Grace and good works affect others not only in natural, but in mystical ways
Reading Exodus 20, the Torah, again:
“…I am the Lord thy God, mighty, jealous, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children, unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me. And shewing mercy unto thousands to them that love me, and keep my commandments.”
The good we do, by the grace of Christ, ripples out into the universe and builds up His Body:
“If so ye continue in the faith, grounded and settled, and immoveable from the hope of the gospel which you have heard, which is preached in all the creation that is under heaven: whereof I Paul am made a minister. Who now rejoice in my sufferings for you and fill up those things that are wanting of the sufferings of Christ, in my flesh, for His body, which is the church…”
When we cooperate with grace — when we pray, give alms, fast, offer up our sufferings, etc. — we literally strengthen the Body of Christ in a mystical way! Christ Himself and all the Saints of 2,000 years (by the grace of Christ) have built up His Mystical Body (the Catholic Church) and laid up a “treasury of merit” or “spiritual treasury,” as it is also called. In the same way we or others detract from the Body of Christ through sin, we and others add to this treasury — and receive the fruits thereof when we receive an indulgence, for we are one in the Body of Christ:
“We being many, are one body in Christ, and every one, members one of another.”
And read once again I Corinthians 12:26:
“And if one member suffer any thing, all the members suffer with it: or if one member glory, all the members rejoice with it.”
The Church was given the power to bind and loose
To Peter was given the Keys to the Kingdom (Matthew 16) and the power of binding and loosing (forbidding/permitting, condemning/acquitting). In exercising this power of the Keys, the Church has the authority to determine certain practices which help us to to benefit from the treasury of merit and alleviate the temporal effects of sins we’ve confessed and are already forgiven for. This is an indulgence.
That the Church was given the power to forgive the eternal effects of sin through the Sacrament of Penance makes it easier to understand how the Church also has the power to alleviate the lesser, temporal effects of sin. The Church whose priests were given the authority by Christ to forgive the guilt of sin and thereby, by the Blood of Christ, eliminate the eternal punishments for sin, surely also has the authority to pardon the temporal punishments of sin.
The temporal effects of sin affect others not only in natural, but in mystical ways
As far back as the Old Testament, it is made clear that the temporal effects of sin affect others who may not have committed personal sin. The greatest and first example is that of the sin of Adam and Eve which resulted in the fall of man from grace and in his propensity for corruption and personal sin which we call “original sin.”
The Pentateuch (i.e. Torah, the first five Books of the Bible) also speaks of the sins of the fathers being visited upon the children:
“…I am the Lord thy God, mighty, jealous, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children, unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate Me.”
1 Corinthians 12:26 demonstrates that what affects one member of the Body affects another:
“And if one member suffer any thing, all the members suffer with it: or if one member glory, all the members rejoice with it.”
These concepts seem foreign to those who live in the modern Western world’s radically individualistic culture, but they are Scriptural fact. They may seem “unfair” (as though life with our fallen nature is supposed to be fair), but that it is true is obvious by looking at the often sad lives of the poor children of “crack-whores,” or the parents of those who tend to end up in and out of Juvenile Hall, etc. This is not to say that those who suffer the consequences of their ancestors’ sins are doomed! No! All are called to Christ and His Church, and Jesus will judge us as individuals by looking at our hearts, wills, deeds, and intellect, taking into consideration factors which mitigate culpability. Nonetheless, the basic idea that our sins affect others not only in obvious temporal ways, but in mystical ways, is Biblical.
All of these temporal punishments, though painful, are merciful. Without discipline and punishment from God, we would continue in our ways, remain unrepentant, and then suffer the eternal consequences of doing so. A father who does not discipline his children is a bad father who is setting up his child for greater troubles down the road. God, though, is a good Father:
“And have you completely forgotten this word of encouragement that addresses you as a father addresses his son? It says,
‘My son, do not make light of the Lord’s discipline,
and do not lose heart when he rebukes you,
because the Lord disciplines the one He loves,
and he chastens everyone he accepts as His son.’ -Prov. 3:11,12
Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as his children. For what children are not disciplined by their father? If you are not disciplined—and everyone undergoes discipline—then you are not legitimate, not true sons and daughters at all. Moreover, we have all had human fathers who disciplined us and we respected them for it. How much more should we submit to the Father of spirits and live! They disciplined us for a little while as they thought best; but God disciplines us for our good, in order that we may share in His holiness. No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.”
A sin is considered to be “mortal” when its quality is such that it leads to a separation of that person from God’s saving (sanctifying) grace, i.e. destroys the life of grace necessary for salvation within the soul.
Sanctifying grace plays the part of the means, indispensable and Divinely ordained, to effect the redemption from sin through Christ and to lead men to their eternal destiny in heaven.
Sin has two different types of effects — eternal and temporal
Sin has both eternal consequences and temporal consequences. Sin, even private sin is communal and has negative effects If I were to repent and receive forgiveness through the Sacrament of Penance, the eternal consequences of mortal sin– satisfied for by Christ at Calvary — are no longer an issue (Deo gratias!) because I receive the effects of His atoning Sacrifice (I will have been justified) when I reconcile with the Church through a good Confession.
But I still have to pay for the temporal consequences of my sin because God is not only merciful, He is just. An example is that of a child who steals a candy bar and then then tearfully, with true contrition, confesses his crime to his parent. The parent, being loving and good and merciful, as our Father in Heaven is, will forgive that child, not turn the child over to the police (Hell) and allow the child back in the parent’s “good graces”(sanctification) — but he will also still expect the child to pay back the store from which he stole (temporal justice).
