Recently on The Patrick Madrid Show, Patrick received a call from a listener named Joseph who requested an explanation of why Catholics are required to go to confession and follow the rules of the Church to remain in the state of grace. Joseph argued that God is not limited by our shortcomings and His mercy is still capable of saving us even if our soul is in the state of mortal sin.
“[God’s] not limited to rules and regulations and being perfect in the Church,” said Joseph. “The Church is a hospital for the sick, not a banquet for the Pharisees. And so, I just feel like we have to jump through so many hoops in the Church today, rather than just experience the life of grace and talk about the life of grace and having the life of grace overflow in us.”
Joseph continued by saying that when he hears that people in a state of mortal sin have to “go to confession, follow all those hoops and norms and mores of the community,” it doesn’t sit well with him. He asked Patrick to explain why the Church would require that we adhere so strictly to the rules when God’s mercy and love are unlimited and could so easily bypass them.
“Really, your objections don’t lie with the Catholic Church but with Jesus,” said Patrick. “Jesus is the one who, for example, established the sacrament of confession; John, chapter 20, beginning in verse 20. He says to the apostles, ‘As the Father has sent me, so I send you.’ And you might say, ‘Well, how did the Father send Jesus?’ He sent Him to forgive sins.”
“And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, ‘Receive the holy Spirit. Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them, and whose sins you retain are retained.’” (John 20:22-23)
Patrick continued, referencing chapter 5 of 1 John in which John explains the concepts of mortal and venial sin. There is a precedent for the necessity for forgiveness and Jesus has not only explained that precedent to us but given us the tools by which to be forgiven. Without the sacraments and proactive participation in God’s plan for our salvation, our religion would be reduced to a collection of members doing nothing but thinking happy thoughts. Jesus came to shatter the status quo, to set fire to our hearts, to fulfill scripture by dying for our sins, and thereby redeem us.
“Most people are sinners, Joseph,” said Patrick. “And when you fall into sin, you either have to get out of sin and be restored to God’s grace, or you remain in sin. And Jesus also said, ‘Unless you repent, you will all perish’. So, if you are objecting to Jesus’s plan of salvation and the way in which He desires to help people get out of sin, then your argument’s not with the Catholic Church; it’s with Him.”
Joseph went on to cede that the sacrament of confession and absolution is necessary for us because of the existence of mortal sin, but he emphasized that we shouldn’t be required to be perfect to retain God’s grace. Patrick agreed, reminding Joseph that we aren’t called to be perfect but if we want to return to the state of grace, we are required to repent for our mistakes.
“What I’m arguing is that God doesn’t shut off His grace to us because we have sinned,” explained Joseph.
“Well, that’s true. That’s true because if He did, we’d all be doomed because we all sin. Every one of us does,” agreed Patrick. “If God’s grace was shut off permanently after you fell into sin, we would all be doomed. Nobody could ever go to Heaven. So the fact that God’s grace is a free gift that He’s always extending to us, ‘for God so loved the world that He gave His only Son that whoever should believe in Him might not perish but might have eternal life.’”
Joseph reverted to his original position, arguing that the teachings surrounding the need for grace and the sacraments are nothing more than a series of “hoops” to jump through.
Patrick closed, saying, “Those things that you call ‘hoops’ are teachings from Jesus. I gave you some Biblical examples of that. Let me give you a verse that might be worth pondering. Proverbs 14:12: There is a way which seems right to a man, but its end is the way to death.”
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