There is an unwritten code of conduct in our relations with one another stating that we should never take any person for granted. In other words, we should not misunderstand a person's kindness for weakness and take undue advantage of the fact. When this is so true of our human relations with one another, how much more true is it in our relations with God. From this concept arises the capital sin of Presumption.
The word, `presumption' derives from the Lation word, `praesumere', "to take before, "to take for granted". Presumption is here considered as a vice opposed to the theological virtue of hope. It may also be regarded as a product of pride. It may be defned as the condition of a soul which, because of a badly regulated reliance on God's mercy and power hopes for salvation without doing anything to deserve it, or for pardon of one's sins without repenting of them. Presumption is said to offend against hope by excess, as despair by defect.
Presumption in us becomes most prominent when we become "overconfident of forgiveness, adding sin to sin" (Sir 5: 5), when we reason within ourselves, "Great is God's mercy, my many sins He will forgive" (Sir 5: 6). Those of us who may be tempted to think in this vein should follow the advice given here, "Delay not your conversion to the Lord, put it not off from day to day" (Sir 5: 8). Those who often put off their confession for various reasons and pretexts, finding one excuse or the other for not attending the sacrament of Reconciliation should keep the above in mind, recalling that we cannot vouch for even one second of our lives. We should thus make use of all the opportunities the Lord gives us for returning to Him.
There are five ways in which one may be guilty of presumption:
1. By hoping to obtain one's natural powers, unaided, what is definitely supernatural, viz. eternal bliss or the recovery of God's friendship after grievous sin
2. A person might look to have his/her sins forgiven without adequate penance (this, likewise, if it were based on a seriously entertained conviction, would seem to carry with it the taint of heresy)
3. A person might expect some special assistance from Almighty God for the perpetration of crime (this would be blasphemous as well as presumptious)
4. One might aspire to certain extraordinary supernational excellencies, but without any conformity to the determination of God's providence. Thus one might, for example, aspire to equal in blessedness Mary, the Mother of God
5. Finally, there is the transgression of those who, whilst they continue to lead a life of sin, are as confident of a happy issue as if they had not lost their baptismal innocence
The root mailice of presumption is that it denies the supernatural order, as in the first instance, or travesties the conception of the Divine attributes, as in the others. Theologians draw a sharp distinction between the attitude of one who goes on in a vicious career, precisely because he/she counts upon pardon, and one whose persistence in wrongdoing is accompanied, but not motivated, by the hope of forgiveness. The first they impeach as presumption of a very heinous kind; the other is not such specifically. In practice it happens for the most part that the expectation of ultimate reconciliation with God is not the cause but only the occasion, of a person's continuing in sinful indulgence. Thus the particular guilt of presumption is not contracted.
Even though "the Lord is merciful, gracious, slow to anger and rich in kindness and fidelity" (Ex 34: 6b) we should not misunderstand His nature but make ue of it in a positive manner. The best practice would be to keep the daily "examen", examination of one's conscience at the end of the day, ask pardon for all our offences with a fervent Act of Contrition before retiring for the night. The next opportunity we get for making our confession should be availed in a spirit of gatitude to God who takes the initiative in calling us back to Himself. It should be a continuous practice with us to live each day of our lives as if it were our last, keeping in mind that "we must be prepared, for at an hour we do not expect, the Son of Man will come" (Matt 24: 44).
Patrick John Ashing
Oblate, OSB Cam
Thank you for an exceptional writing (and something I can always use) It is of great value and "well worded" so to speak. Very fine writing! It leads me to confession! Thank you once again & peace be with you friend.
Once again, thanks for appreciating my poor efforts, as I am just exploiting the talents (making my 5 into 10) for the building up of the Body of Christ, the Church and for the honour and glory of God.
Lots of love and prayers