Sunday 19 April 2015

Underestimating the love and compassion of God

I had to write yesterday's post in a hurry, and there are more things I wished to say.

Let us consider a hard case: a man whose wife abandoned him for another man, and who has reason to believe that the marriage was never valid, but who cannot prove that through the annulment process. Further, he is morally certain that there is no possibility of restoring his original, true marriage to its rightful state, or of his wife having anything further to do with him.

He has re-married and is raising a family with a new woman.

Let us further suppose that he is striving to grow in holiness, and recognises the objective truth - and therefore the necessity - of the Church's teaching and practice. We can then consider various possibilities.

Perhaps he agrees with his new woman that they cannot separate, for the sake of their children, but should live as brother and sister as the Church requires. Can anyone doubt that God will not shower such self-sacrificial love with grace and blessings? He is not to be outdone in generosity.  This could well be the path to sanctity for both of them, and a school of true love and holiness for their children.

Or we could imagine that he sets off on that path, but they find it too hard, and relapse back into living as man and wife. But he goes to confession, renews his resolution, and starts again. In such a case, too, it is impossible to imagine God failing to reward such perseverance with countless graces and blessings. Our Lord repeatedly preached on such issues, for there is more joy in Heaven over one repentant sinner...

Or we could imagine that he raises the topic with his new woman, but she, not being a Catholic, simply doesn't get it, and will not agree. She presents him with an ultimatum: to live as man and wife or to separate. For the sake of his children, and for love of her, he will not separate. So he goes to Mass regularly, but in a spirit of humility and obedience, and to avoid giving scandal, he refrains from receiving Holy Communion. Do we think Our Lord will refuse him grace for that? And if his first marriage really were null, and his second thereby valid, can we doubt that Our Lord, through His infinite mercy and compassion, will give him as much, or even more, grace as he would have received as a communicant?

I think that is perhaps the worst error of all, underpinning the soi-disant reformers' case: that they underestimate the love and compassion of God, and believe that they have to make up the deficit.

And while we debate this, in the approach to the Synod, let us never forget to pray for all those in irregular situations,  for all those who disagree with us, and for the success of the Synod and the good of the Church.

1 comment:

Part-time Pilgrim said...

I really like this. I felt in the previous post you (correctly but) too quickly dismissed the idea that expecting a couple to live together as brother and sister was unfair. Here you have given a good exploration of the issue. Great stuff!