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Monday, July 18, 2016

There's No Such Thing as Cheap Mercy

An ocean of mercy flows from the pierced side of Jesus.
Repent and hear the good news!
Dietrich Bonhoeffer once said about grace: “Cheap grace is the grace we bestow on ourselves. Cheap grace is the preaching of forgiveness without requiring repentance, baptism without church discipline, Communion without confession...Cheap grace is grace without discipleship, grace without the cross, grace without Jesus Christ, living and incarnate.” Plenty of people out there want cheap grace and cheap mercy. They want mercy without conversion, mercy with the pleasure of continued sinning. But just as there's no cheap grace; there is no cheap mercy. Fr. Tom understands that and explains it all for you.

by Fr. Tom Collins

As we continue on the spiritual journey of this Jubilee Year of Mercy, it may be worth noting that many people are tempted to seek mercy without repentance and without the firm purpose of amendment that is required for God’s mercy to be regenerative in their lives and their relationships.

This aversion to true conversion is often compounded by a serious misperception of the true meaning of repentance. Such a distorted perception tends to see repentance as being negative, as a way of saying, “I am no good.” But Christ proclaims repentance as an act of liberating defiance against Satan and against the deceptive and desecrating power of sin. After all, what sin slanderously says about us comes from the Father of Lies, while what Christ asserts about our sacredness as children of God, by shedding His Precious Blood for us, comes from Truth Himself, the Truth that is both factual and faithful to our true dignity. Thus repentance is a gift of the Holy Spirit, whereby we are able both to rediscover and to reaffirm our true dignity as God’s children.

And God is so gracious that He views repentance as an act of humble hospitality. Failure to appreciate this truth can be seen in the third chapter of Genesis. After Adam and Eve disobeyed God in the Garden of Eden, God, Who is pure and gracious mercy, came into the garden. Aware of this, Adam and Eve tried to hide in the bushes, much like some people seek to pretend they are not home when unwelcome visitors arrive. But, when they were no longer able to hide from Him in the bushes, they sought to hide from Him and His pure and gracious mercy in vapid excuses and alienating resentments (“The woman, whom You put here with me, gave me the fruit from the tree, so I ate it.” [emphasis added]). Thus it was that, refusing to welcome the mercy He was offering by coming into their presence, they compounded their original sin of ingratitude and greed with a sin of inhospitality. And since true integrity, health and right order are only realized in communion with God, their refusal to offer Him the hospitality of sincere repentance led to their further alienation from the health, integrity and peace such communion would have provided. Since then, the distortion of perspective generated by sin has led billions to seek salvation from sin through excuses and resentments, rather than through the regenerative mercy of God. And sadly, through the ages, numerous spiritual charlatans have arisen to offer sinners “salvation” by developing new and more “meaningful” excuses for sin. And as Jesus wept over Jerusalem (Lk 19:41-42), so also today He weeps. Tragically, so many are still more willing to be seduced into the subtle arrogance of irrepentance, and so few are willing to offer His gracious, compassionate and regenerative mercy the humble, contrite and grateful hospitality of repentance.

Excuses can make us feel comfortable with our faults. Resentments can give us good reasons to scapegoat others for our failures. And new technologies can help to anesthetize our consciences and alleviate the consequences of sin. But only the grace of divine mercy, received with the hospitality of sincere repentance, can actually free us from sin and renew our hearts and our homes through the Holy Spirit in the regenerative grace of divine intimacy.

Jesus stands at the door and knocks (Rev 3:20), humbly and patiently waiting for us to offer Him that humble hospitality of repentance, whereby He can forgive us, heal us and draw us into the awesome joy of divine intimacy.

Fr. Tom Collins

Sacred Heart Church
Covington, VA

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