DAILY CATHOLIC     THURSDAY     August 19, 1999     vol. 10, no. 156


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          Pat Ludwa, a committed lay Catholic from Cleveland, has been asked to contribute, on a regular basis, a lay person's point of view on the Church today. We have been impressed with his insight and the clear logic he brings to the table from his "view from the pew." In all humility, by his own admission, he feels he has very little to offer, but we're sure you'll agree with us that his viewpoint is exactly what millions of the silent majority of Catholics believe and have been trying to say as well. Pat puts it in words that help all of us better understand and convey to others what the Church teaches and we must believe.

          Today Pat addresses those who seek to be muckrakers, trying to expose a person's sins even though they had long ago been forgiven and forgotten. But, in the axiom that "misery loves company," they want to slosh around in the mud of negativism and pour more dirty water on good deeds especially those who are striving to turning over a new leaf in God's eyes. These accusers forget Christ came to forgive and forget. Too many Catholics today forget that the "Good News" isn't about being perfect without sin but for sinners striving to be perfect. That is why Jesus came into this world, for sinners and He came, despite the naysayers who relish grunging in the dirt, so that we all "may have life, and have it more abundantly" as He assures us in John 10: 10. This is the essence of Pat's column Good News, the Whole Story.

          If you want to send him ideas or feedback, you can reach him at Padraic42@aol.com

For past columns by Pat Ludwa, click on VIEW FROM THE PEW Archives

Good News, the Whole Story

        Imagine if you did something when you were younger that was held against you for the rest of your life. You wouldn't think that fair would you? I mean, we all make mistakes. Between peer pressure, what we were told was okay, etc, we all did stupid things. It doesn't matter if you've changed, seen your error and repented. No, it will be thrown back in your face time and time again. Not a comforting thought is it.

        When a well known psychologist was 'exposed' as having done something she now councils against, she was vilified, mocked, ridiculed, etc. The notion of forgiveness and understanding was not forthcoming. In fact, no one seemed upset when Hustler publisher Larry Flynt offered a one million reward for any who could dig up some dirt on any politician. It didn't even matter when it happened, just as long as it happened. No, this was seen as 'pay back'. So much for the tolerance and understanding we keep hearing about.

        In our faith, we're often told not to speak of sin, repentance or conversion. But rather to emphasize the "Good News" that God loves us, that God is love. If we do, we may have our 'mistakes' shoved back in our face. "Well you did (fill in the blank)." Or maybe it's just an assumption, "You must be a (fill in the blank)." This is love? If this is the 'Good News', it's only a part of it. An important pat of it is missing.

        But here is the "Good News", that regardless of how stupid we are, what mistakes we make, what errors we commit, God loves us and is waiting to forgive our sins. What a terrible thing never to know or understand that. How terrible to let the guilt of sin eat away at us until we remove it by rationalizing it away, and attacking anyone, or anything, that reminds us of what we owe to God.

        Imagine a parent who loves their child but never forgives them their mistakes. Or even worse, never tries to correct their mistakes. Imagine every time that the child tries to improve their mistake is thrown back in their face. Wouldn't we call that abuse and not love?

        But the parent who forgets the mistakes and rejoices at their child learning and becoming a better person is a parent who loves. The child will learn from their mistakes and not dwell on them.

        Consider the parable Christ gave us. "A man had two sons; and he went to the first and said, 'Son, go and work in the vineyard today.' And he answered, 'I will not'; but afterward he repented and went. And he went to the second and said the same; and he answered, 'I go, sir,' but he did not go. Which of the two did the will of his father?" (Matthew 21:28-31).

        Imagine if the father refused to acknowledge what his first son did? He made a mistake, repented of it, and did the will of his father. And what of the second? Yes, his father still loves him, however…..

