Spiritual Reading for Sunday – Seventeenth Week After Pentecost

Archbishop Jerome Lloyd OSJVPosted by

Spiritual Reading

THE DANGER TO WHICH TEPIDITY EXPOSES THE SOUL

Jesus Christ enlightens all men — the true light which enlighteneth every man that cometh into this world (Jo. i. 9) — but there are some He cannot enlighten, because they voluntarily close their eyes to the light, and walk in darkness. They are those who lead tepid lives in the service of God.

A tepid soul is not one that lives in enmity with God, nor one that sometimes commits venial sins through mere human frailty. On account of the corruption of nature by original sin, no man can be exempt from some venial faults. This corruption of nature renders it impossible for us, without a most special grace, which has been given only to the Mother of God, to avoid all venial sins during our whole lives. Hence St. John has said: If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us (1 Jo. i. 8). God permits defects of this kind, even in the Saints, to keep them humble, and to make them feel that, as they commit such faults in spite of all their good purposes and promises, so also, were they not supported by His Divine hand, they would fall into mortal sin. Hence, when we find that we have committed these light faults, we must humble ourselves, and acknowledging our own weakness, we must be careful to recommend ourselves to God, and implore of Him to preserve us, by His Almighty hand, from more grievous transgressions, and to deliver us from those we have committed.

What, then, are we to understand by a tepid soul? A tepid soul is one that frequently falls into fully deliberate venial sins — such as deliberate lies, deliberate acts of impatience, deliberate imprecations, and the like. These faults may be easily avoided by those who are resolved to suffer death rather than commit a deliberate venial offence against God. St. Teresa used to say that one venial sin does us more harm than all the devils. Hence she would say to her nuns: “My children, from deliberate sin, however venial it may be, may the Lord deliver you.” Some complain of being left in aridity and dryness and without any spiritual sweetness. But how can we expect that God will be liberal with His favours to us, when we are ungenerous to Him? We know that such a lie, such an imprecation, such an injury to our neighbour, and such detraction, though not mortal sins, are displeasing to God, and still we do not abstain from them. Why, then, should we expect that God will give us His Divine consolations?

But some of you will say: Venial sins, however great they may be, do not deprive the soul of the grace of God: even though I commit them I shall be saved; and for me it is enough to obtain eternal life. You say that for you it is enough to be saved. But remember St. Augustine says that “where you have said, ‘It is enough,’ there you have perished.” To understand correctly the meaning of these words of St. Augustine, and to see the danger to which the state of tepidity exposes those who commit habitual and deliberate venial sins, without feeling remorse for them, and without endeavouring to avoid them, it is necessary to know that the habit of light faults leads the soul insensibly to mortal sins. For example: the habit of venial acts of aversion leads to mortal hatred; the habit of small thefts leads to grievous rapine; the habit of venial attachments leads to affections which are mortally sinful. “The soul,” says St. Gregory, “never lies where it falls.” No; it continues to sink deeper and deeper. Just as mortal diseases do not generally proceed from serious indisposition, but from many slight and continued infirmities, so likewise the fall of many souls into mortal sin follows from habitual venial sins; for these render the soul so weak that when a strong temptation assails her she has not strength to resist it and she falls.

Many are unwilling to be separated from God by mortal sins. They wish to follow Him but, at a distance, and they disregard venial sins. But to them shall probably happen what befell St. Peter. When Jesus Christ was seized in the Garden, St. Peter was unwilling to abandon the Lord, but followed him afar off (Matt. xxvi. 58). After entering the house of Caiphas he was charged with being a disciple of Jesus Christ. He was instantly seized with fear, and thrice denied his Master. The Holy Ghost says: He that contemneth small things shall fall by little and little (Ecclus. xix. 1). They who despise small falls will probably one day fall into an abyss; for, being in the habit of committing light offences against God, they will feel but little repugnance to offer to Him some grievous insult.

The Lord says: Catch us the little foxes that destroy the vines (Cant. ii. 15). He does not tell us to catch the lions or the bears, but the little foxes. Lions and bears strike terror, and therefore all are careful to keep at a distance through fear of being devoured by them; but the little foxes, though they do not excite dismay, destroy the vines. Mortal sin terrifies the timorous soul; but if it accustom itself to the commission of many venial sins with full deliberation, and without endeavouring to correct them, they, like the little foxes, shall destroy the roots — that is, the remorse of conscience, the fear of offending God, and the holy desires of advancing in Divine love; and thus, being in a state of tepidity, and impelled to sin by some passion, the soul will easily abandon God and lose Divine grace.

Moreover, deliberate and habitual venial sins not only deprive us of strength to resist temptations, but also of the special helps without which we fall into grievous sins. This is a point of great importance that requires very serious attention. It is certain that of ourselves we have not sufficient strength to resist the temptations of the devil, of the flesh, and of the world. It is God that prevents our enemies from assailing us with temptations by which we would be conquered. Hence Jesus Christ has taught us the following prayer: And lead us not into temptation. He teaches us to pray that God may deliver us from the temptations to which we would yield, and thus lose His grace. Now, venial sins, when they are deliberate and habitual, deprive us of the special helps of God which are necessary for perseverance in His grace. I say necessary, because the Council of Trent anathematizes those who assert that we can persevere in grace without a special help from God. “If any one saith that the justified either is able to persevere, without the special help of God, in the justice received; or that, with that help, he is not able, let him be anathema.” Thus, with the ordinary assistance of God, we cannot avoid falling into some mortal sin: a special aid is necessary. But this special aid God will justly withhold from tepid souls who are regardless of committing many and fully deliberate venial sins. Thus these unhappy souls shall not persevere in grace.

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