Admitting our faults is a work of grace

July 18, 2021

Can you recall the first time you lied? This was the first question I asked my class as we dove into the doctrine of sin and grace. Their immediate response; “why in the world would you ask us such a question?” The premise of the question was to discuss the first lie propositioned by the father of lies Satan to Adam and Eve. The sin narrative reveals the devil coaxing Adam and Eve to reject God as “I am.” It also proposed that they would be like God thus negating the need for a relationship with him selfishly accomplished through their act of disobedience from the consumption of the forbidden fruit. There are three things the devil wants Adam and Eve to embrace; refute God’s omnipotent authority, view God as their enemy, lastly, become like God.

In his book the Sign of Contradiction St. John Paul II describes Satan’s attempt to rupture God’s loving relationship with Adam and Eve as something he cannot destroy because the devil is not the author of life, but he can try to disrupt the covenant between God and man.[1] The immediate aftermath of Adam and Eve’s first sin is pardoning the expression “pure hell” due to the rupture of their identity and dignity as children of God. But all is not lost as God Himself forgives Adam and Eve-proto-evangelion but now the relationship will be fraught with the inclination to sin, the exercise of free will, a constant battle between good and evil, and redemption through a new Adam who would come to destroy the works of the Devil and from humanity from sin and death.       

The discomfort of sin

Sin exists because man desired something other than God Himself. Mercy exists because God the Father who is Lord and author of life loves His children infinitely and desires that they be with Him through all eternity in Heaven. This is the plan the Father reveals in His proclamation of salvation to Adam and Eve. The key to this journey is to address the discomfort of sin and replace it with the joy and hope of Jesus Christ and the sacrament of healing-confession.

The following phrase; “if you make your bed, you sleep in it” implies that if you placed yourself in a bad situation then you have to deal with the consequences of your actions hence “if you made your bed through a sinful act then sleep with your sinful act. However, this is somewhat of a misnomer. No one practically speaking would want to sleep in an uncomfortable bed, and if this is case you would make sure your bed is comfortable. The same can be said of sinful acts; if a person is consciously aware of his sinful actions and commits them anyway due to an unholy appetite for immediate human gratification what becomes of the lasting effect of the person’s sins? Does the person exhibit a sense of guilt, disgust, or sadness after moral realization sets in, or is there clear denial that anything sinful was committed? Would it makes sense to rid yourself of any guilt due to sin?  

Sin by all definition is the absence of the love of God. Man makes a choice through an act of the will to embrace something or someone disguised as the theological virtue of charity. St. Francis De Sales mentions that when a person sins four things happen:

That by sin you have lost God’s grace, forfeited heaven, merited hell, and renounced the eternal love of God.[2]    

Forgive me for I have sinned

St. Francis De Sales describes the person who does not address his sins honestly and enters the confessional with an intent to sin again in the following way:

The ordinary confessions of those who live a commonplace material life are full of faults. Frequently they make little or no preparation, and come without the requisite contrition; and therefore, confess with a tacit intention of repeating their sins, since the will neither avoid the occasions of falling, nor take the needful steps for amending their lives; to all such a general confession is requisite to assure the soul.[3]

The admissions of our faults-sins are a work of humility driven by the gift of grace. As human beings we sometimes fail to recognize that we are God’s children and are asked to have a childlike presence before God, one filled with awe and wonder to the Supreme Good. As a penitent enters a confessional with a posture of surrender to the mercy of God through His Son Jesus Christ, we are called to recognize as St. Therese of Lisieux says our littleness. She explains that this is the disposition that characterizes our true condition and puts us in our right place before God. To be little spiritually means to be humble. She explains that littleness implies a certain simplicity, and effective note of sweet self-effacement.[4]

A work of Grace

The gift of humility is intimately tied to the work of grace. The response and development of our vocation is tied to the gift of grace administered by God. The gift of grace is free and unmerited as God freely chooses to bless us with this gift. When sin enters and attempts to interrupt the relationship between God and man, God offers us the gift of grace which if we choose freely disposes us toward Him. The gift of grace is further revealed in His Son Jesus Christ who through His life, death, and resurrection brings toward a newness of life with God the Father. [5]

The Catechism of the Catholic Church defines grace as a favor, the free and undeserved help that God gives us to respond to his call to become children of God, adoptive sons, partakers of the divine nature and of eternal life.[6] The aim of the gift of grace is Heaven because it strengthens us in our participation in the life of God and introduces us into the intimacy of the Trinity by way of our baptism.

The pivotal gift grace provides in the admission of our own faults rest in the gratuitous gift that God makes to us in his own life, infused by the Holy Spirit into our soul to heal it of sin and to sanctify it.[7] The gift of grace demands that in the case of the admission of sin to make a firm purpose of amendment not to commit these sins again. Docility to the gift of grace also allows us to receive sanctifying grace that perfects the soul.

St. Therese of Lisieux provides us with a clear passage way how one can achieve perfect contrition in the admission of our sins through the gift of grace;   

Humility must not consist in the mere acceptance of our state of dependence and incapacity. We must love to see ourselves as we truly are. We must bear the imperfections that are inherent in our nature; be happy to see ever more clearly how wretched is our condition; we must even will to become ever more little.[8]

 

[1] St. John Paul II, Sign of Contradiction, (Crossroads, New York, 1979), p. 30

[3] St. Francis De Sales, Introduction the to the Devout Life, (Tan, Rockford, 1994), p. 15

[4] Jamart, O.C.D., Rev. Francis, St. Therese of Lisieux, Complete Spiritual Doctrine, (Alba House, New York), p. 35

[5] Rom 6:4; CCC 654

[6] CCC 1996

[7] CCC 1999

[8] Jamart, O.C.D., Rev. Francis, St. Therese of Lisieux, Complete Spiritual Doctrine, (Alba House, New York), p. 36

 

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