Another example is the common one of, say, an imprisoned murderer repenting and coming to know Christ (sanctification) — but who still must serve out his time in prison or give up his life as punishment (temporal justice). Or, yet, an offender is forgiven by the offended in court (sanctification), but society requires he still pay his debts: prison, probation, restorative justice, restitution, may the offended as whole as possible, if possible (temporal justice). Christ’s redemption, while whole and total towards God’s justice, also requires temporal justice. Salvation is not a “get out of jai free” card in terms of temporal justice. It is in terms of eternal justice, but not temporal.
No temporal consequences to one’s sinful actions in this life would not make sense. It does not make sense to society. It does not make sense in term of justification and salvation, hence, Purgatory, for that temporal justice unsatisfied in this life through acts of love and virtue, the love of others, the forgetting of self, suffering united with the suffering of Christ on the Cross. Suffering endured by those not baptized, with faith in the redemptive nature of Christ’s passion, is just plain old unredemptive, meaningless suffering, without merit, sense, or purpose, pointless. Just suffering for suffering’s sake. Sucks to be you suffering.
The temporal effects of repented sins that are not paid for in life through the effects of natural law, personal penance, penance given by the priest at Confession, or mystical penances given to me by God, suffering endured in this life, are paid for in Purgatory. St. Augustine, in City of God (A.D. 419), sums up Catholic thinking on such things:
“Temporal punishments are suffered by some in this life only, by some after death, by some both here and hereafter, but all of them before that last and strictest judgment [i.e. when Christ comes again to judge the living and the dead]. But not all who suffer temporal punishments after death will come to eternal punishments, which are to follow.”
Purgation — the process of making satisfaction for debt caused by sin so that we may become perfect, divinized, and enter Heaven — is quite Scriptural, of course. Allusions to purgation are found all over the Bible; but it is summed up most clearly in the following two verses:
“Settle matters quickly with your adversary who is taking you to court. Do it while you are still together on the way, or your adversary may hand you over to the judge, and the judge may hand you over to the officer, and you may be thrown into prison. Truly I tell you, you will not get out until you have paid the last penny.”
1 Corinthians 3:12-15
“Now if anyone builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw — each one’s work will become manifest, for the Day will disclose it, because it will be revealed by fire, and the fire will test what sort of work each one has done. If the work that anyone has built on the foundation survives, he will receive a reward. If anyone’s work is burned up, he will suffer loss, though he himself will be saved, but only as through fire.”
In her doctrine (teaching) on the nature of humans, the Catholic Church holds the middle ground as true between two opposing theories, that humans are both body AND soul. That is NOT splitting the difference. The Church’s one mission is Truth. He is Truth. And, typically, the Truth is found between extremes, typically. Heresies tend toward one extreme or the other, as is typical of heresies.
We don’t have a souls. We are souls and have bodies, imago Dei, made in the image and likeness of God, Himself; from and through which each person receives their inestimable value and divinely given dignity, without qualification.
Through original sin, we lost our original justice/righteousness. We lost immortality and our original innocence having eaten of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. We, justly, earned suffering, death, ignorance and lust; ignorance and lust often leading to suffering and death.
By the disobedience of our original parents, sin entered the world.
CCC 1849 Sin is an offense against reason, truth, and right conscience; it is a failure in genuine love for God and neighbor caused by a perverse attachment to certain goods…. It has been defined [by St Augustine] as “an utterance, a deed, or a desire contrary to the eternal law.”
CCC 1850 Sin is an offense against God…. Sin sets itself against God’s love for us and turns our hearts away from it. Like the first sin, it is disobedience, a revolt against God through the will to become “like gods,” knowing and determining good and evil. Sin is thus “love of oneself even to the contempt of God.”
Sin is social
In his Apostolic Exhortation, Reconciliatio et Paenitentia, Pope John Paul. II says that the “mystery of sin”
“is composed of [a] twofold wound which the sinner opens in himself and in his relationship with his neighbor. Therefore one can speak of personal and social sin: From one point of view, every sin is personal; from another point of view, every sin is social insofar as and because it also has social repercussions.”
All sin is social, says John Paul II, in this regard: It wounds our relationship with our neighbor. No man is an island.
This does not mean that sin is not personal at all; and it does not mean that “external factors” in a society are to blame for a person’s sins. That would be a misreading. The pope is clear in pointing that out.
“Sin, in the proper sense, is always a personal act, since it is an act of freedom on the part of an individual person and not properly of a group or community. This individual may be conditioned, incited and influenced by numerous and powerful external factors. He may also be subjected to tendencies, defects and habits linked with his personal condition. In not a few cases such external and internal factors may attenuate, to a greater or lesser degree, the person’s freedom and therefore his responsibility and guilt. But it is a truth of faith, also confirmed by our experience and reason, that the human person is free. This truth cannot be disregarded in order to place the blame for individuals’ sins on external factors such as structures, systems or other people.”
That is important. Only an individual can be responsible for sin. “Social sin” does not mean that society sins, or that society bears the burden of guilt. What it does mean is that every sin, to one degree or another, has a consequence for others.
“To speak of social sin means in the first place to recognize that, by virtue of human solidarity which is as mysterious and intangible as it is real and concrete, each individual’s sin in some way affects others.”
To sin is to wound not only yourself but a brother or a sister. It puts you out of right relationship with God, out of right relationship with yourself, and also out of right relationship with other human beings (who are themselves the image of God). In that way, all sin wounds the Christ in your brother or sister.
