“In the last time there will be scoffers, following their own ungodly passion.” (Jude 1:18)
Have you noticed how the devil has become a bit of a joke or fun character in our world today? People do not take seriously the idea of a powerful evil spirit bent on the destruction of the human soul. Our world also suffers from a lack of the consciousness of sin; we think that anything goes nowadays as long as no one gets hurt. The trouble is that people are being hurt – they are being hurt emotionally, morally and spiritually! The problem stems from a lack of understanding about the nature of sin and its consequences upon our world.
But the serpent said to the woman, “You will not die. For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”(Genesis 3:45) Sin entered our world with “the fall.” Sin is a deliberate act that is opposed to the will of God. Adam and Eve committed the “Original sin,” it was a simple act of disobedience. As a consequence of this sin, suffering and death entered our world. We have also inherited a condition from Adam and Eve: Along with the knowledge of good and evil, we also carry the “stain” of original sin. This is not so much a blot or dirty mark upon the human soul, as it is a hole or void in the soul, a lack of grace.
God, who’s Spirit can have no part of sin, withdrew His grace. But from all eternity God had a plan of salvation for re-uniting mankind to Himself: He began by preparing the souls of men for the return of His grace, by establishing the faith of His people (Jewish faith) and by giving them commandments and laws to live by. Knowing that this would not be enough to restore mankind, at the appointed time, He washed their souls clean from the “stain” of original sin by appeasing His justice with a pure offering for sin, that of His Son, Jesus. Through the Sacrament of Baptism we enter into the life of Christ and God’s grace is restored to the soul, the void is filled, and mankind becomes whole once more. The grace of “conversion” or “justification” that leads us to desire the Sacrament of Baptism is called “First Grace,” this is a free gift of the Father to His fallen children and cannot be merited by our behaviour.
“For by grace you have been saved through faith; and this is not your own doing it is the gift of God – not because of works, lest any man should boast” (Eph 2:8&9).
However, mankind’s journey back to God only begins with Baptism: part of our inherited condition leaves us, despite First Grace and Baptism, with the condition of concupiscence, moral weakness and an ardour for worldly desires. This is a consequence of original sin; Baptism cleanses us free from the “guilt” and the “punishment” of original sin, but not from its consequences. Because of this, death (earthly not eternal) suffering, and our moral weaknesses remain. But this is no accident for we are told “for the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the Sons of God; for the creation was subject to futility, not of its own will but by the will of Him who subjected it in hope.” (Rom 8:19&20)
Our moral weaknesses, concupiscence and ardour of worldly desires remain that we may overcome them and become “sanctified” or holy. It is by our victory over these inherent defects (along with faith & Baptism) that we enter into the divine nature. We do this with the aid of God’s “sanctifying grace,” this grace again cannot be merited but does require an act of the will on our part to obtain it. God has given us the gift of freewill, and He will not compromise or take back that gift, therefore we must desire the good which God offers to us and reject the evil that satan offers to us. God’s grace helps us to desire the good and reject the evil, it points us in the right direction, but the final choice is always ours because we have freewill.
It is in this consent of the will that we can gain merit towards receiving even greater graces, or gifts of the Spirit from God that will also aid our sanctification.
“The unspiritual man does not receive the gifts of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned. “(1 Cor 2:14)
People today enjoy evil rather than good because they lack grace, they lack grace because they no longer look to God for their salvation. Their sins are multiplied because they no longer fear the devil or the consequences of their immoral behaviour. Thankfully, God does not love us because we are good – but because He is good.
“And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.” (Gal 5:24) If we wish to know joy in this life and feel at peace within our hearts, then we must live by virtue in this world and not by appetite. We must desire the “Fruits of the Spirit” rather than the pleasures of this world. Our conscience must be formed by the guidance of the Holy Spirit rather than by the sensuality of our nature, only then will we know true peace. Our happiness must consist in loving and serving God. A soul that possesses love, possesses the only thing of value in this life, because it is the only thing that will survive this world and return to the Creator. Love comes from God and is used by Him to bring forth children. These children are not called to love the world but to love God.
God has placed us upon this earth for a reason; we all have a purpose in life. Holy Scripture tells us that our purpose in this world is to grow in knowledge and understanding of God, and to love Him. Scripture also tells us that we cannot do this by following the world or the desires of our fallen nature, but that we must overcome ourselves, and be victorious over the world as Christ was victorious – we also, must one day say “I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33) For this we have the Sacraments of Confession, that we may keep ourselves in a state of grace by confessing our sins and receive forgiveness from God, and the Eucharist that we might feed our souls and receive further grace from God to help us overcome sin.
“And I will pray the Father, and He will give you another Counsellor to be with you for ever, even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees Him nor knows Him; you know Him, for He dwells with you, and will be in you.” (John 14:16&17) As Christians we are not left alone in this world to fight our spiritual battles, we have the comforter, the Holy Spirit. Through Him we receive grace and power that we may grow in virtue, through Him we are given the love to overcome our lower nature until we can say “It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me.” (Gal 2:20) Then we become partakers of that divine nature, we become living temples of the Holy Spirit, we become children of the living God.
Our world needs to know about the nature of sin and its consequences, but it needs to know even more about the infinite love and mercy of God. A God who left the glory of heaven, became a man, and took upon Himself the guilt and punishment of all our sins. Let us pray together:
Most Holy and loving Father, we believe in You, and we trust in Your infinite mercy. We ask pardon for sinners. We beg of you this day, by the light of Your divine grace, the conversion of a soul in darkness. We offer to You the merits of Your Son’s Holy Passion, His suffering and death upon the cross, in atonement for our sins and those of the whole world. Amen