This message is from God the Father, who spoke it to St. Catherine of Siena while she was in ecstasy – it is documented in the book “The Dialogue of St. Catherine of Siena”.
“And I would that you know that, more darkness and division have come into the world amongst seculars and religious and the clergy and pastors of the holy Church, through the lack of the light of justice, and the advent of the darkness of injustice, than from any other causes.”
“Neither the civil law, nor the divine law, can be kept in any degree without holy justice, because he who is not corrected, and does not correct others, becomes like a limb which putrefies, and corrupts the whole body, because the bad physician, when it had already begun to corrupt, placed ointment immediately upon it, without having first burnt the wound. So, were the prelate, or any other lord having subjects, on seeing one putrefying from the corruption of mortal sin, to apply to him the ointment of soft words of encouragement alone, without reproof, he would never cure him, but the putrefaction would rather spread to the other members, who, with him, form one body under the same pastor. But if he were a physician, good and true to those souls, as were those glorious pastors of old, he would not give salving ointment without the fire of reproof. And, were the member still to remain obstinate in his evil doing, he would cut him off from the congregation in order that he corrupt not the other members with the putrefaction of mortal sin. But they act not so today, but, in cases of evil doing, they even pretend not to see. And do you know why? The root of self-love is alive in them, wherefore they bear perverted and servile fear. Because they fear to lose their position or their temporal goods, or their prelacy, they do not correct, but act like blind ones, in that they see not the real way by which their position is to be kept. If they would only see that it is by holy justice they would be able to maintain it; but they do not, because they are deprived of light.”
This passage stood out to me in regards to administering the Sacraments. God the Father is giving St. Catherine a more perfect understanding of the application of the Sacraments through authentic Mercy.
In Matthew 9:9-13 our Lord Jesus tells the Pharisees “Go and learn the meaning of the words, I desire mercy, not sacrifice, I did not come to call the righteous but the sinners.” Yet, in the midst of this emphasis on mercy, there still seems to be a misunderstanding by many faithful in regards to what Mercy really means. And because of this confusion, what should be universal teaching has become fodder for secular news to scandalize the Church.
As an example, there has been situations in news where an actively homosexual person dies – and there is an intersection between the Corporal Work of Mercy to bury the dead, and an obligation at the same time to the Spiritual Works of Mercy to Instruct the Ignorant and Admonish the Sinner (the deceased person’s partner or family as an example). According to Our Blessed Lord’s instruction to St. Catherine, it would be right and just to BOTH bury the dead AND at the same time admonish and instruct. If we neglect the Spiritual Work of Mercy in this example situation, then we cause great scandal which could lead to the destruction of many souls – and what did it cost? We bury one dead person, but neglect hundreds whose souls may be dead. And conversely, if we only admonish without burying the dead, we have also scandalized the community – those who need God’s Mercy the most.
And to the Eucharist, Our Lord Himself? St. Paul explains (1 Corinthians 11:29) “For those who eat and drink without discerning the body of Christ eat and drink judgment on themselves”. So, we understand how important it is not to merely permit anyone to eat and drink the Body and Blood of Our Lord unworthily lest they be condemned. Although, we know we cannot judge the state of a soul aside from our own (and St. Paul says that he doesn’t even judge his own soul)! What are we to do? This is answered, again, through authentic Mercy. We don’t judge, but we admonish and instruct (works of Mercy). And then the burden of judgment is between them and God.
These are concrete examples of how Justice helps to illuminate the right application of Mercy.
The problem is that in practice we don’t do this. We are timid in admonishment for fear of offending someone. However, if we don’t admonish, then the Word of God convicts us (Ezekiel 3:17) “Son of man, I have made you a watchman for the people of Israel; so hear the word I speak and give them warning from me. When I say to a wicked person, ‘You will surely die,’ and you do not warn them or speak out to dissuade them from their evil ways in order to save their life, that wicked person will die for their sin, and I will hold you accountable for their blood. But if you do warn the wicked person and they do not turn from their wickedness or from their evil ways, they will die for their sin; but you will have saved yourself.“
Genuine Mercy is illuminated by the Cardinal Virtue of Justice – CCC 1807 – the moral virtue that consists in the constant and firm will to give their due to God and neighbor. This is why God the Father is emphasizing this to St. Catherine. Because we cannot give Mercy without the light of Justice. It isn’t merciful to apply the ointment without first having treated the wound. Justice isn’t opposed to Mercy therefore, but it illuminates it. Wherefore, Instructing the Ignorant and Admonishing the Sinner are both indeed Spiritual Works of Mercy.