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Lesson 14: Grace and the Divine Life (Part 2)

Posted on 04/29/2006 12:18:22 PM PDT by MILESJESU

Fundamentals of Catholicism by Father Robert Altier

Lesson 14: Grace and the Divine Life (Part 2)

We will just pick up where we left off, and that is to talk about predestination. We have to ask the question: What is predestination? Predestination means the ordination of God by which certain people are led efficaciously to the attainment of eternal, supernatural salvation.

This includes two acts on the part of God: first, the act of the intellect by which God knows who will be saved and the precise means by which they will be saved; and second, the act of the will of God by which He decrees to save these people in the fashion that He has planned. Saint Thomas Aquinas defined predestination as the plan existing in God’s mind for the ordering of some person to eternal salvation.

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TOPICS: Apologetics; Catholic; Ministry/Outreach; Prayer; Worship
KEYWORDS: divinelife; fraltier; grace; talks
Fundamentals of Catholicism by Father Robert Altier

Lesson 14: Grace and the Divine Life (Part 2)

We will just pick up where we left off, and that is to talk about predestination. We have to ask the question: What is predestination?

Predestination means the ordination of God by which certain people are led efficaciously to the attainment of eternal, supernatural salvation. This includes two acts on the part of God: first, the act of the intellect by which God knows who will be saved and the precise means by which they will be saved; and second, the act of the will of God by which He decrees to save these people in the fashion that He has planned. Saint Thomas Aquinas defined predestination as the plan existing in God’s mind for the ordering of some person to eternal salvation.

The problem of predestination is our free will. That is, we can reject God’s grace, and He knows even before He creates us who will and who will not accept His grace. We can see that this is very different from the position of John Calvin, who taught that God positively wills the salvation of only the elect and positively wills the condemnation of everyone else. Calvin taught what you would call “double predestination,” that there are some who are predestined to go to heaven and the rest are predestined to go to hell, and you have no say in it. Calvin did not believe in free will; therefore, he said that this is just the way it is. So then the question is: How do you know who is going to heaven and who is going to hell? Calvin would say that if God is going to predestine you to go to heaven, He is going to take care of you on earth. If you are very wealthy and you have an easy life, clearly you are going to heaven because God is taking good care of you here; and if you do not have that, that is a bummer for you because you are going to hell. Well, that is just not true. It is directly contrary to Scripture and everything else, but that is what Calvin’s idea was because he rejected free will. That is where the problem comes in for him. Calvin broke away from Martin Luther and a lot of it had to do with his understanding of free will. Calvinism is the foundation for Presbyterianism, and it is the foundation for the modern Baptists and several others in the fundamentalist or evangelical circles. That point of the free will is something very difficult, which is why they would say, “Once saved, always saved,” because it is not up to you. It is up to God and you do not have the free will to be able to make that choice. Obviously, we do not accept that.

The question that always comes up is: Why would God allow some people to be lost forever? Why would He allow people to go to hell? Both predestination and reprobation are aspects of God’s divine providence. Remember that providence is the eternal plan for the world which exists in the Divine Mind and which God wills to execute. Reprobation is God’s foreknowledge that some will reject His grace and choose their own will over God’s and thereby condemn themselves. We have seen that God does not condemn anyone per se; we condemn ourselves. He is the judge, but ultimately we are the ones who are going to say, “I don’t deserve to be here.” It is by our own choices that we are going to be condemned. That does not mean that if we have chosen against God we are suddenly going to change our mind when we stand in front of Him. That is not going to happen. Rather, based on the choices we have made in this life, we are either going to choose heaven or we are going to choose hell. It is one or the other.

God allows all of this for the greater good. We talked about that with evil. Why does God allow evil? In order to bring about a greater good. He allows the fact that some people will go to hell in order for the free acts of love which merit the Beatific Vision to take place. In other words, if we were puppets on His string, heaven would mean nothing. If we do not have a choice about getting there, it is not going to be an issue: “So what? It’s just heaven.” No, it means everything when you have to make the choice to be there. If you did not have a free will, heaven would not mean a thing. But when you have a free will and you could have chosen the opposite, when you have rejected all the devil’s lies and all the things he is offering you in this world so that you can be united with God, heaven is going to mean everything to you. That is exactly what the Lord wants from us. And this does not in any way contradict God’s desire for the salvation of all. He offers His grace to all, but some people will misuse their freedom and they will say “no” to God, and He allows these to go their own way. Their reprobation, then, is conditioned on their foreseen future sins.

