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제목 Consequences of Sin and Need of Grace(2016-07-16)
작성자 관리자 작성일 2016-07-17


Consequences of Sin and Need of Grace(2016-07-16)

 

My dear brethren,
As we have seen, the Ten Commandments show us the path to eternal life, by already living here below the supernatural life as children of God, Christ living in us. But immediately an objection is raised: it seems too difficult to follow all the Commandments. It seems that no one can follow the Commandments. Luther went so far as to say that the Commandments were impossible. Some Protestants often go further and say that God had made a first plan to save men by the Law, i.e. by obedience to the Commandments; it did not work; therefore now, according to these Protestants, God made a new Covenant, not based on the Law but on grace, in which we are no longer under the Law which they interpret to mean that we are no longer bound to obey the Law, free from the Law.

There is a great deceit of the devil in this Protestant approach. The Catholic truth is summed up in two simple and essential truths: 1/ by our own selves, we indeed cannot fulfil the Commandments. Our Lord Jesus Christ said: “Without Me you can do nothing” (Jn. 15:5). 2/ With the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, we CAN and must fulfil the Commandments. In the very same passage, our Lord Jesus Christ said: “I am the vine: you the branches: he that abideth in me, and I in him, the same beareth much fruit:” (Jn. 15:5). “In this is my Father glorified; that you bring forth very much fruit, and become my disciples” (Jn. 15:8). And St Paul says: “I can do all these things in him who strengtheneth me” (Phil. 4:13).

To understand how erroneous this Protestant approach is, the Church teaches that, in the Old Testament Law, one must distinguish three kinds of precepts (see 1Kg 8:58): 1/ The first kind of precepts and the most important were the moral precepts, such as the Ten Commandments. 2/ Secondly, the ceremonial precepts, such as the circumcision, the offering of sacrifices, the many ablutions, including the avoidance of “unclean foods”, etc. 3/ And the third kind of precepts are called “judicial precepts”: they provide certain punishments for certain sins: thus many mortal sins were punished with the death penalty: idolatry, blasphemy, murder, adultery, homosexuality, etc. Lighter penalties were provided for lighter sins such as theft.

Now the Church teaches that the ceremonial precepts are terminated in the New Testament: they are replaced by the new ceremonies of the New Testament, the Seven Sacraments, of which the most important is the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, which was announced and prefigured by all the sacrifices of the Old Testament. Thus Baptism replaces circumcision; Penance replaces all the ablutions of the Old Testament; the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass replaces all the many sacrifices of the Old Testament, etc. In this domain, the New Testament “fulfils the Old Testament” by bringing the reality announced by the figures; but that reality displaces the figures; it is no longer permitted to do the Old Testament sacrifices: they would be the equivalent of a denial of the coming of Christ. A road sign indicating the direction towards Rome will be found outside of Rome, but when you are arrived in Rome, such road sign would be wrong: it would mean that you are not yet there. These Old Testament ceremonies announce the Messiah to come, implicitly denying that He already came. Thus in the New Testament St Paul says: “if you be circumcised, Christ shall profit you nothing” (Gal. 5:2). This is the main point of St Paul when he says that we are “no longer under the Law” (Gal. 5:18). He was refuting the “heresy of the Pharisees” (Act. 15:5) who wanted to impose these ceremonies of the Old Testament on the Gentiles coming into the Church.

Laws of the second kind are mitigated in the New Testament. For instance, when a woman taken in adultery was brought to Christ, he said: “He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her” (Jn. 8:7). And He himself did not throw the stone, but rather warned her clearly: “Neither will I condemn thee. Go, and now sin no more” (Jn. 8:11). That does not mean that the death penalty is abolished: no, St Paul himself teaches that “princes [=persons in authority] are not a terror to those who do good work, but to those who do evil. Wilt thou then not be afraid of the power? Do that which is good: and thou shalt have praise from the same. For he is God's minister to thee, for good. But if thou do that which is evil, fear: for he beareth not the sword in vain. For he is God's minister: an avenger to execute wrath upon him that doth evil” (Rom. 13:3-4). Yet the death penalty is only applied to the greater crimes in the New Testament, such as cold-blood murder.

The Third kind of Law, the moral law, is far from abrogated in the New Testament. It is brought to a higher degree of perfection. The whole Sermon on the Mount is there to show it: “You have heard that it was said to them of old: Thou shalt not kill… But I say to you, don’t even be angry with your brother” (Mt. 5:21-22)! St Augustine comments: he who commands not to be angry with one’s brother does not abolish the commandment not to kill, but rather requires a higher perfection. Similarly, our Lord said: “You have heard that it was said to them of old: Thou shalt not commit adultery. But I say to you, that whosoever shall look on a woman to lust after her, hath already committed adultery with her in his heart. And if thy right eye scandalize thee, pluck it out and cast it from thee. For it is expedient for thee that one of thy members should perish, rather than that thy whole body be cast into hell” (Mt. 5:27-29). St Paul himself said: “But fornication, and all uncleanness, or covetousness, let it not so much as be named among you, as becometh saints… For know you this and understand, that no fornicator, or unclean, or covetous person (which is a serving of idols), hath inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God” (Eph. 5:3,5). So it is clear that the moral law is still binding in the New Testament, and even requires a higher perfection.

