"To humanity, which at times seems to be lost and dominated by the power of evil, selfishness and fear, the risen Lord offers the gift of his love that converts hearts and brings peace… How much the world needs to understand and accept Divine Mercy!" wrote Pope John Paul II for the feast of the Divine Mercy the year he died. His successor Pope Benedict XVI read out a portion of this message during his visit on Mar 26 to the Roman parish of God the Merciful Father.

There we have it, the answer to the problem of evil. Not the question "If God is so good, why is there evil in the world?" but the more important question "If God is so good, what is he doing about the evil in this world?"

God offers his Divine Mercy to the world, offering the gift of his love that pardons, reconciles and opens the soul to hope. It is the free will of men that allows evil to take place, so God allows men to exercise their free will to accept his gift of Divine Mercy that will overcome evil.

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Repent!

"Excommunication is a canonical penalty," said Cardinal Jorge Medina Estevez, "whose aim is the repentance of someone who has committed a serious offense." When that individual shows repentance and a desire to amend matters, he said, the penalty can be lifted.

The cardinal is the former prefect for the Congregation for Divine Worship.

This is an interesting statement because it helps to clarify some matters on what excommunication is and is not.

Some people, in their misunderstanding what excommunication is, see it as an abuse of the Church's authority. "How can the Church cut off someone? Is this what Jesus wants?" they ask.

But it is not excommunication alone that cuts a person away from the Church. We are all joined to the Church physically and spiritually, because we are physical and spiritual beings.

When we commit a serious sin, we are already cut off spiritually from the Church. The moment we do this, there is already a lack of communion with the Church, because communion must be total.

Excommunication, whether automatic or not, is the physical cutting off of a person from the Church. It is the physical expression of the spiritual nature of the person. At all times, the person is encouraged to repent and show that he desires to amend matters so as to return to full communion with the Church.

How does one do this? It's called the sacrament of reconciliation.

Whenever you or I commit a serious sin, we too are cut off spiritually from the Church. We too are excommunicated i.e. no longer in communion with the Church. That is why we go for confession.

However, in so doing, we must make sure that we are sorry for our sins and sincerely desire to make amends. We cannot go for confession with the intention of receiving communion and then after than return to sin. Such a confession is invalid because there is no desire to change our ways.

Who can judge whether we are sincere or not? We can; God can; and the priest who sits in the confessional can.

What?! But the priest is human! So is Jesus, y'know…

But the priest can make a mistake! Then he will answer to God for it. In the meantime, it gives us an opportunity to reflect whether or not we sincerely want to make amends. If we are, we will try again. If not, it was never our intention in the first place.

True repentance isn't just a feeling. I cannot say, "I'm feeling sorry for my sins now so I go to confess them. If the priest turns me away, then heck it, I don't want to confess anymore." That's not sincere repentance and even if the priest gives absolution, it would not be valid because it lacks the condition of sincere repentance.

Brings to mind the message of the Bible, doesn't it?

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