The pope expands on this thought:
“Consequently one can speak of a communion of sin, whereby a soul that lowers itself through sin drags down with itself the church and, in some way, the whole world. In other words, there is no sin, not even the most intimate and secret one, the most strictly individual one, that exclusively concerns the person committing it. With greater or lesser violence, with greater or lesser harm, every sin has repercussions on the entire ecclesial body and the whole human family. According to this first meaning of the term, every sin can undoubtedly be considered as social sin.”
It is not just “society,” in the secular sense, that is wounded by each sin, but the society of the Church itself. The Body of Christ also bears the wound. Even to that extent alone, all sin is “social”, and tragic, and devastating in its effects.
It is important to work to change laws. But changing laws will be, in John Paul II’s words, “ultimately vain and ineffective” unless we also convert souls.
(One of my FAVORITE movies of all time! Kelly and I often quote it back & forth to each other, especially when Elliot is a wimpy, sunset loving, guitar playing, tuna-eating-dolphin-free marshmallow who lets bullies kick sand in his face, thinking, after reading Alison’s diary, and wishing from the devil, Elizabeth Hurley, to be a sensitive man. Of course, Satan being the father/mother of lies, so Elliot always gets Hell, instead, literally, never the heaven he thought he was bargaining for by offering his soul. How true. I made a custom ringtone from Alison’s final line in this scene. Ever since seeing the movie the first time, I said, out loud, if the devil REALLY looked like Elizabeth Hurley….we might have to talk….JUST KIDDING!!!! I think. 🙂 )
“One of the most influential and now forgotten historians of the 19th century was the Austrian Dominican Heinrich Denifle. Despite having many administrative responsibilities, Fr. Denifle found time to pour over thousands of medieval manuscripts, making significant contributions to the study of medieval mysticism, the rise of universities, the Hundred Years War, and the life of Martin Luther. During his lifetime, his work was lauded by Catholic, Protestant, and secular scholars throughout Europe.
In his later years, Fr. Denifle examined the general decline in observance among the clergy in the late Middle Ages, as well as the not infrequent counter-examples of heroically virtuous clerics. During the 14th and 15th centuries, Europe endured the threefold calamity of war, famine, and plague; Europe’s population would not fully recover until the industrial revolution. Death claimed the wicked and the pious alike, and the Church herself was rent with schism. Moreover, the prevailing intellectual trend of the age—Nominalism—posited an utterly arbitrary and terrifyingly vengeful God. These factors led many in the late Middle Ages—even priests and religious—to adopt either an extreme asceticism or a nihilistic hedonism. Fr. Denifle observed that the curious thing about many lax priests was that they continued to know right from wrong. Their error lay, rather, in thinking that they could not help but sin when confronted with temptation.
Sound familiar? Many of our contemporaries still recognize the wrongness of sins like overeating, adultery, slander, and embezzlement. Yet so often we exonerate ourselves by protesting our own lack of freedom: “I just couldn’t help myself.” Our society is quick to explain disordered actions by pointing to psychological or biological causes, whether traumatic experiences, psychological disorders, or simply being born a particular way. In attempting to alleviate moral guilt, this modern tendency strips the human agent of liberty, reducing him merely to reacting to stimuli rather than making free and creative choices. Yet the Scriptures are quite clear that men—in general—retain moral responsibility for their deeds. While psychological and physiological disorders may influence human behavior negatively, they are not the only cause of disordered actions.
As St. Thomas Aquinas explains, the possibility for sin rests primarily in the freedom of our created natures. As creatures, we are finite and, therefore, defectable, able to go astray by not loving what we ought as we ought. Moreover, due to the stain of original sin, fallen man is less inclined to good actions. There is ignorance in the intellect and malice in the will, by which we love lesser goods more than we ought. Even our sense appetite is disordered by concupiscence and weakness: we are too desirous of sensual goods, and we are unwilling to strive after difficult goods. Thus, our senses and emotions can often overmaster our impaired intellects and wills, leading us to act unreasonably.
Yet original sin did not corrupt human nature entirely, as though Adam and Eve were transformed into some other sort of creature. Man remains created in the image and likeness of God, a rational creature possessed of intellect, will, and free choice. No matter how disinclined towards virtue he may be in his sinfulness, he retains the seeds of virtue, for the inclinations towards truth and goodness—the goals of virtuous actions—are inscribed in the very nature of his intellect and will. Moreover, the baser powers remain fundamentally subordinated to the higher, yearning to be directed well by free choices. Sin does not destroy our liberty, it merely makes it more difficult to exercise it—to act as we know we ought (see Rom 7:19). Yet God’s grace is capable of penetrating the depths of our fallen nature, healing and elevating it interiorly. Therefore, let us neither despair of ever being able to resist temptation nor protest our inability to act according to right reason. Rather, let us remember that our nature has not been utterly denuded of its freedom, and let us beseech God’s aid in exercising our liberty well despite our woundedness, remembering his teaching, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness” (2 Cor 12:9).”
Behold me, O my God, at Your feet! I do not deserve mercy, but O my Redeemer, the blood which You have shed for me encourages me and obliges me to hope for it. How often I have offended You, repented, and yet have I again fallen into the same sin. O my God, I wish to amend, and in order to be faithful to You, I will place all my confidence in You. I will, whenever I am tempted, instantly have recourse to You. Until now, I have trusted in my own promises and resolutions and have neglected to recommend myself to You in my temptations. This has been the cause of my repeated failures. From this day forward, be You, O Lord, my strength, and in this shall I be able to do all things, for “I can do all things in Him Who strengthens me. (Phil 4:13)” Amen.