What deceives these Protestants is that they do not understand what St Paul says: “we are not under the Law” (Rom. 6:14, etc.) The Fathers of the Church have explained these words in the right way. St Augustine explains that we are not under the Law, not as if we would be allowed to break the Law, but because by the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the grace of the Holy Ghost, we are empowered to fulfil the Law out of love: thus the Law is no longer a burden that crushes us. Indeed those who, rejecting our Lord, do not have the strength to obey the Law, the Law condemns them because they disobey it; therefore they feel crushed by the Law: that is to be “under the Law”. But the Law becomes a friend for those who, being empowered by the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, do fulfil the Law: indeed the Law accompanies them as a friend who shows us the path to eternal life, as it is written in the Proverbs: “the commandment is a lamp, and the law a light” (Pro 6:23); they are not crushed by the Law, they not under the Law but “with the Law of Christ” (1 Cor. 9:21).

This is explicitly what St Paul teaches: “For sin shall not have dominion over you; for you are not under the law, but under grace. What then? Shall we sin, because we are not under the law, but under grace? God forbid! Know you not, that to whom you yield yourselves as servants to obey, you are the servants of him whom you obey, whether it be of sin unto death, or of obedience unto justice. But thanks be to God, that you were the servants of sin, but have obeyed from the heart, unto that form of doctrine, into which you have been delivered. Being then freed from sin, we have been made servants of justice. I speak a human thing, because of the infirmity of your flesh. For as you have yielded your members to serve uncleanness and iniquity, unto iniquity; so now yield your members to serve justice, unto sanctification” (Rom. 6:14-19). It is very clear from this passage that grace does not allow us to sin, on the contrary, graces empowers us to “serve justice unto sanctification.”

Are we then “justified by the works of the Law”? Not so. Obedience of the Law follows justification, it does not precede it. It is by the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ that we are justified, and thereby empowered to fulfil the Law. St Paul says that explicitly: “For by grace you are saved through faith, and that not of yourselves, for it is the gift of God; not of works, that no man may glory. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus in good works, which God hath prepared that we should walk in them” (Eph. 2:8-10). It is very clear that good works do not precede justification, but rather must follow it.

Here is a very important point of faith: we need the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ in order to fulfil the Law, in order to go to Heaven! And with His grace, we can and do fulfil the Law. There are two main reasons why we need that grace. The first reason is that the goal of the Christian life is a supernatural goal, everlasting life in Heaven, sharing God’s life and happiness as a child of God. Now that is certainly above the abilities of our human nature. Hence we all absolutely need the grace of God, the undeserved help of God, in order to reach such high goal. Even the Blessed Virgin Mary absolutely needed the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ for that reason. The Christian life is the life of adoptive children of God: such life is above the ability of our nature; we need the grace of the Only-Begotten Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, in order to live worthily as children of God. This grace then is the source of the seven “gifts of the Holy Ghost” which clearly enable us to live such life. The Church says that the grace elevates our nature to this supernatural life.

The second reason is because our human nature is wounded by sin, and therefore not even capable to fulfil the Natural Law. This second reason does not apply to our Lady, who was conceived without win (by a very special grace of our Lord), but it applies to all of us, who were born with original sin. Indeed any sin has three consequences: the stain, the due penalty and the wound. Let us listen to the explanations of St Thomas Aquinas.

The first consequence of sin is the “stain of sin”, that is the darkness of the mind, the privation of sanctifying grace. The act of sin passes, but there remains this “state of sin”, where the soul is deprived of sanctifying grace, in a state of rebellion against God, deprived of the light of the spirit, in darkness. Hence it is called a “stain”. This first consequence of sin is “washed” in Baptism. If one sins mortally after Baptism, this stain of sin is cleansed in the Sacrament of Penance. Indeed these Sacraments give back sanctifying grace, with the sweet Presence of the Holy Ghost, who fills the soul with His light, thus expelling the darkness of sin.


The second consequence of sin is the due punishment. Justice requires that the sinner makes up for his sin, and the punishment satisfies the requirement of justice. God is good, and will not let evil prevail; He will not let evil have the last word. Justice requires a compensation for the sin, and that is the due punishment. A simple example will make it evident: if one has stolen, it is not sufficient to say that one is sorry, he must repay! We must restore that which we have broken! Baptism not only forgives all sins, but also forgives all punishment due to sin; however if one falls back into sin after baptism, then the Sacrament of penance does forgive the sin, but does not forgives all the punishment of sin: there is need of penance, to pay the due punishment! Our penance has value by its union with the merits of our Lord Jesus Christ in His Sacrifice, which is a Sacrifice of propitiation, satisfying for the Divine Justice, that is, paying for the due punishment.

