This article is longer than most of the others, and is divided into the following sections:
According to Genesis, Eden is a place of such pure grace that it truly belongs to God’s Kingdom. Mankind began as truly good (Genesis 1:27-31), but because of the assault of the devil, man committed original sin, lost his grace and holiness, and was no longer able to remain there. Therefore God “expelled the man, stationing the cherubim and the fiery revolving sword east of the garden of Eden, to guard the way to the tree of life” (Genesis 3:24). The battle between Satan and mankind had begun.
Eden is no longer available to fallen man, but Mary, the new Eve and new Israel, became the advocate for mankind. She was the first woman since the fall to be filled with grace and born without sin. It was through her cooperation with God that the salvation of mankind began and God revealed Himself in the form of His Son, the Second Person of the Holy Trinity.
Mankind’s Existential Choice
From the moment Jesus began His ministry, He called everyone to repentance and to faith, with which all human beings could defend themselves from demonic assaults and turn toward union with their Creator.
It has been from the moment when God’s only begotten Son entered time and space to be with us, people of all nations have faced a choice: to turn toward God or away from Him. To turn toward God means everything is offered to God and one walks toward eternal life. It is a shift away from one’s own desires and the turning of one’s spiritual gaze toward God. It is through this act of faith that one walks with the angels and discards the demonic illusions and snares that are ubiquitous on earth. Through the hope offered to us in the Canticle of Zechariah, God has ensured our freedom to worship Him without fear of enslavement by the devil. This is violently opposed by those enslaved by the devil, who label their sinful choices as “good” and as their exercise of “freedom”, thereby living out their enslavement by reversing the truth of what they believe and do.
What Virtue and Sin Really Are
Virtue and sin are therefore really choices humans make when using the powers God has granted them: “This is the definition of sin: the misuse of powers given us by God for doing good, a use contrary to God’s commandments. On the other hand, the virtue that God asks of us is the use of the same powers based on a good conscience in accordance with God’s command” (St. Basil).
The exercise of true freedom means cooperating with the graces infused in us by God and carrying our spiritual cross (see We are Called to be Saints). Sin is the complete opposite of this: it is the rejection of God’s graces and refusal to serve Him, with the implicit refusal to recognize the true life and freedom God offers out of His infinite love and mercy.
As a means of understanding this more deeply, let’s examine some of the most common choices people make today with God’s 5th and 6th commandments, in light of the faith and teaching tradition Jesus gave us. These commandments are actually quite closely related, because in both cases, one can be oriented to loving one’s neighbor and loving God, or destroying one’s neighbor and one’s relationship with God.
5th Commandment: “You shall not kill” (Exodus 20:13). “You have heard that it was said to the men of old, ‘You shall not kill: and whoever kills shall be liable to judgment.’ But I say to you that every one who is angry with his brother shall be liable to judgment” (Matthew 5:21-22). According to the Catechism, as well as Evangelium Vitae by Saint Pope John Paul II, this commandment directly addresses the intrinsically evil acts of murder, abortion, and euthanasia as opposed to respect for human life. In addition, it deals with the many important church teachings on respect for the dignity of persons. For example, while most people would immediately assert that they have not engaged in the intentional murder of another human being, a high proportion of them actually do have the blood of the innocent on their hands, since anyone who has, even in the most casual or indirect way, supported abortion or euthanasia, has mortal sin on their soul and, if a Catholic, may have already been automatically excommunicated.
6th Commandment: “You shall not commit adultery” (Exodus 20:14). “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I say to you that every one who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart” (Matthew 5:27-28). The wisdom of the Catechism, as well as the prophetic Humanae Vitae of Pope Paul VI, lead to the inevitable conclusion that the only valid sexual union derives from the Eucharist and is made both good and fruitful by the sacrament of Holy Matrimony, in which the married couple form a domestic church, leading each other and their children to holiness and eternal life. In contrast, all misuses of the human sexual faculties lead to spiritual death (including sex outside Holy Matrimony, contraceptives, homosexuality, pornography, and prostitution). The calls to chastity and to the reception of God’s gift of children are fully described in the Catechism, as are the horrendous offenses against chastity, the dignity of human beings, and the dignity of marriage. It is a commandment of such great importance that the faithful who exercise the necessary virtues for this commandment move toward union with God, and those who fail to do so turn away from their Lord.