Mary, Mother most pure, and Joseph, chaste guardian of the Virgin, to you I entrust the purity of my soul and body. I beg you to plead with God for me that I may never for the remainder of my life soil my soul by any sin of impurity. I earnestly wish to be pure in thought, word and deed in imitation of your own holy purity. Obtain for me a deep sense of modesty, which will be reflected in my external conduct. Protect my eyes, the windows of my soul, from anything that might dim the luster of a heart that must mirror only Christ-like purity. And when the “Bread of Angels” becomes my food in Holy Communion, seal my heart forever against the suggestions of sinful pleasures. Finally, may I be among the number of those of whom Jesus spoke, “Blessed are the pure of heart for they shall see God. (Mt 5:8)” Amen.
Love, and the peace that comes from His will,
Man’s sin-damaged nature has something to do with religious indifference.
One person who understood this profoundly was the physicist and mathematician Blaise Pascal, who has often been referred to as the father of probability theory. He could also be justly called the father of modern Christian apologetics.
Few Christian thinkers have thought more deeply and written more astutely about the problem of religious indifference than he. He begins his reflections in the Pensées by beginning with human nature and the fact of our wretchedness without God. We are, to put it bluntly, never satisfied—even to extent of being miserable.
We are broken; and that is why we are always chasing happiness.
And yet we never quite find it in this life, do we?
We can never rest with anything. Although we are never satisfied completely, the closer we become to God the more satisfied we become.
The only antidote to our misery, Pascal concludes, is religion; that is, a relationship—an intimate friendship—with God. We accomplish that most readily by seeking to know and love Jesus Christ since “there is salvation in no one else.”
Only by knowing Jesus can we make sense of life and death, God and humanity. The problem is however that our individualistic modern era wants to resist the antidote. “Men despise religion,” writes Pascal, “[T]hey hate it, and fear it is true.”
And it is because of this fear and loathing of religion that men turn to two distinct strategies of avoidance: diversion and indifference.
Our current concern is with indifference—the end result of diversion and a distinct problem in and of itself.
Whereas diversion involves an effort to distract oneself, indifference involves a lack of effort to sincerely seek a relationship with God.
Pascal is rattled by man’s indifference toward the search for God because, as he rightly sees, how we should best live hinges above all on whether or not eternal happiness is truly possible. “All our actions and thoughts,” he writes, “must follow such different paths, according to whether there is hope of eternal blessings or not….” And yet, man is indifferent. Sin has taken hold, and he could not care less to remedy the effects.
Sin is both the cause and the effect of religious indifference.”
“There is good reason to be astonished that men should sin so boldly in the sight of Heaven and earth and show so little fear of the most high God. Yet it is a much greater cause of astonishment that while we multiply our iniquities beyond the sands of the sea and have so great a need for God to be kind and indulgent, we are nevertheless so demanding ourselves. Such indignity and such injustice! We want God to suffer everything from us, and we are not able to suffer anything from anyone. We exaggerate beyond measure the faults committed against us; worms that we are, we take the slightest pressure exerted on us to be an enormous attack. Meanwhile, we count as nothing what we undertake proudly against the sovereign majesty of God and the rights of his empire! Blind and wretched mortals: will we always be so sensitive and delicate? Will we never open our eyes to the truth? Will we never understand that the one who does injury to us is always much more to be pitied than are we who receive the injury? . . . Since those who do evil to us are unhealthy in mind, why do we embitter them by our cruel vengeance? Why do we not rather seek to bring them back to reason by our patience and mildness? Yet we are far removed from these charitable dispositions. Far from making the effort at self-command that would enable us to endure an injury, we think that we are lowering ourselves if we do not take pride in being delicate in points of honor. We even think well of ourselves for our extreme sensitivity. And we carry our resentment beyond all measure . . . All of this must stop . . . We must take care of what we say and bridle our malicious anger and unruly tongues. For there is a God in Heaven who has told us that he will demand a reckoning of our ‘careless words’ (Matt. 12:36): what recompense shall he exact for those which are harmful and malicious? We ought, therefore, to revere his eyes and his presence. Let us ponder the fact that he will judge us as we have judged our neighbor.” — Bishop Jacques-Benigne Bossuet, Meditations for Lent, p. 49-51
1 “The word of the LORD came to me: 2 “Son of man, say to the ruler of Tyre, ‘This is what the Sovereign LORD says: “ ‘In the pride of your heart you say, “I am a god; I sit on the throne of a god in the heart of the seas.” But you are a mere mortal and not a god, though you think you are as wise as a god. 3 Are you wiser than Daniel ? Is no secret hidden from you? 4 By your wisdom and understanding you have gained wealth for yourself and amassed gold and silver in your treasuries. 5 By your great skill in trading you have increased your wealth, and because of your wealth your heart has grown proud. 6 “ ‘Therefore this is what the Sovereign LORD says: “ ‘Because you think you are wise, as wise as a god, 7 I am going to bring foreigners against you, the most ruthless of nations; they will draw their swords against your beauty and wisdom and pierce your shining splendor. 8 They will bring you down to the pit, and you will die a violent death in the heart of the seas. 9 Will you then say, “I am a god,” in the presence of those who kill you? You will be but a mortal, not a god, in the hands of those who slay you. 10 You will die the death of the uncircumcised at the hands of foreigners. I have spoken, declares the Sovereign LORD.’ ” 11 The word of the LORD came to me: 12 “Son of man, take up a lament concerning the king of Tyre and say to him: ‘This is what the Sovereign LORD says: “ ‘You were the seal of perfection, full of wisdom and perfect in beauty. 13 You were in Eden, the garden of God; every precious stone adorned you: carnelian, chrysolite and emerald, topaz, onyx and jasper, lapis lazuli, turquoise and beryl. Your settings and mountings were made of gold; on the day you were created they were prepared. 14 You were anointed as a guardian cherub, for so I ordained you. You were on the holy mount of God; you walked among the fiery stones. 15 You were blameless in your ways from the day you were created till wickedness was found in you. 16 Through your widespread trade you were filled with violence, and you sinned. So I drove you in disgrace from the mount of God, and I expelled you, guardian cherub, from among the fiery stones. 17 Your heart became proud on account of your beauty, and you corrupted your wisdom because of your splendor. So I threw you to the earth; I made a spectacle of you before kings. 18 By your many sins and dishonest trade you have desecrated your sanctuaries. So I made a fire come out from you, and it consumed you, and I reduced you to ashes on the ground in the sight of all who were watching. 19 All the nations who knew you are appalled at you; you have come to a horrible end and will be no more.’ ” -Ezekiel 28:1-19
“…St. Thomas wrote that we encounter pride not principally in what we think, but in what we desire (ST II-II 162, a.1 ad 2). Through pride, someone desires something disproportionate. What one thinks does matter, however, since by coveting what exceeds him the proud man severs the strings of his swelling appetites from reality. Frequently because of this severing, he distorts his perception of himself and what is good for him. Instead, conceding both his deficiencies and his dignity, he ought humbly to tether his appetites to reality. “For which of you, intending to build a tower, does not first sit down and estimate the cost, to see whether he has enough to complete it? Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation and is not able to finish, all who see it will begin to ridicule him” (Luke 14:28-29).
Jesus identifies pride in the gospel of today’s Mass: “You search the Scriptures, because you think you have eternal life through them; even they testify on my behalf. But you do not want to come to me to have life” (Jn. 5:31-47). The person of Jesus is simultaneously the greatest concession to human deficiency and the greatest affirmation of human dignity. Man rightly desires eternal life and knowledge of God, but he cannot attain these unless God holds him by his right hand. Jesus comes on account of our sinfulness and is the only one who can raise us to life with God. Yet the Pharisees want this life without Jesus.
Similarly, we may try to seek our happiness without Christ, but this is more than tenuous: it is impossible. In an era where human ingenuity has furthered the aims of human health, technology, and scientific knowledge, we have increasingly yielded to the desire to do without God both in society and in our daily lives. Nevertheless, in our quest for self-reliance we are increasingly confounded by questions of an ultimate nature and of a purpose to life…our grandiose desires result in less-than-picturesque outcomes. We either fall far short of our intended goal, or we despair, winding up unhappy. To remedy this, we must modify our desires. Of course we should desire nothing less than eternal happiness. Nevertheless, we should desire this with the help of grace and in the life to come. Jesus promises this happiness, and because we cannot attain it on our own, he gives us the grace. If we seek this grace, we can be confident that he will give it.”
Love, pray for me to especially be given the grace to overcome this sin, this greatest of temptations mine. Lord, make me humble!!! (…with thanks to St Augustine, “But, not yet?” 🙂 )
There’s a BIG diff. Holiness “integrates” the entire human person, as God intended, repairing the wounds of sin in that person and their community; and is achieved ONLY through His most merciful grace. Sin, the rebellion against God and His Holy Will, therefore, “disintegrates” the human person. We can see this now, here, in our lives through greed, lust, envy, pride, divorce, addiction, adultery, even atheism/agnosticism, heresy, and their counterparts all disintegrate the human person from what God intends. Praise His most holy name. Praise Him. Please, please pray for me in my struggles against my own temptations, that I might not be disintegrated in His sight. He has been so good to me! 🙂 1 Cor 9:27. Pray that I may turn from my sin, and LIVE!!!! 🙂
¨Bob is Bob,” and “Dan is Dan;” these statements are tautologically true. Yet we also say that “Bob isn’t himself today,” and this manner of speaking gets at something profound. We can, somehow, be more or less “ourselves.” But what does that mean, exactly?
It doesn’t mean that personhood changes or disappears, or that someone becomes someone else. Rather, it is a statement about wholeness, completeness, and integrity of life; or the lack of integrity and that absence of a proper order in life—being scattered, fragmented. And there is, ultimately, only one thing that can destroy integrity: sin.
Sin wounds the nature of man and injures human solidarity. (Catechism of the Catholic Church, CCC, 1849)
Sin is not an offense against an arbitrary standard concocted by a devious divinity. It’s an offense against reason and truth. As such, its effects are not only external, breaking the divine and eternal law, but also internal. It wounds human nature by destroying the proper ordering of life, by twisting nature to perverted counterfeits of the good it seeks. Sin makes us less ourselves.
All sin and vice lead us to lose ourselves, but some kinds more than others. This depends not only on the gravity of the offense, but also on the role that each virtue and vice plays in human life. One virtue is particularly important, and particularly neglected in our era: that of chastity. Chastity is especially important not because Christians are obsessed with controlling a particular, and personal, aspect of people’s lives, but because it reflects and informs integrity and self-possession throughout all facets of life.
