I am a Hypocrite (Presumption and the Importance of Penitence)
I am a hypocrite.
This is true. I cannot get around it. I fall countless times a day. I fail at my commitments constantly. My need for God’s forgiveness increases with every moment. I have not earned Heaven, nor am I guaranteed it if I remain in sin. I am a sinner and I need God’s mercy more than my next breath!
Why do I say this? It is because it is something that I have to remind myself of constantly. I wish to echo St. Paul who says that “if I must boast, I will boast of the things that show my weakness (2 Cor. 11:30). Though I recognize that I am a sinner, ever since this past Divine Mercy Sunday, I have been drawn back to the question, “Am I presumptuous of God’s gracious mercy for me?” The answer for me is oftentimes “yes”.
This attitude toward’s God’s mercy is known as the sin of presumption. It is where we presume to believe that God’s mercy is ours for the taking. It is, in essence, connected with the sin of our first parents; believing that we can sit on the judgment seat over our lives, and usurp the throne of God.
“There are two kinds of presumption. Either man presumes upon his own capacities, (hoping to be able to save himself without help from on high), or he presumes upon God’s almighty power or his mercy (hoping to obtain his forgiveness without conversion and glory without merit).” (Catechism of the Catholic Church 2092)
This mindset can happen very easily for us. We can tell ourselves that, “God will totally forgive me if I _________, therefore I’ll just do it because He is merciful.” This attitude can be very subtle, yet it has the ability, if left unconquered, to lead us into eternal perdition.
The journey to Hell begins with one step…
In St. Alphonsus Ligouri’s “Preparation for Death”, he speaks of the delusions which the Devil suggests to the minds of sinners. One of them is the presumption that even if we sin, we can just hop over to confessional and God’s hand will be forced to forgive us. St. Alphonsus lays the hammer to this mindset saying:
Tell me, if you had a jewel worth a thousand crowns, would you throw it into a river, saying I will make a diligent search for it, and hope to find it? You hold in your hand the precious jewel of your soul, which Jesus Christ has purchased with his blood, and you voluntarily cast it into hell (for in punishment of every mortal sin, you are condemned to eternal fire), and say; I hope to recover it by a good confession. But should you not recover it, what will be the consequence? To recover the divine grace, true repentance, which is the gift of God, is necessary. Should God not give you the grace of repentance; should death overtake you, and not allow you time to go to confession, what will become of you?
Presumption of God’s mercy is known traditionally as a “sin (or blasphemy) against the Holy Spirit”. In all three of the synoptic Gospels we read that, “‘whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit never has forgiveness, but is guilty of an eternal sin.” (Mk. 3:29; Mt. 12:32; Lk. 12:10). Why is presumption unforgivable? St. Alphonsus again explains:
God pardons sin; but he cannot pardon the will or the determination to sin. St Augustine says, that he who sins with the intention of afterward repenting, is not a penitent, but a mocker of God’s majesty. But the Apostle tells as that God does not allow himself to be mocked. Be not deceived. God is not mocked (Gal. 5:7). It would be a mockery of God to insult him as often and as much as you please, and afterward to expect heaven.
The Catechism tells us that, “there are no limits to the mercy of God, but anyone who deliberately refuses to accept his mercy by repenting, rejects the forgiveness of his sins and the salvation offered by the Holy Spirit. Such hardness of heart can lead to final impenitence and eternal loss” (CCC 1864). The more we try to manipulate God’s mercy to our own whims, the more we become desensitized to those things that hurt the heart of God and that damage our souls. It is kind of like drinking coffee. At first when we take a sip, it is bitter. When those with well formed consciences first fall into a sin, they tend to feel within themselves a tug or grab at their heart. There is, in that moment, the invitation to repentance and never to do that action again. They are confronted with a choice. Similar to regularly drinking coffee, the more we do it, the easier it is to do. Once we get used to coffee, we can drink it all the time. We love it. When we begin to fall into a sin frequently, we in essence, put tape over the mouths of our consciences, and feel no regret for our actions any longer. We love our selves instead of God. By our presumption, we redefine “what is true for us”, instead of submitting to God and His Church.
“What is true for me matters most” is the battle cry of this generation against moral absolutism. This type of moral presumption is actually moral relativism, which is running rampant in our current culture. Relativism has found its way into the minds and hearts of so many people, including many Catholics. This is a deadly virus for any human being, but for the catholic, it can be quite catastrophic.
I believe that relativism is closely connected to the sin of presumption, which has incredibly dire consequences. One of the greatest catholic philosophers and apologists of our time, Peter Kreeft states that, “you can’t repent if you don’t believe in sin to repent of, and you can’t believe in sin if you don’t believe in a real moral law, because sin means disobeying that. Moral relativism eliminates that law, thus sin, thus repentance, thus salvation.” Presumption, like relativism hardens our hearts to the reality of sin. This, as stated previously, leads to final impenitence (final rejection of God), and will separate us from the loving and merciful heart of the Father.
The journey to Heaven begins with one step…
1. Daily Examination of Conscience
It does not take long. Most people will do it an the end of their day. Pray to the Holy Spirit and the Blessed Mother to shine the light upon your heart and mind to see in what ways you fell that day. Pray an act of contrition after you see how you fell that day.
2. Regularly attend the Sacrament of Confession.
You can’t cure the sickness without going to the Doctor. Jesus waits for us in the person of the priest in the Confessional. Prepare your heart properly and excite within your heart a true sorrow for sin then go and be cleansed of the dirt that clings to your soul.
3. Remember your death
Take time to meditate upon your impending death. Check out St. Alphonsus Ligouri’s Preparation for Death. Seek to remember consistently that what you do here affects what happens in eternity.
We are sinners. We must be willing to acknowledge that but also recognize that Jesus wishes to pour out His Divine Mercy on us, if only we would come with repentant hearts. The “Jesus Prayer”, which is held in high regard by our Eastern Rite and separated orthodox brethren is a great prayer to say regularly to remind us of this fact: “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.” I pray that we can be vigilant against the sin of presumption, and that we will truly cherish the gracious gift of Divine Mercy given to us by Christ through the Sacraments. May we never grow tired of begging our Lord for mercy.
Click on the following link for a Prayer Against the Sin of Presumption.
Posted on April 20, 2013, in Catechism, Catholic, Divine Mercy, fear, Holy Spirit, knowledge, Love, morality, Philosophy and tagged Catechism of the Catholic Church, Divine Mercy, divine mercy sunday, Final Impenitance, sin, St. Alphonsus Ligouri, The Sin of Presumption. Bookmark the permalink. 5 Comments.