Today we will focus on mercy as it applies to motherhood in the Spiritual Act of Mercy: Admonish the Sinner.
This Spiritual Work of Mercy is one we lay the groundwork for when our children are very young. We all know that moment when our sweet innocent baby looks at us with a sly grin and disobeys on purpose. At first, they are just testing boundaries without malice, but sooner than we like, they are willfully disobeying. As they grow in reason, their tendency toward sinfulness grows as well. Again, we love them too much to leave them as they are. We admonish them in their sin because we know they are forgiven, and they must know it too. Mercy is the driving factor here. We do not allow them to lie because we love them too much to let them become liars. But beyond wanting them to be lovable people who can function in society, we correct their sinfulness because we have been given a better way to live. James tell us, “He should know that whoever brings back a sinner from the error of his way will save his soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins” (Js 5:20). We always correct in mercy and in love, and we do so because we, too are sinful, and we have experienced the transformative love and mercy of Christ.
This work of mercy is completely foreign and quite unpopular in our current culture. In fact, the very act of admonishing a sinner will get us labeled a “bigot” or “hater.” The devil has convinced the last few generations that correction is “judgment,” and that we are all just supposed to “love each other.” Yet Scripture is very clear that we must speak the truth in love to correct those we love in order to save them from hell. (Think of Jesus overturning tables outside the temple). Galatians 6:1 says, “Brothers, even if a person is caught in some transgression, you who are spiritual should correct that one in a gentle spirit, looking to yourself, so that you also may not be tempted.” We are called to bring one another closer to Christ, closer to holiness, but always keeping in mind our own sinfulness and need for redemption. With our children, this begins by teaching them the difference between sin and folly, teaching them about venial sin and mortal sin, and most importantly, teaching them the necessity of repentance and forgiveness. This is one of the reasons I love the sacrament of reconciliation. We all go; we all need the mercy and forgiveness of Christ. We can stand in line for confession with our children and experience the grace of forgiveness together.
We are in the beginning of the beautiful Easter season, a time to rejoice in the risen Christ and to remember that all of our sin is forgiven. The next time we see our child sinning and feel weary in correcting him, let us remember that we correct because of who Christ is; we correct because there is a better way, and that way leads us to unconditional love, perfect freedom, and an eternity in heaven.