Friday, April 26, 2013


(Continuing Lumen Gentium paragraphs 15 -17)
I think far too many people think God plays the “Gotcha” game.  There are a certain amount of things that you must know, a few things that you should have done, and if you don’t do them God sifts through your life at the end and almost rejoices in saying, “Gotcha!  Oh!  You almost made it into heaven.  But you never got around to learning about the Communion of Saints and so I have to shut you out of glory for all of eternity.  Too bad!  You were so close”
But God does not play Gotcha.  He is all merciful.  We are responsible for that about which we know.  But concerning things about which we were completely clueless, God does not still hold us accountable if not knowing is not our fault.


So what does that mean for Catholics, non-Catholic Christians, and non-Christians?  For Catholics, baptism is the door through which all of God’s graces are opened to us.  Like the door in the Twilight Zone, a whole new reality is opened before us.  God gave us the Church and the sacraments as the normative way into heaven.  If we know this to be true and ignore it, we place ourselves off the path to eternity, for we have also rejected Christ.  But that is not all.  It is not good enough simply to belong to the Church, we must also do our best to live the life taught by Christ.  This makes sense does it not?  God provides a way to heaven and knowing that it is the way to heaven, we either choose it or reject it.  Not that earn heaven thereby.  It is free gift.  But we either accept or reject it.
But what if you do not know these things to be true?  In Scripture Jesus says, “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life.  Nobody comes to the Father except through me.”  Pretty strong declaration there.  But what if I am a good Muslim, or Buddhist, or live in such a place where Christ is not even hear of?  Once again, God does not play Gotcha.  “Oh!  If only you had heard of my Son!  But you didn’t so too bad.”  There are those who believe this.  The Catholic Church is not among them.  “Those, who through no fault of their own, do not know the Gospel of Christ or His Church, but who nevertheless seek God with a sincere heart . . . may achieve salvation.”  (16)
In other words, you are responsible for that which you know.  For those who do not know, God Who so powerfully works through the sacraments can work outside of His own sacramental system and bring people to Himself.  But though they may believe otherwise it is always through the merits of His Son.  For those who know truth, we are responsible for living it.  For those who know and reject for reasons they see as a good (my girlfriend is Mormon and so even though I know the teaching of Jesus otherwise, for the good of my family I will stop practicing the faith) at that point they are running the great risk of putting themselves outside of God’s plan.
Thus all who are saved pass to the Father through the Son.  And for as much as we know to be true, we are responsible. 


Gaby said...

I've been a lurker for quite a while, but thought I'd comment for the first time.

I've just recently returned to the church after a 10 year absence and I must admit that despite my very first confession upon my return, my childhood scrupulosity came back with a vengeance. The rational side of my brain knows that God does not place the "gotcha!" game, but rather is all-merciful and knows we will stumble while aiming for heaven, but the irrational side is still ever so scared that one tiny mistake will shut me out for good.

It's truly a struggle because among the factors that caused me to run away in the first place was emotional abuse and bullying in the catholic school I was attending, along with poor catechism. I'll address that in 2 parts: the emotional abuse was caused by people calling themselves "christian" but humiliating me because of my poor english at the time, ethnicity, and learning struggles. At one point during Lent, I was tricked into giving up not telling any adults I was being bullied. This was 3 months of pure emotional hell for a 9 year old child as I remembered being "taught" that if you broke the promise you made for Lent, it was a mortal sin and ticket to hell. Again because of my age, I didn't know that it was an invalid promise based on the circumstances and plus, who could I trust? Not to mention teachers condoned it by not doing anything. The poor catechism was the teachers not fully clarifying the conditions it takes to commit mortal sin and yet reinforcing the concepts of hell and eternal separation in such a way, that any emotionally sensitive child such as myself would be traumatized and conditioned into viewing God as an angry, vengeful, scrutinizing judge.

I'm typing this here with tears forming in my eyes. Even though Im trying so hard to recover from the mental hell and poor education inflicted on me, making reparations for my owns sins committed during my absence, reciting the Divine Mercy Chaplet when I can (one of my few sources of temporary relief) seeing therapists, going to frequent confession etc. I still can't recover the love and childlike trust for God I used to have before I entered Kindergarten and have been feeling so dry and empty because of the actions of many cold-hearted people who profess to be catholic, but did practice the teachings of the Church.

So what then can be done for people like me who have been exploited and abused by such people? Like I said, I know deep in my heart that God does not play this "gotcha!" game, but because of years of psychological conditioning and abuse, I still tend to forget that and cower in terror when I commit even a tiny venial sin.

In any case, thank you so much for still posting this. Maybe it's one of God's ways to talk to me.

MaryofSharon said...

Gosh, Gaby, your comments remind me of my scrupulous childhood, when I, too, used to worry about condemnation for the smallest of infractions. And also I remember the mean kids in Catholic gradeschool that made fun of me for not wearing the "right" clothes or for caring too much about my studies, etc. God's people, all of us included, I dare say, often do a shamefully poor job of reflecting His face to others.

God, Himself, is nothing like those people when they hurt you. I think you might appreciate a prayerful reading of something that deeply blessed me, Pope Francis's homily from Divine Mercy Sunday, in which he speaks at length of the love of God. Our Holy Father tells us of the gentleness, the patience, and the mercy of God as He loves us (not terrifies us) into faith, deeper conversion, and repentance.

(There are also a couple of good articles on scrupulosity over at Roman Catholic Spiritual Direction: Scrupulosity I and Scrupulosity II. )

Perhaps Fr. V. has some priestly wisdom on the matter?