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The Lord will not Reject a Contrite Heart

by Brant Pitre April 23, 2021 0 Comments

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Dr. Brant Pitre discusses how God will not reject a contrite heart, even if it happens moments before death after a long life of sin.  This was taken from the Mass Readings Explained.  Subscribers can find the full video here:


...notice those two words.  He's gracious and he's abounding in steadfast love.  In other words, his love, his mercy and his salvation are abundant.  He is generous in a way that we just aren’t.  He has a radical generosity towards us, because he ultimately made us and desires our salvation.

Now in closing, I want to end with a point from St. Augustine, because this is a fascinating passage in the Gospels.  It raises the question of the rewards of eternal life.  Think about it for a second.  There are certain passages in the Gospel which suggest that we will have different rewards in eternal life.  Think about, for example, the parable of the sower, where the seed is planted and some of it brings forth thirty fold, some sixty, and some a hundred fold.  So not all of our fruits in the proclamation of the Gospel are going to be equal.  You can think about the other parable of the talents, were the master entrusts certain amounts of money to the servants and they go off and make investments, and some come back and they get different levels of rewards based on how they have used the master’s wealth.  Whether they've invested it or whether they've hidden it and done nothing with it.  So certain parables suggest that there are going to be different levels of reward in heaven.  But this one seems to suggest that everyone gets the same reward, so how do we reconcile those with one another?  St. Augustine pointed this out in his explanation of the parable of workers in the vineyard, and this is what he said about the reward of eternal life:

“In that great reward then, we shall all be equal—the firs to the last and the last to the first. For the denarius stands for eternal life, in which all will have the same share.  Although through diversity of merit some will shine more brilliantly than others, in the possession of eternal life there will be equality. What is endless for all will not be longer for one and shorter for another. What has no bounds will have none either for you or for me. Those who lived chastely in the married state will have one kind of splendor; virgins will have another. The reward for good works will differ from the crown of martyrdom; but where eternal life is concerned there can be no question of more or less for anyone.  Whatever may be the individual’s degree of glory, each one will live in it eternally. This is the meaning of the denarius.

So what is Augustine getting at there?  He is saying that the parables that suggest that there are different rewards, and the parable that suggests that everyone gets one denarius, are both equally true from a different point of view.  The parables about the different rewards have to do with our individual merits and our particular states of life, as well as the fruits that God’s seed that is sown in our hearts will bear in the spiritual life — whether it's through evangelization and whatnot, like in the parable of the sower.  So those parables that indicate different outcomes are about our individual merits, but the parable of the workers in the vineyard is about eternal life itself.  If you think about it, that makes sense.  To the extent that eternal life is nothing other than the possession of God, the vision of God, like the beatific vision and life everlasting, then we will all be equal in heaven, because everyone in heaven, in the kingdom of heaven, will see the face of God and experience eternal life.  That is what the denarius represents. 

And it doesn't matter whether you are saved at the last moment at the end of a very wicked life, whether you repent at the 11th hour so to speak, at 5 PM right before the final judgment, or before the moment of your death, or whether you're baptized as an infant and live a life of grace and holiness and good works and growth and merit and sanctity.  Both those people, through God's abundant generosity and mercy, will receive the denarius of eternal life itself, of everlasting life in the eternal kingdom of God.  So this parable is meant to reveal that to us, to help us understand that God's mercy is so radical that even if someone converts, even if they turn from sin at the 11th hour, at the very end of their life, they still can receive the joy and the grace and the blessing of the everlasting kingdom of God, of the vision of God and life in communion with God.  And I think that that's a message that people need to hear.  That's a message of hope.  It is a challenging message because it paints a picture of a God who is so much more generous and merciful than we would ever be, but that's precisely why the news of Christianity is good news, because it means that there's always a place for those who come to the Lord with a contrite heart.  As the Psalms say, the Lord will not reject a contrite heart, because he is “slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love…and gracious and merciful” towards us.  That is what this parable is meant to demonstrate.


Brant Pitre
Brant Pitre


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