The virtue of chastity therefore involves the integrity of the person and the integrality of the gift … Charity is the form of all the virtues. Under its influence, chastity appears as a school of the gift of the person. Self-mastery is ordered to the gift of self. (CCC 2337, 2346) (Ed. Since when I was in novitiate and missioned to St John’s food pantry in Cincinnatti, where I heard the true, true maxim, oft since reheard, “You cannot give what you do not have!”)
The proper ordering of life is, ultimately, one of self-mastery and self-gift, for “man cannot fully find himself except through a sincere gift of himself” (Gaudium et Spes, 24). Chastity is a virtue exemplifying both self-mastery and self-gift. Self-mastery, since “the alternative is clear: either man governs his passions and finds peace, or he lets himself be dominated by them and becomes unhappy” (CCC 2338). Self-gift, since “some profess virginity or consecrated celibacy which enables them to give themselves to God alone with an undivided heart in a remarkable manner,” and some profess vows “in the complete and lifelong mutual gift of a man and a woman” (CCC 2349, 2337). Chastity, thus, is worth our special concern.
In today’s age, in a culture of explicit and unbridled and almost unavoidable unchastity, sin has harmed each of us, distorted your integrity and mine, in a drastic way. It is no surprise that so many people are “not themselves” and are unable to gather the scattered fragments of life. It may tempt us to despair, but we are comforted by our Savior and the confidence that “where sin abounded, grace did more abound” (Rom. 5:20). It is by grace, purchased at great price, that sin is expelled, virtue gained, and our selves made whole.”
Catholic theology, in contrast to Lutheran, holds that salvation by Jesus Christ involves a healing to whole, an intrinsic renewal towards completeness from the injury of Original Sin, our Fallen State.
Martin Luther (words in bold) was a preacher and a writer given over to strong hyperbole. No one, neither Catholic nor Protestant, debates this assertion, and so…
-by Dave Armstrong, raised as a Methodist in Detroit, Michigan, Armstrong converted to non-denominational, Arminian evangelicalism in 1977, with strong affinities to the Jesus Movement and Messianic Judaism, and then to Catholicism in 1990, largely as a result of reading Bl John Henry Cardinal Newman, CO,’s Essay on the Development of Christian Doctrine. He was received into the Catholic Church in February 1991 by Rev. John Hardon, SJ. Armstrong’s conversion story was one of eleven in Patrick Madrid’s Surprised by Truth.
“Conceived in sorrow and corruption, the child sins in his mother’s womb. As he grows older, the innate element of corruption develops. Man has said to sin: ‘Thou art my father’—and every act he performs is an offense against God; and to the worms: ‘You are my brothers’—and he crawls like them in mire and corruption. He is a bad tree and cannot produce good fruit; a dunghill, and can only exhale foul odors. He is so thoroughly corrupted that it is absolutely impossible for him to produce good actions. Sin is his nature; he cannot help committing it. Man may do his best to be good, still his every action is unavoidably bad; he commits a sin as often as he draws his breath.-Martin Luther, #8: “Werke (Wittenberg Edition), Vol. III, p. 518.” This refers to the edition of Luther’s works, published in Wittenberg: 12 volumes in German (1539-1559) and seven volumes in Latin (1545-1558).
-from Rev John Hardon, SJ, “St. Peter Canisius on Christmas Joy”, Homiletic and Pastoral Review, Vol. 48 – #3, December 1947, pp. 167-172)
The Catholic Church teaches man is made in God’s image, and though he is fallen, he is not worthless excrement. This was one of the novel, peculiar contributions of the so-called “Reformation,” to introduce this non-biblical motif into Christian theology (sadly one of several such unbiblical themes). Luther himself picked up on this passage in his Lectures on Galatians, from 1535:
“And with Paul let us confess that all our works and righteousness . . . are nothing but loss and refuse (Phil. 3:8). And let us tread underfoot and utterly abhor, as a polluted garment (Is. 64:6) and the deadly poison of the devil, all the power of free will, all the wisdom and righteousness of the world, all religious orders, all Masses, ceremonies, vows, fasts, hair shirts, and the like.”-Luther Werks, vol. 26, p. 41; translated by Jaroslav Pelikan
“It is not enough that this sin is forgiven through grace, for through our infirmity we fall right back into sin . . . the thing itself, which is truly sin and is remitted and forgiven by God, still remains in the flesh and is not completely dead . . . in the justified there are still remnants of sin, like lust and other vices. These the prophet sees in himself as dung or seed plots . . .
. . . God wants to wipe out the sins as far as the forgiveness of their guilt and their power are concerned, but not as far as the thing itself or the nature of the sin is concerned . . . Therefore, both statements are true: “No Christian has sin”; and “Every Christian has sin.”
. . . He is righteous and holy by an alien or foreign holiness – I call it this for the sake of instruction – that is, he is righteous by the mercy and grace of God.’-ibid, pp. 327-328
. . . it is great wisdom to know that we are nothing but sin . . . From such a root nothing good before God can come forth . . the whole nature corrupted by sin . . . -ibid,p. 307; Althaus – see source below – renders this as “there is simply nothing in us that is not sinful” – , p. 153
We say that the natural powers are corrupt in the extreme.-ibid,p. 308. . . it is a fictitious expression to speak of a “holy man,” just as it is a fictitious expression to speak of God’s falling into sin; for by the nature of things, this cannot be.