That is a point I think I made before. We look at some people whom God allows to do all kinds of bad things and we say, “It’s not fair. If I step one inch out of line, God’s right there to whack me. But look at what these people are doing. He just lets them do whatever they want.” The worst possible thing that could happen to somebody is for God just to say, “Go ahead, do what you want. You don’t want to do it My way? Then go do it your way.” If you are trying to do it God’s way, He is going to help you. If you step a little out of line, He will straighten you right back out. That is because He knows you are trying to do it His way and you want to do it His way. So it is not an unfair thing of saying, “Why doesn’t God let me get away with anything?” What we should do is thank Him that He does not let us get away with anything.

Ask yourself which one is the better parent. The one who says to the teenager, “Go ahead, do whatever you want. Go out and get drunk. There’s no curfew. You can hang around with all the members of the opposite sex that you want to. You can do anything you want. There are no rules. Just go, it doesn’t matter to me”? Or the one who says, “We’re going to check where you’re going. We’re going to make sure of the people you are hanging around with. We’re going to have a curfew. We’re going to have rules”? Of course, that kid looks at the one whose parents have no rules and says, “Oh, you’re so mean and you hate me.” No. Who is the better parent? It is pretty clear. The one who has the rules and the one who is going to discipline the kid when they get out of line. But from the kid’s perspective, you are just a mean, rotten, nasty parent because the cool parents let their kids do anything they want. Well, those people are not cool at all, but from the kid’s perspective, they think that. Unfortunately, that is what we project onto God. “Why does He allow these people to do anything and He doesn’t let me get away with anything?” It is because He loves you and because He knows that you are trying and you want to do His Will. Therefore, He is going to help you to do His Will. If you tell Him that you do not want Him in your life and He can get lost, He will say, “Fine, there’s the door. No one is forcing you to stay here.” You have to make the choice. You have a free will.

Saint Thomas Aquinas tells us that our predestination can be helped by prayer, our own as well as that of others. The reason is that in God’s providence, of which predestination is a part, He takes into account the whole course of a person’s life. Fervent prayer and frequent reception of the sacraments are good signs of predestination for eternal life. In fact, Saint Louis de Montfort would tell us that having a Marian devotion is probably the clearest indication of predestination for eternal life, because if you are devoted to Our Lady, she is going to lead you to Jesus. As long as you stay close to her, she will keep you close to Him. So there are ways of looking at this to see if we are on the right track: if we are praying, if we are trying to live according to the Commandments, if we are trying to live a good life and grow in holiness.

Now we know that God desires the salvation of all and that He offers His grace to all and that some cooperate and achieve salvation while others reject the offer of God’s gift. Therefore, we have to conclude that some of God’s graces achieve their purpose and are effective, while others do not achieve their purpose and therefore are ineffective. This first type of grace which achieves its purpose is called “efficacious grace.” It was effective; it did what it was sent to do. The ineffective grace is called “sufficient grace.” The graces we cooperate with are efficacious because they result in good acts. The graces we reject are called sufficient because they were sufficient to enable us to act, but by our own free will we resisted and we rejected the grace. We can see that efficacious grace does not destroy our human freedom. Therefore, efficacious grace is not irresistible. That is important because it is a point denied by the reformers and by the Jansenists. That is, they deny the existence of purely sufficient grace, thinking that all grace exercises a necessitating influence on the human will. With this in mind, all grace is then efficacious, but if that is the case then it also destroys free will. Remember that is precisely what they said, and you can understand their point. If God sent the grace, how could it not achieve its purpose? If that was God’s Will, and God’s Will is always going to be done, and if God sent the grace for this purpose, then it has to be effective. Well, the Church says that is not entirely true. God gives the grace to do something, but we have a free will and we have to cooperate. Just because He gave the grace that does not mean we cooperated with it. It is not a stupid idea on the part of Calvin and Jansen; it is a wrong idea, but you can see where it comes from. They are looking at it and saying, “But if God is going to give the grace, it has to be effective. How could it not? If this is what God sent it for, it has to be.” But remember that God gave us free will and that is part of His divine providence. We can choose to reject His grace. Again, we come to the point of that difference. As Catholics, we believe in free will. Some of the Protestants, those following John Calvin, did not believe and do not believe to this day that we have a free will. That is a major difference.

Let us look at sanctifying grace for a bit. As I mentioned earlier, sanctifying grace is sometimes called “habitual grace” because it resides in the soul permanently like a habit. That is like the ability to speak English. If you went to a foreign country and lived there for 20 years and did not speak a word of English for 20 years, then somebody came along and started speaking English, you would still know what they were saying. Even if you are not using it, that knowledge resides in you like a habit. The Scriptures speak of sanctity or the holiness of God as His justice. The Greek form of that would be righteousness. Righteousness and justice would be Greek and Latin, respectively. When we talk about justification, it is the same thing as righteousness according to the New Testament. It depends on which language you are using. With reference to us, then, justice is used interchangeably with sanctifying grace. Hence, justification is the process by which a person, through faith in Jesus Christ and sorrow for his sins, receives the Holy Spirit and becomes a child of God and an heir of eternal life.

