassion and the concept of mercy are being confused amidst the blast of the Jubilee Trumpet?

Nicolas Bellord said...

I think of the Casa da Misericordia (House of Mercy) founded by Queen Leonora of Portugal modelled on a similar idea in Florence. Their first activity was to accompany condemned men to the place of execution, to ensure that their execution was not too inhumane and to bury them properly afterwards - judgement and mercy. Later, that apostle of the enlightenment, the Marquis of Pombal held such gruesome executions that the population became disgusted and Portugal was the first country in Europe to abolish capital punishment in 1846.

Grumpy Beggar said...

Ma Tucker, Nicolas Bellord and Rose Marie, are spot on . St. Thomas Aquinas adds a degree of definitive clarity to the correlation between justice and mercy by use of a word other than “precedes”, when he tells us: Mercy does not negate or deny justice – mercy presupposes justice.

That being said , once we do acknowledge our sins and seek God’s loving forgiveness-calling upon His Mercy , apparently not even the sky is the limit – according to the words of our Blessed Lord to St. Faustina Kowalska [Diary # 699] :
“My mercy is so great that no mind, be it of man or of angel, will be able to fathom it throughout all eternity.”

In my limited opinion, this idea of unbaptised babies going to Hell really does appear to be not as much a declaration of predestination as it does one of predamnation (that is an actual word according to Oxford Dictionaries Padre – so I believe myself to still be safely treading in the {P}-free zone).

If internet acronyms remain permissible , I’d like you to know that “Perhaps another Holy Year after the present one?”, elicited a protracted “LOL” from this end. Yet, when contrasted against those words of our Lord to St. Faustina , one more year seems hardly enough considering we won’t entirely figure it out throughout “all eternity”.

That same excerpt [# 699] from St. Faustina’s Diary concludes with a statement from our Blessed Lord which makes me wonder whether I might be better off (conseding oh darn it – where’s the eraser?) conceding the benefit of the doubt to Pope Francis on this one . Though the definition of the voyage may be presently churning out a somewhat garbled itinerary, the ship’s bearings do appear to be on course:

“Mankind will not have peace until it turns to the Fount of My Mercy.”

Hmmm . . .

Rose Marie said...

I really should have given first credit for "judgement precedes mercy" to Ma Tucker, also referenced by NB.