For this reason we must reject those very ancient and deep-rooted errors by which in monastic fashion we speak of Jerome or Paul as “holy.” In themselves they are sinners, and only God is holy, as the church sings. Those whom we call “holy” are made holy by an alien holiness, through Christ, by the holiness of free mercy. In this holiness the whole church of the faithful is the same, there is no difference . . . It does not matter that Peter and Paul did greater things than you or I . . . So you see nothing holy, nothing good in man, as the psalm says (Ps. 53:2,3), “God looks down from heaven upon the sons of men . . . There is none that does good, no, not one.” . . . Therefore let us keep quiet about holiness and holy people . . . everything that is ours is evil before God . . .-ibid, p. 325
. . . it is clear how we become righteous, namely, by the mere imputation of righteousness . . .-ibid, p. 326
. . . neither the tree nor the fruit of human nature is good, but that everything has been so deformed and destroyed by sin that there is nothing sound left in all of human nature. [expanding upon David’s statement of 51:4] “. . . I am completely evil. Before Thee this is my name, that I do evil, that I have sinned, that I am sinning, that I shall sin forever.”-ibid, p. 337
This glory of righteousness must be left to God alone.-ibid, p. 338
. . . that constant and innate sin in which we live and die.-ibid, p. 339
He [Paul} is talking [in 51:5] about the unformed seed itself and declaring that it is full of sin and a mass of perdition.-ibid, p. 348
(Luther thinks that procreation is intrinsically sinful (apparently because of universal lust): “. . . the sin there is in procreation . . . in this respect how is our nature better than that of the beasts? In this action there is no knowledge of God and no faith . . . God puts up with this sinful begetting for the sake of His creation . . . the procreation of children . . . cannot be without sin . . .” – p. 349 (This makes sense within his framework, since he thinks everything we do is tainted by sin.)
. . . we acknowledge that we are completely sinful, indeed that it was sin even when we were conceived and formed in our mother’s womb.-ibid, p. 352
Luther scholar Paul Althaus (The Theology of Martin Luther, translated by Robert C. Schultz, Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1966), provides more examples of similar sentiments from Luther:
No one can be certain that he is not continually committing mortal sin, because of the most secret vice of pride.-ibid, p. 149
[Althaus writes: “The pope condemned this statement in his bull excommunicating Luther, and Luther states it even more sharply in his defense in 1521”]
I say now that no one should doubt that all our good works are mortal sins, if they are judged according to God’s judgment and severity and not accepted as good by grace alone.-ibid, p. 149; LW 32, 91
[Althaus: “This is due not to the character of good works as specific individual acts but to man’s pride which stains them all.”] A righteous man sins in all his good works. -ibid, p. 149; LW 32,83
A good work, even though well performed is a venial sin according to God’s merciful judgment, and a mortal sin according to God’s strict judgment.-ibid, p. 149; LW 32,86
Every good work is a sin unless it is forgiven by mercy.-ibid, p. 149; LW 32,209
. . . he never does good without its being corrupted . . . we always sin even when we do what is right; sometimes we sin more and sometimes we sin less, depending on how much our flesh assails us with its impure desires.-ibid, p. 152; LW 31,61
[Althaus writes on the same page: “This is true not only of man without Christ but also of the Christian man. For, although he has received the Spirit of God, he still remains ‘flesh’ which resists God’s will. For this reason he still sins even when he does what is right.”]
[possibly offensive language warning]
Moreover, Luther called himself “dung”:
Luther frequently called himself a piece of shit and in a part of his table talk of 1542-43 that fascinated Erickson, he said, “I am the ripe shit; so also is the world a wide asshole; then shall we soon part.”-in Richard Marius, Martin Luther: The Christian Between God and Death, Harvard University Press, 2000, p. 20; primary source, TR 5, no. 5537 — footnote on p. 491. Elsewhere I found further documentation: TR 5:222.14-15.19-20. LW 54:448. See Erickson’s alternate rendering, on p. 206 of his famous work, “Young Man Luther”.
Keeping all this in mind, as Luther’s conception of the total depravity of man and how he “frequently” described himself, let’s now look at how he comments upon Psalm 51:7, which refers to snow cleansing our sins:
How can we become “purer than snow” even though the remnants of sin always cling to us? I answer: I have always said that man is divided into spirit and flesh. Therefore, as far as the total man is concerned, there remains remnants of sin or, as Paul calls them (2 Cor. 7:1), “defilements of body and spirit.” . . . Still we have obtained Baptism, which is most pure; we have obtained the Word, which is most pure; and in the Word and Baptism we have by faith obtained the blood of Christ, which is surely most pure. According to this purity, which in spirit and faith we have from Christ and from the Sacraments that He instituted, the Christian is rightly said to be purer than snow . . . even though the defilements of spirit and flesh cling to him. These are concealed and covered by the cleanness and purity of Christ . . .
. . . if you look at a Christian without the righteousness and purity of Christ, as he is in himself, even though he be most holy, you will find not only no cleanness, but what I might call diabolical blackness. . . . Therefore if they ask: “Sin always clings to man; how, then, can he be washed so as to make him whiter than snow?” you reply: “We should look at a man, not as he is in himself, but as he is in Christ.-ibid, pp. 366-367
Thus we virtually have all the elements of the alleged “saying”: “snow-covered dunghill” in this one work alone: the commentary on Psalms 51. This is all the more so if we realize that Luther often equates “the flesh” with fallen man in and of himself (as Althaus elaborates at length, on pp. 153-155). On p. 327 Luther refers to “remnants of sin” in the flesh as “dung.” His treatment of man’s nature generally lends itself to the description of dung, as it is worthless, totally corrupt, and evil. Luther also pits man’s uncleanness and “diabolical blackness” over against the “cleanness” of baptism and justification; impurity to purity (with perhaps the Old Testament ritual cleanliness concerning dirt, dead bodies, menstruation, etc. in the back of his mind). This readily lends itself to the same interpretation. His comments on “snow” immediately above clearly fulfill the second component of the “saying”.