We have already seen in other lessons that Martin Luther thought human nature was substantially corrupted by original sin. However, the Church teaches that our nature is not wholly corrupt. It is weakened by sin and it is inclined toward sin, but it is not corrupted by sin. If our nature is corrupted, that means we are no longer human. If it is corrupted, it is changed to become something else. You can understand what Luther is looking at, but the point is wrong. Human nature is still human. It is weak, it is fallen, it is inclined toward sin, but it is not corrupted. But as a consequence of his view of human nature being corrupt, Luther said that justification or sanctification is a juridical act by God in which He declares the sinner to be justified even though he remains interiorly sinful and unjust. Hence, justification, according to Luther, does not remove sin but simply covers it up. It just washes over it. It is like painting a room. The old paint is still there, but now you just covered it all up. Luther’s idea is that we are sanctified in the Blood of Jesus because Jesus has poured His Precious Blood over us. It did not take anything away, but it simply covered it up. For this reason, he would say that there is no inner renewal and sanctification of the sinner, but merely an external imputation of the justice of Christ.

My favorite Martin Luther quote that I always like to bring up at this point is “Human nature is like a dung heap covered by snow.” In other words, it is still this rotting pile of stench, but outside it looks real nice. The problem is that you have to ask the question: Can God fool Himself? In other words, He has poured the Blood of His Son upon you, so now you look nice; can God fool Himself and say, “Now you’re holy because externally you look good”? That is like putting new clothes on a corpse: “Well, now he looks real nice.” He is still dead. It does not matter what the external looks like if the internal is not changed. Luther got himself into trouble in this way because he did not believe that we could become interiorly changed. So that is one of the differences between Catholics and Lutherans. We believe that sanctifying grace changes us intrinsically, whereas Luther would say that the grace of God is an external imputation of the justice of God.

Following this line of thought, Luther taught that it was not possible for a person to prepare himself for sanctifying grace or justification because our nature, which he said was corrupted by sin, is incapable of performing any good acts that would be beneficial. The Church, on the other hand, teaches that the sinner can and must prepare himself by the help of actual grace for the reception of the grace of sanctification. This means that we must accept grace freely because it moves everything toward its end according to its nature. God does not force His grace on us. He offers it to us, but we have to choose it. It is a defined dogma of the Church, an infallible teaching, that a person cannot be justified without faith because faith is the beginning of our salvation and it is the fountain and the source of all justification.

But we have to understand what the Church is talking about. Remember that when Martin Luther broke from the Church there were two points of his battle cry. One was Solo Fides and the other was Sola Scriptura. “Faith alone” and “Scripture alone” is what that means. You are saved by faith alone, according to Martin Luther, and Scripture alone is all that we need. That was his rejection of an infallible Church. “We don’t need the Church to tell us these things. Everything is in the Bible.” What does he mean by faith alone? According to Luther, the faith necessary for salvation is what would be called “fiducial faith.” Fiducial faith is a confident trust in God through the merits of Christ. “I believe in Jesus as my Lord and Savior, so I’m going to heaven.” It is that confident trust in God. Well, that is part of faith, but from a Catholic perspective that is not enough. Martin Luther said it is all that is required to be able to go to heaven. The Catholic Church says that is good and you have to have that act of trust in God, but there is also a dogmatic content to which the mind must give assent. This means that faith consists in the firm acceptance of the divine truth of revelation on the authority of God Who has revealed them. There is that point where we have to accept the truths of the faith, and not just say, “I believe in Jesus.” Remember what Saint James says, Even the demons believe, and they tremble. The fact that the demons know God exists and who Jesus is, is not enough to get them out of hell, and it is not enough to keep us out of hell either all by itself. You have all kinds of people out there doing all kinds of horrendous things, and they say, “Oh yeah, I know that Jesus is God.” Well, read the Gospels. What do the demons say? “I know who you are! You are the Son of God! You are the Messiah!” They knew who He was, and that was not good enough to keep them from doing bad things. They were possessing people. So the fact that we know who He is, is not enough. We have to have something more. There has to be a firm acceptance of the divine truth that God has taught. The Council of Trent declares that fiducial faith is not sufficient to justify a sinner.

When the reformers spoke of faith alone, or solo fides, they were speaking of fiducial faith being sufficient for salvation. The Church teaches that faith, even in the broader sense that I have just mentioned, is indispensable. At the same time, other virtuous acts are also required for justification. These includes things like fear of divine justice, hope in God’s mercy, beginning to love God, hatred for sin, intention to receive Baptism, and things like that. We have to make some acts of the will that are going to move us toward greater holiness. When the reformers spoke of faith alone, it was a rejection of good works based on Saint Paul’s teaching when he speaks of faith and not works justifying a person.