The third consequence of sin is very important: it is the wound of sin. Sin inflicts a wound in our nature. Original sin inflicted a wound in every human, and our own sins have added onto that wound. When one looks at mankind, one may be overwhelmed by the amount of evil and sin: how is it possible that humans be so prone to sin if they were created good by God? God did indeed created the first man good, but that first man Adam wrecked his own self and his descendants by his sin, the original sin. We need the New Adam, our Lord Jesus Christ, to heal the evil introduced by the first Adam. His grace heals our nature. Our Lord Jesus Christ is indeed the Almighty God, Second Person of the Most Holy Trinity, Who became man to save us from sin: He is powerful to heal our nature. The best proof of His power is the superior grace given to His own Mother, the Blessed Virgin Mary, whom He so perfectly protected from the contagion of original sin that she was “preserved from original sin”, and thus conceived Immaculate: she alone never had original sin; she did not have that wound of sin. Her being immaculate is the effect of that superior healing grace: a preventing remedy.

In what consists that wound? St Thomas Aquinas explains that it is a four-fold wound, consisting in a certain inclination to evil: it is a certain disorder in the faculties of our nature: our intelligence is wounded by ignorance, our will is wounded by malice, our strong appetite is wounded by weakness and our emotional appetite is wounded by concupiscence. The wound of ignorance in our intelligence is a certain difficulty to attain the truth: either we jump too fast to conclusions or we do not grasp it. The wound of malice in our will is mainly selfishness, to put ourselves first instead of putting God first. The wound of weakness is a lack of strength to persevere in good especially in difficulties. The wound of concupiscence is an excessive tendency towards earthly goods and pleasures. One can easily see these wound with certain examples: a man who got drunk will have a tendency to drink again too much; a child’s first lie is always awkward but the next will be easier; etc. When a tree has fallen on one side because of storm, the farmer puts it back straight, but also puts a rope that pulls it on the opposite side. So also must we do for ourselves, we must fight against these evil inclinations, by the practice of discipline and asceticism: “If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me” (Lk. 9:23).

By the sacrament of Baptism, as we have said, the stain of sin is washed, the penalty of sin is remitted completely, and the healing process of the wound of sin starts. Our Lord Jesus Christ, like a good physician, cleaned the wound, put some medicine on it, and wrapped it in bandage and then said to us: now be careful! Thus Jesus said to the man he healed at the pool of Bethsaida: “Behold thou art made whole: sin no more, lest some worse thing happen to thee” (Jn. 5:14). Many of the early Christians were thus faithful to the grace of their baptism until death, and through the history of the Church there were Saints who did so, such as St Thérèse of the Child Jesus. But if one falls back into sin after Baptism, the wound reopens, and if one falls often, “the last state of that man becomes worse than the first” (Lk. 11:26). Our Lord Jesus Christ has stressed to his Apostles: “Watch ye, and pray that ye enter not into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh weak” (Mt. 26:41).

Because of these wounds we all absolutely need the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore there is a double reason for which we need the grace of Christ: 1/ because of the supernatural happiness to which we are called, 2/ because of the wounds of sins in our nature. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ is a healing grace and an elevating grace. It heals our nature from the wound of sin and elevates it to the life of a child of God. These two aspects are inseparable. It would be self-deceit to pretend to be able to live the life of a child of God without needing to be healed from sin, without penance and the sacraments; and it would not be possible to be healed from sin without living as a child of God, as if it were sufficient to achieve a natural goodness.

We need the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, and how do we get it? By prayer and the Sacraments! These are the two means of grace that our Lord has given us – but there are also many graces that He gives without even been asked. In fact, if He would not first give us the grace to pray, we would never even start on the path of recovery. The first grace is always unmerited; but man must cooperate with grace. If one would say: I expect all grace from Christ and need to do nothing, one would greatly deceive oneself. As the good Master, our Lord Jesus Christ has given us some talents, but we must make them fructify, otherwise we would hear this condemnation from our Lord: “Wicked and slothful servant! … And the unprofitable servant cast ye out into the exterior darkness. There shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth” (Mt. 25:26,30).

My dear brethren, there was a lot of doctrine in this sermon, but remember these very important points: without the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, we can do nothing good. But with His grace, we can fulfil the moral Law, which we must in order to go to Heaven. The grace of our Lord heals us from the four-fold wound of sin and elevates our nature to the life of children of God. We can obtain that healing and elevating grace in abundance by fervent prayer and the Sacraments. Let us pray to our Lady and all the Saints, that our Blessed Lord may give us His grace in abundance and give us to fully cooperate with His grace, making it fructify unto eternal life! Amen.


Fr. F. Laisney(SSPXASIA)