Saint Augustine: No Matter How Great Our Crimes

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“Though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool.”

Isaiah:  1:18


Continuing on with our Lenten series in which Saint Augustine is our guide, go here  , here  ,here  , here and here to read the first five posts in the series, we come to the whole purpose of Lent.   One of the greatest weapons in the arsenal of the eternal enemy of Man is despair.  How many people abstain from confession and reconciliation with God on the mistaken belief that their sins are too great and they are beyond redemption.  It would seem in our day that these people would be small in number since so many would appear to have lost any sense of sin.  Perhaps, but perhaps also a denial of the fact of sin is merely a surface attempt to avoid the gnawing guilt and emptiness that sin usually causes in most souls, whether the sin is recognized as such or not.   For all lost and wandering souls the forgiveness of God is close at hand for His mercy is as infinite as His justice is sure.  What so many of us have earned at the hands of His justice, He spares us by His mercy.  Despair is a sin, and in Lent we should turn our backs on it, as we do all sin.  Here is what Augustine wrote in regard to forgiveness of sins, no matter how great they are:


Nevertheless, no matter how great our crimes, their forgiveness should never be despaired of in holy Church for those who truly repent, each according to the measure of his sin. And, in the act of repentance, where a crime has been committed of such gravity as also to cut off the sinner from the body of Christ, we should not consider the measure of time as much as the measure of sorrow. For, “a contrite and humbled heart God will not despise.” Still, since the sorrow of one heart is mostly hid from another, and does not come to notice through words and other such signs — even when it is plain to Him of whom it is said, “My groaning is not hid from thee”  — times of repentance have been rightly established by those set over the churches, that satisfaction may also be made in the Church, in which the sins are forgiven. For, of course, outside her they are not forgiven. For she alone has received the pledge of the Holy Spirit,  without whom there is no forgiveness of sins. Those forgiven thus obtain life everlasting.

The tumult and the shouting dies—
The Captains and the Kings depart—
Still stands Thine ancient sacrifice,
An humble and a contrite heart.

Rudyard Kipling, Recessional

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  1. Thank you for this Donald McClarey.
    Where was the man taken in adultery? Moses prescribed the penalty of death by stoning of both, the man and the woman caught in adultery. Ignoring the Law of Moses, the stoners were indulging their lust for death. The stoners were a mob not interested in Justice.
    Why haven’t Kathleen Sebelius and Nancy Pelosi proclaimed the Good News of Justice? All men, gay and straight are entitled to equal Justice. It is the duty of the state to deliver equal Justice. Equal Justice, to be delivered by the state, can only be found in the perfectly legal and moral innocence of the newly begotten human being at fertilization and creation of a new human soul.
    Let it be known, atheists, abortionists, fornicatiors and to all men, that your soul has been created by God, “our Creator”, in equal Justice, in moral and legal innocence. “Who is like unto God”
    When the atheist discarded his/her belief in God, the atheist destroyed belief in perfect Justice, in the virtues, in his own existence as an immortal and rational human being. The atheist exchanged him/herself for a finite, corrupt Justice, stoning a woman for a half-truth. Dare I say, that the man who committed adultery with the woman was among those willing to stone her, that the man who impregnated the woman with an innocent child is the one who is willing to abort the innocent child for his own sin? Justice stoned and aborted. Justice put to death. Equal Justice put to death.

  2. “Where was the man taken in adultery?”

    Presumably he was quicker in getting away than the woman was, or he had already been stoned. This was an obvious attempt on the part of the leaders of the mob to use this incident to trap Jesus by forcing him to either forego mercy and allow the woman to be stoned or to negate the law of Moses by ordering mercy. Jesus neatly sidestepped the trap by indicating that those who would stone the woman were also enmeshed in their own sins, and therefore were not fit to pass judgment on her. (If the woman was a prostitute, I wonder if some of her other customers were among those who were going to stone her?) The words of Jesus obviously packed a large wallop since the woman was not stoned and the mob dispersed, not an easy task to accomplish when the blood lust of a mob is at its peak.

  3. “times of repentance have been rightly established by those set over the churches, that satisfaction may also be made in the Church, in which the sins are forgiven.”
    There is a rite in the Pontificale Romanum for the reconciliation of those on whom public penance had been enjoined. The reconciliation traditionally took place on Maundy Thursday.

    The practice of imposing public penance fell into desuetude during the 17th century, in part as a reaction to Jansenist insistence on its restoration, in its full ancient vigour. By that time, the years of penance enjoined in the early penitentials had been reduced to, at most, a single Lent and were often commuted to other good works, such as a pilgrimage, or alms-giving.

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