When I was in the seminary, we had a very brilliant man who was kind enough to come over from Lutheran Northwestern Seminary, the largest Lutheran seminary in the world which is right here in Saint Paul, to teach a course on Pauline epistolary, the letters of Saint Paul, because our New Testament teacher had just died We were going back and forth through Romans and Galatians and so on, and I never understood this point of the faith and works. I had not grasped it. Then suddenly the light bulb went on and I said, “Look! It’s right here. Saint Paul’s not talking about good works; he’s talking about the empty works of the law.” I was going on and on about this, not even thinking of who this was standing in front of me. The man just dropped his head, and to his credit, he lifted his head and said, “You’re absolutely right. For 450 years, we Protestants have been misinterpreting the Bible.” I thought, “This man’s not far from the kingdom.”

But that was the point. When Saint Paul is saying, You are saved by faith apart from works, he is talking about the works of the law, not good works. What are the works of the law? They are the 613 precepts of the old law. There are two types of law in the Old Testament. There are ceremonial or ritual laws and there are moral laws. Jesus did away with all the ceremonial laws. None of that remains intact anymore. All the kosher laws, all the purification things, all of that is gone. We do not have to take the ritual baths and we do not have to go through all these various things, but all of the moral laws remain intact. So when Saint Paul is talking about the works of the law, he is talking about these ceremonial things. You are not going to be saved just by bringing your sheep or your bull to offer to God and not have your heart in it. If you are just going through the motions, that is not enough. It would be like us showing up 10 minutes late for Mass and sitting in the back pew with our arms folded, taking a nap, grabbing a bulletin, leaving 10 minutes early and saying, “Well, I went to Mass.” Sort of. You did not have your heart in it. If you were to die and stand before God, He would say something to you and you would say, “But I was at Mass every Sunday!” You were there, but did you really participate in the Mass? Was your heart in it? You are not going to be saved by just going through the motions. There is more to it that needs to be there. The point Saint Paul is getting at is that we have to have more than just the external motions.

I should also point out that Martin Luther was a Scripture man, and he translated the Bible from Greek and Hebrew into German. In Saint Paul’s Letter to the Romans when Saint Paul says, You are saved by faith, Martin Luther put the word “alone” in there. It is not there today. Every Lutheran Bible has removed it because they know it does not belong there, but that is where sola fides came from. Martin Luther added it to the Bible. It does not belong there; it never did. Scripture never says it. In fact, the term “faith alone” only comes up once in the entire Bible. You can look it up. It is in James 2:24 and it says explicitly: You are not saved by faith alone. Martin Luther was saying that faith alone is all you need. It goes directly contrary to Scripture, but he made Scripture say what he wanted it to say because of the way he translated it. But it was a wrong translation, and in this case, a willfully wrong translation.

To look at it another way, you can say, “Okay, there is sola scriptura, Martin Luther saying that the Bible is all that we need. Scripture alone; everything is there; we do not need the Church.” Well, we have already seen that the Bible came out of the Church and not the other way around, but in order to make that statement, Martin Luther had to make himself infallible. So he is rejects the infallible Church and makes himself infallible in order to do it. But let us just say that he was right for the moment, even though it is not anywhere in the Bible. There are several places where the Bible makes clear that not everything is there, but let us say that he was right for the moment. You would at least think that the second one would be there: sola fides. But it is not. So both of these things which were the foundation for what Martin Luther was doing are completely wrong. These are things that had never been believed by Christian people up to that point, and still are problematic. Again, even if you want to say, “The Bible alone,” where did the Bible come from? It required an infallible Church to be able to declare what was in the Bible. As we have already seen, the only way you can believe what is in Scripture is because the Church proclaimed it. So it is not enough to say, “The Bible alone.” And even if you want to say that, go to 2 Timothy 3:15 and what does it say? The Church is the pillar and bulwark of truth. Not the Bible – the Church. This is where Luther got himself off track and got himself in trouble. Well, so much for that.

Sanctifying grace is also a supernatural state of being which is infused by God into the soul and which adheres permanently in the soul. This means the person in the state of sanctifying grace is or exists in a way different from the person who is not in the state of sanctifying grace. Grace is not an attitude of good will on the part of God by which He overlooks our sinful state without removing it, but rather He actually changes us intrinsically and makes us children of God. The transformation of the believer into the state of grace implies a change from what is natural in the soul to a permanent supernatural state of being which adheres in the soul. Since it enhances the soul, it must be accidental to the soul. Therefore, it does not change the person substantially. In other words, if grace changed us substantially, we would become God. Well, we do not. It is an accidental change. Even when we get to heaven, the face to face vision of God is still going to be something accidental to us. Since grace is supernatural life, it presupposes then a supernatural life principle. It is something that comes from God but adheres in our natural soul. The soul, remember, is natural and not supernatural. So grace being supernatural, it does not change our soul to become supernatural. Our soul remains natural, it just is now enhanced by God’s grace.