        Consider the parable of the Prodigal son! Here we have a son who abuses and takes advantage of his father's love. But when he realizes what he has done, returns humble and repentant. Offering to be his father's servant and not his son. Yet his father rejoices and treats him like a prince. "It was fitting to make merry and be glad, for this your brother was dead, and is alive; he was lost, and is found" (Luke 15:32).

        What of all the 'dead' and 'lost' in our world today? Do we tell them it's ok to remain with the swine, eating their leftovers? Or do we remind them that they have a loving Father (God) and mother (the Church), waiting for their return? "What man of you, having a hundred sheep, if he has lost one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness, and go after the one which is lost, until he finds it? And when he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing. And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and his neighbors, saying to them, 'Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep which was lost.' Just so, I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance" (Luke 15:4-7).

        The psalmist sang of God's Divine mercy even before Sister Faustina.
    "O give thanks to the LORD, for He is good,

      for His mercy endures for ever.
    O give thanks to the God of gods,
      for His mercy endures for ever.
    O give thanks to the Lord of lords,
      for His mercy endures for ever;
    to Him who alone does great wonders,
      for His mercy endures for ever;
    to Him who by understanding made the Heavens,
      for His mercy endures for ever;"
    (Psalm 136 [Douay-Rheims]).

        We seem to forget that some our greatest saints were among the greatest sinners. What would our reaction be if we saw St. Francis of Assisi attacked for once being declared the 'king of the revels', or how St. Augustine didn't want to convert too fast since he was enjoying his revels with the gnostics. What if we refused to listen to St. Paul since we were reminded that he once persecuted the Church, or St. Peter once denied Christ?

        There is a song which states "He whom I have forgiven much, he loves me the most." "One of the Pharisees asked Him to eat with him, and He went into the Pharisee's house, and took His place at table. And behold, a woman of the city, who was a sinner, when she learned that He was at table in the Pharisee's house, brought an alabaster flask of ointment, and standing behind Him at His feet, weeping, she began to wet His feet with her tears, and wiped them with the hair of her head, and kissed His feet, and anointed them with the ointment" (Luke 7: 36-38).

        The Pharisee could not see beyond her past mistakes, her sin, to see her redemption in her sorrow and repentance. Today, such as she would be ridiculed if she went praising God for His mercy and exhorting sinners to repent and find the love and peace she was given. Nor did Christ say her act of repentance and conversion was unnecessary. Instead, He said her sins were forgiven because of her great love for Him seen in her act of repentance.

        It seems to be the way of the world to use past mistakes, present weaknesses, and errors in judgement as a weapon against those who are trying to repent and grow in God's mercy and love. But also to gloss over and even turn a blind eye to those who relish in their sins, or continue, in ignorance of their errors, in them.

        It seems that we have forgotten, in favor of a false sense of compassion and love, that the Church teaches us to "Council the doubtful, instruct the ignorant, and admonish the sinner (among other things). These are the Spiritual Works of Mercy based on Christ's teachings and Christian practice since the Apostles.

        So, when we hear someone chastise the Church for not emphasizing "the Good News", remind them that the "Good News" is that "For God so loved the world that he gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life….. And this is the judgment, that the Light has come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than Light, because their deeds were evil. For every one who does evil hates the Light, and does not come to the Light, lest his deeds should be exposed" (John 3: 16 & 19-20).

        The Good News is that we can repent and return to God and be forgiven. Not just once or twice, but "seventy times seven times." And unlike a world which relishes in exposing and harping on past mistakes, we are called to follow Christ. Not in condoning error and sin, but in forgiving it. "Forgive us our trespasses (sins) as we forgive those who trespass against us" (Our Father).

        "Take heed to yourselves; if your brother sins, rebuke him, and if he repents, forgive him; and if he sins against you seven times in the day, and turns to you seven times, and says, 'I repent,' you must forgive him" (Luke 17:3-4).

        This is the Good News, that God loves us so that He forgives our past errors and sins when we ask Him to in true repentance.

      Pax Christi, Pat

August 19, 1999       volume 10, no. 156


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