Sin, moral failure, apostasy, & spiritual death


-partial restoration of “Hasekura in Prayer” following his conversion in Madrid, 1615, author unknown


-by Rev John Bartunek, LC

“…whether a person is struggling with idealism or cynicism, those feelings need to be identified and put in their proper place; we must make our decisions not based just on feelings, but based first and foremost on moral truth. Just as an idealistic husband has to learn to identify and accept the flaws of his young wife and continue to love her, so a cynical husband has to learn to see the inner beauty and goodness of his wife in order to continue honoring, loving, and revering her as God wants him to. Neither idealism nor cynicism, as understandable as they may be, can excuse sin. And publicly denouncing the divinity of Christ or one’s adherence to him as Lord…is a fault against the first commandment (CCC 2089).

Someone’s degree of culpability may certainly be diminished by circumstances like those faced by the characters in Silence. Likewise, individuals may repent of their sins and return to the faith. Only God knows the whole story of each person’s struggles, and only God can accurately judge the level of culpability, even though we all may be able to see the objective evil of a sinful action. This is why Jesus tells us: “Do not judge, or you too will be judged” (Matthew 7:1).

But we must be careful to avoid calling right something that is wrong. Many martyrs in the history of the Church refused to renounce their faith in the face of horrible pressures. It would have been more convenient for them and for others if they had simply renounced their faith in Jesus. And yet, they didn’t. The Church holds these martyrs up to us as models of courage and trust in God, as witnesses of a reality that goes well beyond the joys and sufferings of this earth: the reality of divine truth, eternal life, and friendship with God. A public denial of one’s faith in God may lead to the preservation of someone else’s physical life, but it may scandalize them to the point where they abandon their faith, perhaps putting their eternal salvation in danger. Scandal, too, is a dangerous sin:

“Scandal is an attitude or behavior which leads another to do evil. The person who gives scandal becomes his neighbor’s tempter. He damages virtue and integrity; he may even draw his brother into spiritual death.” (CCC 2284).”

“(from the Catholic Dictionary, CatholicCulture.org) Spiritual death is the state of the soul in mortal sin, based on the analogy with bodily death. Just as a physical body may be not only ill or suffer injury, but cease to retain its principle of life, so the soul can lose sanctifying grace through mortal sin and supernaturally cease to live. It is, therefore, spiritually dead because it is no longer united with God, who gives it supernatural life, even as a body is dead on separation from its animating principle, which is the soul. While still on earth, this union with God is both a possession and a movement. We possess Him by grace and in faith, and we are moving toward Him in the beatific vision of glory. When persons sin mortally, they are twice dead: once because they lose the gift of divine life they formerly had, and once again because they are no longer moving toward the consummation of that life in heaven.

Mortal sins are no longer remissible by any power within the soul itself, much as the human body, once dead, cannot be brought back to life except by a special intervention of God. In Patristic literature the restoration is compared with the resuscitation of Lazarus. The exercise of Almighty power in either case is the same. “Everyone who sins, dies,” says St. Augustine. Only the Lord, “by His great grace and great mercy raises souls to life again, that we may not die eternally” (In Joannis Evangelium,49). Only infinite mercy can reconcile the grave sinner.”

Love,
Matthew

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