It is also important to remember that grace is not something acquired like a habit, but habitual grace is infused into the soul directly by God. Habitual simply means the mode by which it remains. It remains like a habit, but it is not achieved like a habit. In other words, think of how you develop a habit. If you decide that you want to develop the habit of honesty, you have to start telling the truth. If you went to the store and the clerk gave you too much money for change and you really had to think about whether you ought to give that money back or not, you do not have a habit of honesty yet. It is when you do not even have to think about it that it is a habit. There are good habits and bad habits. Good habits are called virtues, and bad habits are called vices. So you have on the one hand a virtuous person, and on the other hand you have a vicious person. That is what the word implies. When we are talking about habitual grace, it does not come like a habit where we have to keep doing the same thing over and over again in order to obtain the habit, but rather it is the means by which it remains within us.

Sanctifying grace, then, is a sharing in or a participation in the very life of God Himself. This is not like sharing something tangible such as a candy bar or a pizza or something like that, because if we all had one candy bar and we shared it, there would not be any candy bar left. So grace is not a tangible good. God does not lose anything by conferring grace upon us. He gives us His grace, but when He does, God does not become any less because we have the grace. It is more like sharing love where there is gain for one without any loss for the other. In other words, if you are absorbing anything of what I am saying, that does not mean I have lost it now because you have absorbed it. I do not lose anything from what I am teaching, but you can gain something from what is being taught. It is a common good. We can all look at a piece of art and we can all appreciate it. We cannot all continue to appreciate and enjoy the pizza. We can enjoy it for a small time and then it is gone. But something like art or knowledge or love remains. That is what we are talking about with the life of God.

In the East, when we talk about this idea of sanctification, the Eastern notion of it is very beautiful. They call it deification or becoming god-like. We must be careful not to understand it in a pantheistic manner. If we were, we would be absorbed into the divinity and we would lose our own creatureliness, and that does not happen. Saint Athanasius said of the process of deification that God became man so that man could become more like God. We become more god-like. What is involved here is a real communication between God and us. This communication is the accidental unification of the two by the means of the created gift of God’s grace. The soul is thus assimilated to God through grace, and this assimilation will be complete only in the Beatific Vision. There is an intimate connection between grace in this life and the Beatific Vision in the next life. Grace is the beginning of glory, and glory is the fulfillment of grace. When we are in the state of grace, eternal life begins within our soul, but that is only going to reach its fulfillment in heaven.

One of the major effects of sanctifying grace, as its name implies, is to make the soul holy. Holiness is proper to God, and the closer one gets to God, the more the soul grows in holiness. There is a growth in holiness, which again is one of the differences between the way that we as Catholics would look at things and the way that some of the reformers would look at things. If you think of the external imputation of grace, if it is just a dung heap then it does not matter how much snow is on it. If you have a half-inch or ten feet, it does not matter; as long as the dung heap is covered up, it has not changed any. It does not smell any better just because you put more snow on it. But if it is something internal, there is a growth in holiness. Anybody can look at some of the saintly people that we know and say, “Is that person more holy than I am?” Are we going to suggest that all of us are at the same level of holiness? It does not take a genius to be able to look at somebody like a Mother Teresa of Calcutta or a Pope John Paul II, whom we both knew in this life, and say, “I can’t hold a candle to where they’re at in heir holiness.” We realize then that there has to be a growth in holiness. Not all of us are at the same place; there is this growth. As the sanctifying grace increases in our soul, we become more god-like. That is what holiness is.

Therefore, another effect of sanctifying grace is that it makes us friends of God. Friendship is based on four principles: number one, benevolence or good will; number two, reciprocity; number three, communion; number four, fundamental similarity. A true friendship is a benevolent, reciprocal communion of persons based on a fundamental similarity. You look at it and say, “What is the fundamental similarity with God?” If we are going to be friends of God, we can see that it can be reciprocal; we can see that it can be benevolent. God has good will toward us and we should have good will toward Him; that is the reciprocity – it causes a communion of persons to happen. But what is the fundamental similarity? Grace. It is God’s life in our soul, and it raises us up to a divine level of acting and being. Sanctifying grace is the fundamental similarity.

