by Fr Richard Heilman | April 9, 2022 6:43 AM
“Freedom from Presumption” by Fr. James Altman
Dear family, we are almost to the end of the forty days. What a holy, holy endeavor with so much grace, so very much grace. This grace we need now, more than ever, with all the crazy stuff going on around us. The best words to wrap up my part are words of encouragement. Keep going. Do not stop now, for we are not yet at the end of our time on earth. Rather, Our Father has chosen us to live in this time and place, and to serve Him in this time and in this place. What we have endured, amidst the abandonment of so many shepherds, is only a precursor to what may be coming soon. The spiritually weakened state of so many out there will not bode well when worse things come. To me, this entire holy endeavor was a spiritual boot camp to toughen us up, to make us strong enough to fight the battles that lie ahead.
Fr. Heilman tells me that thousands will join us in this spiritual boot camp. That is amazing. It tells us, dear family, that we are not alone. But maybe the number should be hundreds of thousands. In fact, the grotesque abandonment by so many shepherds is even more reason why there should be millions. So, why aren’t there that many, and more? A big reason, probably the biggest reason, is the sin of presumption.
As always, a good starting place is Fr. John Hardon’s Modern Catholic Dictionary. He states that presumption “leads one to expect graces from God without doing anything to obtain them, and even when acting the opposite, as when sinning, the person presumes that forgiveness is assured.” (etymology: Latin “praesumere”, to suppose, take for granted.) Donald Attwater’s, A Catholic Dictionary writes similarly that presumption is “a vice … whereby a man expects to gain eternal life by his own strength or without merits, or to obtain pardon without repentance.”
Wow. There it is in a nutshell. I don’t have to reinvent the wheel; that is the beauty of being Catholic. We have 2000 years of the Bible, 2000 years of saints and martyrs, 2000 years of the constant teaching of the Catholic Church, 2000 years of the unchanged and unchangeable truth. So, unlike, say, Joel Osteen et al. who wallow in presumption, we know that as a disciple of Jesus the Lord, we are charged to pick up our crosses daily and carry them. We must not carry them for five minutes and set them down; that’s not what Jesus said. Jesus did not say, “clock in, carry for 8 hours, clock out.” Jesus did not say, “any time after eight hours is overtime, time-and-a-half.” No. The real Jesus said, in essence, “take it from Me when you wake up, let Me hold it close while you sleep.”
Our crosses mean that we must make an effort to grow in grace daily. Truly, we can never be worthy of the salvation for which Jesus endured His Passion, and thankfully, He does not ask us to be. He asks us only to pick up our crosses daily. Yet so many do not. Presumption is bad enough amongst Catholics, but in so many Protestants it is even worse. That whole “I just asked JAY-zus into my heart and I’m SAAAAVED” is so much presumption baloney. Jesus never said that. Jesus said to pick up your cross…daily.
Amongst Catholics, there seems to be way too many with a similar attitude – an attitude that has become pervasive since we have been inculcated with all the meaningless drivel put out after Vatican II. One that thinks, “Oh, Our Father loves us all and doesn’t want anybody to go to hell, so since I didn’t do something really bad, like kill somebody, I’m good to go.” Or one that hopes, as a well-known shepherd recently posited, that hell is actually kind of an empty place. Really? That is not what Jesus taught about hell. The presumptuous mindset of “I’m good enough” is not the standard Jesus set on Calvary.
Cardinal St. John Henry Newman brilliantly eviscerated the attitude of presumption when he observed “that [the aim of most men] is, to all appearances, not how to please God, but how to please themselves without displeasing Him!”
Jesus spoke specifically to such an attitude in a parable that addressed those who were convinced of their own righteousness. Remember the Pharisee “took up his position [in the Temple] and spoke this prayer to himself, ‘O God, I thank You that I am not like the rest of humanity—greedy, dishonest, adulterous—or even like this tax collector.” Jesus then contrasted that attitude with the sinner who “stood off at a distance and would not even raise his eyes to heaven but beat his breast and prayed, ‘O God, be merciful to me a sinner.’” Jesus then said: “I tell you, the latter went home justified, not the former; for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and the one who humbles himself will be exalted” (Luke 18:9-14). So, dear family, let us be incredibly careful about justifying our own righteousness, and exalting our status vis-à-vis our eternal destination.
Instead of being self-righteous, Jesus gave another parable about the right attitude of one of His disciples, or servants, “Is [God] grateful to that servant because he did what was commanded? … When You have done all You have been commanded, say, ‘We are unprofitable servants; we have done [only] what we were obliged to do’” (Luke 17:9-10).
Dear family, let us conclude with a sports analogy. There is no “I” in team. That’s why the Protestant attitude about “me ‘n JAY-zus” is just pure garbage. Jesus is a team effort. He calls us to be part of His team. That means that every day is another day for each team member to show up for practice – practice to be a better team player. Each person on the team has a position to play, and the better that person plays, the better the team (which is why, by the way, that blowing off attendance at Holy Mass on Sunday is not just a grave personal sin but is a grave sin against the whole team). What happens when a player doesn’t show up for practice? At best, he “rides the pine” (meaning, he sits on the bench). The coach – in this case, God – cannot give him playing time, because he hasn’t practiced. He has let the whole team down. That is what happens at best. At worst, he gets kicked off the team (welcome to hell).
Dear family, here is one last way to understand the sin of presumption. Again, think of it as an attitude of “good enough.” There is a quote, with many variations, all of which say the same thing: “The attitude of ‘good enough’ is the enemy of ‘great.”’ Put another way, “the enemy of ‘great’ is not ‘bad’, the enemy of ‘great’ is ‘good enough.’”
Our Father offered up the Greatest on Calvary. Does our offering – through the carrying of our crosses – measure up to such greatness?
The cure for the sin of presumption is to strive daily to not do JUST what we have been commanded to do. That only makes us a useless servant. The cure for the sin of presumption is to do MORE than we have been commanded to do.
So, now that we are reaching the end of our forty days of preparation, let us do more. Let us continue to practice daily with the U.S. Grace Force Team (join at usgraceforce.com). Let us continue to make the Catholic Team strong, with all of us earning our playing time in the game. (From “Let Freedom Ring“)
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