The 6th Commandment leads directly to life as part of a virtuous cycle or directly to damnation as part of a death spiral, depending on how one responds to it. This is why it is so closely related to the 5th commandment. In this context it is of critical importance to dwell on Holy Matrimony. When Jesus performed His first miracle at Cana, he instituted the Sacrament of Marriage, and later referred to God’s intentions regarding marriage:
“Because of the hardness of your hearts Moses allowed you to divorce your wives, but from the beginning it was not so. I say to you, whoever divorces his wife (unless the marriage is unlawful) and marries another commits adultery. His disciples said to him, “If that is the case of a man with his wife, it is better not to marry.” He answered, “Not all can accept this word, but only those to whom that is granted. Some are incapable of marriage because they were born so; some, because they were made so by others; some, because they have renounced marriage for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. Whoever can accept this ought to accept it” (Matthew 19:8-11).
Marriage derives its beginnings from the Creation, when God breathed life into man and established the first family. He created them in His likeness, as male and female, and again when He came to join Mary and Joseph to form The Holy Family. Later, as is clearly stated in the exchange above with His apostles, Holy Matrimony is an unbreakable lifetime bond that unites a man and woman as one flesh, returning them to the eternal source of life. As they are united, their source of life is the Eucharist, which, through their fidelity to each other, sustains them in God’s love and in their exchange of mutual love. The man and woman become Eucharist for each other, as they have become what they have received, and as a couple, are a sign of the domestic church being the Bride of Christ. Thus, the 6th Commandment is an indispensable part of the narrow way to the Author of Life.
Our Blessed Lady’s Role in Salvation
The origins of evil and the end days leading to salvation are described here:
“Its tail swept a third of the stars out of the sky and flung them to the earth. The dragon stood in front of the woman who was about to give birth, so that it might devour her child the moment he was born” (Revelation 12:4).
How prophetic this vision has turned out to be, given the abortion headlines in early 2019! The lines between good and evil have never been more clearly drawn. Demonic forces have influenced people to proclaim the most unthinkable abominations, including this very vision of infanticide as described in the Book of Revelation, as cause for celebration in the name of freedom. Never in human history has such a stark vision of the father of lies ever been revealed! It is no less than a direct and all out assault on the salvation of humanity. The devil’s strategy is to lead us to violate the 5th commandment by first violating the 6th commandment. His temptation is for us to objectify people, defile them and dehumanize them. This leads quickly to subjugation, violence, and murder.
Jesus has made it very clear how our Father regards the treatment of all who are vulnerable:
“Then the king will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father. Inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, a stranger and you welcomed me, naked and you clothed me, ill and you cared for me, in prison and you visited me.’ … And the king will say to them in reply, ‘Amen, I say to you, whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me.’ Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you accursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels’ ” (Matthew 34-41).
When Mary, the Mother of God, visited Fatima, she presented a clear view of hell to the three children, and accompanied it with wisdom for mankind’s salvation:
“I am the Lady of the Rosary, I have come to warn the faithful to amend their lives and ask for pardon for their sins. They must not offend Our Lord any more, for He is already too grievously offended by the sins of men. People must say the Rosary. Let them continue saying it every day… Pray, pray a great deal and make many sacrifices, for many souls go to Hell because they have no one to make sacrifices and to pray for them.” Sister Lucia went on to explain, “More souls go to Hell because of sins of the flesh than for any other reason.”
The Message of Our Lady of Fatima
Mary’s role is to lead us to Jesus, principally through the Rosary. Jesus exhorts us to recognize God’s Holy image in all people. In their role as a Holy Family, they guide us toward God’s dual commandment to love Him and our neighbor. Both Jesus and Mary call us to repentance, and to do so with love and tears.
Your Role in Salvation
Jesus never minimized the importance of fraternal correction. We all need someone to point out our shortcomings and defects, and we should listen with the deepest gratitude and humility to those calling us to holiness.
Spend time in front of the Blessed Sacrament and on retreat if you can, and finally, when you feel ready, begin to gently offer guidance to others. Pray for all sinners and love them as though they are your most cherished brothers and sisters, and recognize that judgment belongs solely to God, the Author of Life, whose Son went up on the cross as part of His plan of divine justice.
On the other hand, if someone whom you properly and lovingly challenge to lead a holy life accuses you of “judging” them, do not be discouraged, since that is the pathetic and often tragic defensive reaction of those rejecting God’s salvation.
Stand your ground, and fast and pray for them. Then you will be salt of the earth and a participant in our Lord’s infinitely precious work of salvation.