Another effect is that sanctifying grace makes the justified person a child of God and an heir of heaven. Through grace, we come to share in the divine nature and therefore we are truly children of God. Children share in the nature of their parents. If we share the divine nature then we are children of God; He is our parent. A fourth effect is that grace makes us temples of the Holy Spirit. As we have seen already, we are really temples of the Holy Trinity. Here, temple means a dwelling place, and so the Holy Spirit – really, all three Persons of the Holy Trinity – dwell within us. It is appropriated to the Holy Spirit because it is a manifestation of God’s love for us. We talk about God and the Persons of the Trinity, and we can talk about God the Father being the Creator and so on, but as we have seen already, all three create, all three redeem, all three sanctify. Because the Holy Spirit is the love between the Father and the Son, we talk about God’s love sanctifying us and making us more god-like, which means more loving and more holy, and therefore it is attributed to the Holy Spirit. But again, God Himself is love. It is just that simple. So it is really all three Persons.

When a person enters the state of sanctifying grace, he also receives the gift of the three theological virtues. The three theological virtues are faith, hope, and charity. They are called theological virtues because they come from God and they lead us back to God. They are not something we can have on our own. We can have natural hope. You can hope that this lesson ends quickly so you can do other things. That is hope on the natural level, and has nothing to do with the theological virtue of hope. The theological virtue of faith is what helps us to believe in God and all that He has taught. The theological virtue of hope gives us the grace to hope in eternal salvation, the hope that we can get to heaven. And charity is the love of God which is infused into our soul.

These three theological virtues reside as a permanent state in the justified person. But when a person falls into mortal sin, love, or charity, is lost. We lose the grace of God, we lose the virtue of charity, and we lose the indwelling of the Holy Trinity at the moment we sin. Faith and hope, however, remain unless the sin was directly against one of those two virtues. In other words, if you commit the sin of despair, then you will lose both hope and charity, but faith will still remain. This is very important because that is what gets us to Confession. When we lose charity, we can still say, “You know what, I have faith in God Who promises that He will forgive; I have hope that I can be forgiven.” So we have that supernatural help still there to be able to help us even though we have lost the charity. But that is returned as soon as we get back into the state of sanctifying grace.

Also, when we are baptized and enter into the state of grace, the four cardinal virtues are infused into the soul. Those cardinal virtues are prudence, justice, temperance, and fortitude. The word cardinal is a Latin word that means “a hinge.” Everything in our lives hinges on these four virtues. They are sometimes called the natural virtues as opposed to the theological virtues. The theological virtues deal directly with the relationship with God; the cardinal virtues deal with our lives on earth and our interactions with others.

There is also a tradition which makes sense that the gifts of the Holy Spirit are infused at the moment we enter into sanctifying grace, which again is at Baptism. Those seven gifts are knowledge, understanding, counsel, wisdom, fortitude, piety, and fear of the Lord. These gifts are supernatural dispositions, or habits, of the faculties of the soul by means which the person is enabled easily and joyfully to respond to the suggestions of the Holy Spirit. The first three are intellectual gifts. The other four are gifts of the will. People get confused about that sometimes and they think, “But how can wisdom be part of the will? That is part of the mind.” Wisdom comes from experience. Knowledge is something whereby we can know the truth, and understanding is when we have insight into it. Wisdom comes from experience, so people who have experience in certain areas tend to be very wise in that way. They are not just knowledgeable but they have a wisdom which comes with that. The gift of wisdom comes from the experience of God, from the relationship with God, and that is something that takes place in the will. These are different from the infused virtues in that the infused virtues enable us to live an ordinary Christian life of virtue, but the gifts of the Holy Spirit enable one to perform extraordinary and heroic acts. That is what those gifts of the Holy Spirit do. They augment what God has already given in the infused virtues, that is, the theological and cardinal virtues. Now these will allow us to live extraordinary or heroic Christian lives. In our day and age, we need these more than ever because we need saints who are heroes.

Can we be certain that we are in the state of sanctifying grace? Can you have absolute knowledge of that? The answer is “no.” That is another difference between Catholics and Protestants. Martin Luther, as well as John Calvin, taught that you can know with certainty. As we have seen already, Calvin’s idea was based on material wealth. How do you know you are one of the chosen? By all the material wealth. Today we have fundamentalists who believe they can do whatever they want and they are still going to be saved, not that they suggest they should do anything sinful, but they believe that if they do they are still going to be saved anyway. Well, this is what Calvin believed. It is from him since he is the one who believed in predestination. Martin Luther, on the other hand, taught that grace could only be lost by the sin of disbelief. Since you are saved by faith alone, if you performed an act of total disbelief (in other words, fell into the mortal sin of rejection of faith) then you would lose it. But beyond that, Martin Luther thought there was no way that you could. Catholics, on the other hand, hold that grace is lost by every single mortal sin, not just by an act of disbelief. The sacrament of penance and the practice of confessing one’s sins presupposes that grace can be lost. All we have to do is understand the nature of free will. We are free, and therefore we can turn our backs on God; we can choose against Him. That is where the difference comes in between what we would teach and what Calvin and Luther would teach.

