RCIA CLASS 19 - CHRISTIAN MORALITY – PART 2
FAITH AND GRACE
I. God leads all things by His eternal law, often portrayed as Lady Wisdom in the Bible. See Ps. 19:7-10, 119; Prov. 3:13-25, 8:1-9:18; Sir, Sir. 1:1-18; Wis. 7:14-10:21; St. Thomas Aquinas points our, the eternal law is the primordial principal upon which all other governance is based. See Summa Theologica II-I q. 93 art. 1.
A. The moral law
is God's guidance that we may participate in that eternal wisdom. AThe
moral law is the work of divine Wisdom. Its biblical meaning can
be defined as fatherly instruction, God=s pedagogy. It prescribes for
man the ways, the rules of conduct that lead to the promised beatitude;
it proscribes the ways of evil which turn him away from God and His
love. It is at once firm in its precepts, and in its promises,
worthy of love. . . . Man participates in the wisdom and goodness of
the Creator who gives Him mastery over his acts and the ability to govern
himself with a view to the true and the good. . . . The natural law,
present in the heart of each man and established by reason, is universal
in its precepts and its authority extends to all men.@ Catechism
1949, 1954, 1956. We can thus see the commandments of God
as increasing our ability to be truly free, to participate in God's
creative goodness. See, e.g., John 8:31-32; James 1:25.
II. The conscience is the testimony to this moral law in each person, God's ambassador in the soul.
Each person has a conscience, a desire for truth and goodness.
As St. Paul says, "When the Gentiles who do not have the law by nature
observe the prescriptions of the law, they are a law unto themselves,
even though they do not have the law. They show that the demands
of the law are written in their heart." Rom. 1:14. Or as the
Catechism says, AMoral conscience, present at the heart
of the person, enjoins him at the appropriate moment to do good and
to avoid evil. It also judges particular choices, approving those
that are good and denouncing those that are evil. It bears witness
to the authority of truth in reference to the supreme God to which the
human person is drawn, and it welcomes the commandments. When
he listens to his conscience, the prudent man can hear God speaking.@
As a result, one should always abide by one's conscience, for it is
our way of hearing God's commands. And this obligation is the firmest
foundation for individual dignity and political rights. As the
Vatican II Council's document on religious liberty says, this obligation
to pursue the truth and adhere to it once known is the basis for religious
and intellectual freedom. See Dignitatis
Humanae 2. As Pope Benedict XVI wrote in Caritas
in Veritate (2009) section 43, people today are often "concerned
only with their rights, and they often have great difficulty in taking
responsibility for their own and other people's integral development.
Hence it is important to call for a renewed reflection on how rights
presuppose duties, if they are not to become mere
licence. Nowadays we are witnessing a grave inconsistency. On the
one hand, appeals are made to alleged rights, arbitrary and non-essential
in nature, accompanied by the demand that they be recognized and promoted
by public structures, while, on the other hand, elementary and basic
rights remain unacknowledged and are violated in much of the world"
C. However, conscience,
as glorious as it is, can be in error. Like any other human skill,
it must de developed, or it will fail altogether. AConscience
must be informed and moral judgment enlightened. . . . The education
of the conscience is a lifelong task. . . In the formation of
conscience the Word of God is the light for our path; we must assimilate
it in faith and prayer and put it into practice. We must also
examine our conscience before the Lord=s Cross. We are assisted
by the gifts of the Holy Spirit, aided by the witness or advice of others
and guided by the authoritative teaching of the Church.@ Catechism 1783-1785.
D. Because the human conscience is fallible and limited, God reveals things to us about the moral law both by Scripture and the Church.
1. We are certainly called to
develop our reason naturally by careful thinking, knowledge and consultations
with other people. It is natural wisdom to understand that the
development of a conscience is both essential and difficult.