If we also add the direct reference to man as a “dunghill” (which I documented from Fr. John A. Hardon, S.J.), then we have the entire conception, directly expressed in one place or another, if not one concise instance of a saying which encapsulates the thought.
As a clarification, to be fair to Luther (who is often pilloried, slandered, and misrepresented by Catholics, especially non-scholars on the Internet), and to accurately present his entire teaching, it is to be emphasized that, despite all this bad theology above (according to Catholic orthodoxy), Luther does accept the notion of progressive sanctification. He is not an antinomian; he does not condone or sanction sin on the grounds that it is absolutely unavoidable, or rendered ineffectual due to justification, or some sort of bogus “eternal security” based on a one-time justification. He only denies that such works play any role in justification or salvation, or that they can remove all sin before death. He denies entire sanctification. But then so do Catholics, in most cases (which is precisely why we believe in purgatory). Hence Luther wrote, in the same commentary:
Let us take care to be washed daily, to become purer day by day, so that daily the new man may arise and the old man may be crushed, not only for his death but also for our sanctification.-ibid, p. 330
. . . as long as we live, we all ask to be washed thoroughly. These are the two parts of justification . . . the second part is the conferring of the Holy Spirit with His gifts, who enlightens us against the defilements of spirit and flesh (2 Cor. 7:1) . . . Thus the true knowledge of God grows daily, together with other gifts. like chastity, obedience, and patience. Thus our body and its lusts are broken so that we do not obey them. Those who do not have this gift or do not use it this way, but fall into the uncleanness of either the flesh or the spirit, so that they approve of all doctrines without discrimination – they are dominated by the flesh, and they do not know the bath of the Holy Spirit for which David is asking here.-ibid, p. 331
In true theology, therefore, this is the first concern, that a man become good through the regeneration of the Spirit . . . Then it comes to pass that, as from a good tree, good fruits are also born . . . his own works, which ought to follow in regeneration. . . . These are the main works which testify that a tree has been changed from a barren tree to a fruitful one . . .-ibid, p. 385
Interestingly enough, I even managed to come across a “snow over refuse” analogy by Luther which has more to do with his belief in sanctification, than his Lutheran imputed justification doctrine:
We see grain sowed in the ground. Reason now asks: What happens to the grain in winter that has been sowed in the ground? Is it not a dead, moldy, decayed thing, covered with frost and snow? But in its own time it grows from that dead, moldy, decayed grain into a beautiful green stalk, which flourishes like a forest and produces a full, fat ear on which there are 20, 30, 40 kernels, and thereby finds life where only death existed earlier. Thus God has done with heaven, earth, sun and moon, and does every year with the grain in the field. He calls to that which is nothing that it should become something and does this contrary to all reason. Can He not also do something which serves to glorify the children of God, even though it is contrary to all reason? -Sermon on Our Blessed Hope, St. Louis Edition of Luther’s writings, IX: 930-957
p.s. above is Dave’s official Amazon avatar. However, I also fancy the below, obviously by a not overly zealous Catholic admirer. Flattery will get you everywhere!!! 🙂 It’s flattery, right? :/
Summa Catechetica, "Neque enim quaero intelligere ut credam, sed credo ut intelligam." – St Anselm, "Let your religion be less of a theory, and more of a love affair." -G.K. Chesterton, "I want a laity, not arrogant, not rash in speech, not disputatious, but men and women who know their religion, who enter into it, who know just where they stand, who know what they hold and what they do not, and who know their creed so well that they can give an account of it."- Bl John Henry Newman, Cong. Orat., "Encounter, not confrontation; attraction, not promotion; dialogue, not debate." -cf Pope Francis, “You will not see anyone who is really striving after his advancement who is not given to spiritual reading. And as to him who neglects it, the fact will soon be observed by his progress.” -St Athanasius, "To convert someone, go and take them by the hand and guide them." -St Thomas Aquinas, OP. 1 saint ruins ALL the cynicism in Hell & on Earth. “When we pray we talk to God; when we read God talks to us…All spiritual growth comes from reading and reflection.” -St Isidore of Seville, “Also in some meditations today I earnestly asked our Lord to watch over my compositions that they might do me no harm through the enmity or imprudence of any man or my own; that He would have them as His own and employ or not employ them as He should see fit. And this I believe is heard.” -GM Hopkins, SJ, "Only God knows the good that can come about by reading one good Catholic book." — St. John Bosco, "Why don't you try explaining it to them?" – cf St Peter Canisius, SJ, Doctor of the Church, Doctor of the Catechism, "Already I was coming to appreciate that often apologetics consists of offering theological eye glasses of varying prescriptions to an inquirer. Only one prescription will give him clear sight; all the others will give him at best indistinct sight. What you want him to see—some particular truth of the Faith—will remain fuzzy to him until you come across theological eye glasses that precisely compensate for his particular defect of vision." -Karl Keating, "The more perfectly we know God, the more perfectly we love Him." -St Thomas Aquinas, OP, ST, I-II,67,6 ad 3, “But always when I was without a book, my soul would at once become disturbed, and my thoughts wandered." —St. Teresa of Avila, "Let those who think I have said too little and those who think I have said too much, forgive me; and let those who think I have said just enough thank God with me." –St. Augustine