The Catholic Church teaches that divine revelation is required to know with certainty that one is in fact in the state of grace. If God reveals to you that you are in the state of grace, then you know. But beyond that, how else would we be able to know with absolute certainty that we fulfilled all the requirements necessary to achieve grace? Does this mean that we cannot have any knowledge of whether or not we are in the state of grace? No. We can have a very high level of moral certitude through our own conscience, the signs of love from God, the rejection of sin and worldliness, and an awareness of being free from mortal sin. In other words, if you have confessed all the sins that you are aware of and you can see that there is growth in virtue, that your prayer life is moving along, that you are rejecting the ways of the world more and more and becoming more god-like, you can have a pretty high moral certitude that you are in the state of grace. But it is not an absolute certitude unless God Himself would tell you.

Another point of disagreement between Catholics and the reformers is in the nature of grace. The reformers, holding that grace is an internal imputation of the justice of Christ, held that grace was identical in each person. As Catholics, we would maintain that grace can be increased in our soul. It can be increased by good works and receiving the sacraments, and the amount of grace in each individual varies according to God’s benevolence and the disposition of the recipient. The possibility for differing levels of grace is due to grace being a real supernatural quality which resides in the soul. Thus, it allows for variance, just like knowledge. Some people know more than others, some people love more than others, some people have talents in certain areas that are beyond what others do. That does not mean we are unequal, but it means we have unequal abilities. So too with grace. We asked the question when we talked about Our Lady: Does God love some people more than He loves others? On one hand, no. He loves all of us infinitely. But on the other hand, yes, because it depends on our disposition. How much ability do we have to receive God’s love? The one who has the greater disposition is the one who has more of God’s love. In this case, it is the same with grace.

We will finish with the idea of merit. Merit means a work performed for the benefit of another on whom it establishes a claim to give a reward. Merit and reward are correlative terms. Merit is basically the idea of paying a just reward for the labors and services rendered. Your paycheck is the merit you have earned by going to work. You perform the work and you get paid for that. Well, we mention merit here because this is something the Catholic Church teaches, but it was also a point denied by the reformers in the 16th century. Luther at first said that all works, even prayers, are sinful, but later he changed his mind on that and said that some good works are not only possible but even necessary. However, he still denied that they are meritorious of grace and eternal life. John Calvin, on the other hand, taught that all human works are impurity and dirt in the eyes of God. The Catholic Church teaches that by his good works a person in the state of grace really merits a supernatural reward from God. The point here is that God’s grace is necessary to perform this work and God in His goodness makes the works meritorious of further grace and eternal life. Of ourselves, as we have already seen, we cannot do anything that would merit a reward from God because all that we can do on our own is something which is natural. The only thing that can merit a supernatural reward is a supernatural act, and it requires God’s grace to be able to perform a supernatural act. By grace we are elevated to a supernatural order of acting and being, and therefore we can perform works that are meritorious of eternal life. Both the gift and the reward are from God, and all that we do is cooperate. We have to use our free will to cooperate to say “yes,” but God gives the grace and God also gives the reward for having cooperated with His grace.

So we can define heaven as the reward that God bestows on us by virtue of the merit we have accumulated by living a good life and following His commandments. Obviously, that is a pretty dry way of defining heaven, but it is to be able to see it from that more technical point of view. We must ask, then, what are the conditions of merit? The answer must be considered in three points. The first point is the meritorious work. The work itself must be something that is morally good. Obviously, God Who is absolutely good and truthful can only reward good and is never going to reward anything that is evil. It must also be a wholly human act, that is, an act free of internal and external coercion. You cannot be forced to do a good work. If it is not a free choice on your part (you do not want to do it if you are being forced), there is not going to be any reward for it. Also, it must proceed from a supernatural motive accompanied by actual grace. If you do some good work hoping that you are going to get something in reward from this person, then there is no reward from God. Jesus made that clear: They have already received their reward. If we are just doing something on the natural level, looking out for ourselves – “Hey, I did this good work for this person, but it’s so I could get my mug shot in the newspaper or get something in return” – that is not a supernatural motive for which we are doing it. It is out of love for God and neighbor that we should be acting and then God is going to bless us for that.

The second point of view to look at is the person who is meriting the grace. This person must be living in the body on the earth. Souls in purgatory, souls in heaven, as well as souls in hell, cannot enter God’s grace. The only time merit can be achieved is when we are alive on earth. Finally, we can look at it from the point of view of God Who gives the reward. Merit depends on the decree of God that He will reward with eternal life works performed with grace. As long as we are cooperating with God’s grace, He will give us more grace so we can cooperate with that and do greater things. The objective merit is also severalfold. First, there is an increase in sanctifying grace. We do something meritorious, we get more grace, in that way we grow in holiness and become more god-like, and we have the ability to do greater things. Good works performed in the state of grace and flowing from grace effect an increase in grace, but that also increases glory. The position you will have in heaven is dependent on your position here. The more grace, the more love that you have, the higher your position will be in heaven, and vice versa. Therefore, if we grow in holiness now, that is going to translate into eternal life. Recall that direct correlation between grace and glory: Grace is the beginning of glory, and glory is the fulfillment of grace. There is that point we need to keep in mind. Second, we can look at the object of merit. The object is eternal life. By good works performed by the grace of God, the justified person merits eternal life. That means God had to give the grace and God gives the reward. It is all supernatural. It is not ourselves operating naturally and meriting eternal reward, because we cannot.