3. God first
revealed the law to the ancient Jews, and then the fullness of the law
in the preaching of Christ. AGod, our Creator and Redeemer, chose
Israel for Himself to be His people and revealed His Law to them, thus
preparing for the coming of Christ. . . . The Old Law is the first stage
of revealed Law. Its moral prescriptions are summed up in the
Ten Commandments. The precepts of the Decalogue [the Ten Commandments]
lay the foundation for the vocation of man fashioned in the image of
God; they prohibit what is contrary to the love of God and neighbor
and prescribe what is essential to it.@ Catechism
4. God then built
upon the ancient covenant by revealing a deeper law that call us to
live out the highest aspects of the human life, such as the Beatitudes,
the gifts of the Holy Spirit and above all to live in that law of love
described in the two greatest commandments: love of God and neighbor. AThe
New Law, or the Law of the Gospel, is the perfection here on earth of
the divine law, natural and revealed. . . . The New Law is the grace
of the Holy Spirit given to the faithful through faith in Christ.
It works through charity; it uses the Sermon on the Mount to teach us
what must be done and makes use of the sacraments to give us the grace
to do it.@ Catechism
Because the Scriptures do not answer all questions clear (e.g., just
war theory), and because new questions arise (e.g., over the role of
government in a mercantile economy, genetic engineering and other bioethical
matters), God also gave the Church the ability to hand down teachings
on moral issues. Thus, "the Church, the pillar and bulwark of
the truth, has received this solemn command of Christ from the apostles
to announce the saving truth. To the Church belongs the right
always and everywhere to announce moral principles, including those
pertaining to the social order, and to make judgments on any human affairs
to the extent that they are required by the fundamental rights of the
human person or the salvation of souls.@ Catechism 2032.
III ASin is an offense against reason, truth, and right conscience; it is a failure in genuine love for God and neighbor caused by a perverse attachment to certain goods. It wounds the nature of man and injures human solidarity.@ Catechism 1849.
A. Most sins are venial, which means they weaken, but not destroy the friendship with God. However, some sins are mortal, which means that they will destroy our friendship with God if unrepented. Thus, St. John speaks of sins that are mortal and sins that are lesser. 1 John 5:16-17. And St. Paul lists some sins that prevent one from inheriting the kingdom of heaven. See Gal. 5:19-21. Such sins require repentance in order for the relationship with God to be restored; the ordinary means of such repentance in the Catholic Church is the sacrament of Reconciliation. See Catechism 1484.
- "The distinction between
mortal and venial sin, already evident in Scripture, became part of
the tradition of the Church. Mortal sin destroys charity in the heart
of man by a grave violation of God=s law; it turns man away from God,
who is his ultimate end and his beatitude. . . . Mortal sin is sin whose
object is a grave matter and which is also committed with full knowledge
and deliberate consent.@ Catechism 1854, 1855,
IV. Overcoming sin and achieving the holiness that we are all called to requires the grace of God and our own cooperation.
Thus, Athe way of perfection passes by way
of the Cross. There is no holiness without renunciation and spiritual
battle. Spiritual progress entails the ascesis and mortification
that gradually lead to living in the peace and joy of the Beatitudes.@
Catechism 2015. As Jesus says, "Whoever wishes to come
after Me must deny himself, take up his cross and follow me." Mark
8:34; see also Matt. 10:38-39; Luke 14:26-27.
2. But this very calling makes our own struggles a partnership with Christ. As the Catechism declares ABy His passion and death on the cross Christ has given a new meaning to suffering: it can henceforth configure us the Him and unite us with His redemptive passion . . . Christ invites His disciples to follow Him by taking us their cross in turn.@ Catechism 1505-1506. AIn time we can discover that God in His almighty providence can bring a good from the consequences of and evil, even a moral evil, caused by His creatures. . . . From the greatest moral evil ever committed - the rejection and murder of God=s only Son, caused by the sins of all men - God, by His grace that abounded all the more, brought the greatest of goods: the glorification of Christ and our redemption.@ Catechism 312. Thus, as St. Paul says, the suffering of this age "is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison." Eph. 4:17.