The third point of view is the increase in heavenly glory. There are degrees of glory in heaven. Heaven is a hierarchy. The one who loves the most is the one who has the highest position. That is Our Lady. You can have the second position; there is no reason why you cannot, other than yourself. We are the only stumbling block in the way. So if we love more, we will have a higher position. An increase in merit results in an increase in glory. We cannot merit the grace of final perseverance, but it does seem fitting if we live a good life that God is going to provide everything we need. As long as we are praying, trying to live according to the Commandments, and trying to love God with our whole heart and soul and strength, He will take care of everything else. It is not a competition to see who can have the higher position in heaven. That is pride, and it will not get us very far; in fact, it will knock us down the ladder a little bit. Humility and charity are what we need. Those two are completely related. The height of charity is equal to the depth of humility. That is why Our Lady is the most humble person ever to have lived and she is the most exalted in heaven. That is what can be for us too. It is not competition; it is not a pride thing of “I’m going to love God more than you!” Well, good luck. I hope you do love God more than I do; that would be wonderful because we do not want you to get the lowest point in heaven. The highest place is what we want for you. But it is just a matter of love. That is what we have to be about. That is what God created us for, and that is what He gives us His grace to do, to become more god-like. God is love, so the holier we become, the more perfectly we will be able to love. Then that translates into heaven where we will continue to love for eternity.

The Lord be with you. May the blessing of Almighty God, the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, descend upon you and remain with you forever.

[End of Lesson 14]

1 posted on 04/29/2006 12:18:25 PM PDT by MILESJESU
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To: Canticle_of_Deborah; sandyeggo; Siobhan; Lady In Blue; NYer; Pyro7480; livius; ...

Lesson 14: Grace and the Divine Life (Part 2)Ping!


2 posted on 04/29/2006 12:21:34 PM PDT by MILESJESU (JESUS CHRIST, I TRUST IN YOU.)
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To: All
1)Fundamentals of Catholicism by Father Robert Altier Lesson 1: The Unity of God

2)Fundamentals of Catholicism by Father Robert Altier Lesson 2: The Most Holy Trinity

3)Lesson 3: God’s Creation of the World

4)Lesson 4: Creation of the Human Person and Original Sin

5)Lesson 5: Jesus Christ – God and Man (Part 1)BY FATHER ROBERT ALTIER

6)Lesson 6: Jesus Christ – God and Man (Part 2) BY FATHER ROBERT ALTIER

7)Fundamentals of Catholicism by Father Robert Altier Lesson 7: Mary (Part 1)

8)Fundamentals of Catholicism by Father Robert Altier Lesson 8: Mary (Part 2)

9)Fundamentals of Catholicism by Father Robert Altier Lesson 9: The Church (Part 1)

10)Fundamentals of Catholicism by Father Robert Altier Lesson 10: The Church (Part 2)

11)Fundamentals of Catholicism by Father Robert Altier Lesson 11: Divine Revelation (Part

12)Fundamentals of Catholicism by Father Robert Altier Lesson 12: Divine Revelation (Part 2)

13)Lesson 13: Grace and the Divine Life(Part 1)

3 posted on 04/29/2006 12:39:09 PM PDT by MILESJESU (JESUS CHRIST, I TRUST IN YOU.)
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To: All

Lesson 14: Grace and the Divine Life (Part 2) BUMP

4 posted on 04/29/2006 1:30:18 PM PDT by MILESJESU (JESUS CHRIST, I TRUST IN YOU.)
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To: sandyeggo; All

An Awesome Talk on Grace and the Divine Life by Father Altier.

With God's Grace I am still here. With the Prayerful Support of all the Catholic Freepers at FR -- hopefully, I will continue to remain here no matter where I go and continue this "little ministry" of posting Father Altier's Talks and Homilies now and then.

I am extremely grateful for all the prayerful support I have received from all the Catholic Freepers like Salvation, BearWash,NYer,Sandyeggo, etc.

I pray that Our Lord Jesus Christ and his Holy Mother Mary will give me enough strength to post all this awesome stuff.

Please continue your prayers for me.


5 posted on 04/30/2006 12:31:50 AM PDT by MILESJESU (JESUS CHRIST, I TRUST IN YOU.)
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