Wednesday, July 25, 2018


by the Priests of the Congregation of St. Paul, 1893

  "Why do you tempt me, ye hypocrites?"—St. Matt, xxii. 18.

What was it in the conduct of these Pharisees that made our Lord send them away unanswered and unsatisfied? If we listen to their words, there is nothing in what they said but what was most true and appropriate. They told our Lord that they knew that He was a true speaker, that He taught the way of God in truth, that He cared for no man and did not regard the person of men. Could anything be better said than that? And yet He who came to be the light of men dismissed these fine talkers still wrapped in darkness and ignorance. What is the reason for this treatment—a treatment so different to that which our Lord generally gave to those who came to Him?

The reason is plain. These words of theirs were only on their lips, not in their hearts; they did not mean what they said nor wish to mean what they said. In fact it was all put on. They came to our Lord to ensnare Him, to get Him into difficulties. In one word, they came to Him as tempters. But He who not only hears the words of men but sees their hearts detected their dishonesty and insincerity, and measured out to it fitting punishment. The Saviour of mankind left these hypocrites, so far as we are told, unforgiven and unsaved.

And now how does this apply to ourselves? Very closely and practically. Far and away the most important thing for all of us is that we should receive from God the forgiveness of the sins which we have committed. In order to obtain this forgiveness, we have, each one, to go in person to God, as really as these Pharisees went to our Lord, and we have to make to Him certain professions of sorrow and contrition. We have to say that we are heartily sorry for all our sins, we declare that the reason why we are sorry is that those sins have offended Him who is infinitely good and worthy of all love, or at least that the loss of heaven or the danger of everlasting punishment makes us detest those sins; above all, we have to declare that our mind is made up not to commit mortal [or venial] sin again, nor willingly to expose ourselves to the dangerous occasions of sin. These are the professions which we have all made to Almighty God over and over again. If they are sincere and genuine, they will, through the Most Precious Blood of our Lord, secure to us the remission of our sins, however many and great those sins may have been.

But the important point is that these professions should be sincere and genuine. How, then, are we to know that they are sincere and genuine? Well, of course, if we know that we don't mean what we say, that we don't intend to make any change in our life and conduct, those expressions are plainly hypocritical and will bring down upon us a curse instead of forgiveness. This is so plain that it only needs to be mentioned to see the result. But there are many people who intend to do right and yet make a mistake about the act of contrition. They think that its sincerity and goodness depend on their feelings. They think that they ought to be able, if they are truly sorry, to shed tears for their sins, or at least to have profound emotions.

Now, no one will deny that it would be a good thing to be able to shed sincere tears of sorrow for our sins. The saints have done so, and have instructed us that we should pray for the grace to be able to do so. But the act of contrition may be and generally is sincere and true if—but mark the condition—we have made up our minds not to sin again, and also to avoid dangerous occasions of sin.

This is the test of a real good act of contrition, and it is a good test, for every one must know his own mind on the point. If we have that full and sincere determination, an act of contrition is good, however dry and cold may be our feelings; but if we have not got that determination, if we have not resolved to avoid bad company; if, on the contrary, we intend going on much as before, then, although we might deluge the confessional with floods of tears, our Lord's words to the Pharisees would be appropriate to us: "Why tempt you me, you hypocrites?''

This, then, dear brethren, is a very important application of to-day's Gospel to ourselves: that we must take great care not to approach Almighty God with words which we do not mean, and especially, in coming to Confession, that we must come with a real, true determination to avoid all grievous sin in the future.



Jerome comments: To be truly repentant and in order to be saved, one must also be determined not to commit even deliberate venial sin against the all good God. So does this mean one must never commit any sin? Of course, that is preferable, but it is impossible for a man or a woman while living on earth not to fall into at least venial sins from time to time. However, there is a great difference with falling into sin—such as mortal or venial—but without having an actual will or intention to sin prior to falling, and a whole other thing to know one is sinning or that this act is offending God and yet not care. If you know something is a venial sin or offends God yet commits it with a deliberate intention: that is a really bad sign, and if this will is not corrected, may lead to damnation.

The great St. Ambrose said concerning this: True repentance [and thus love of God] is to cease to sin [all sin, however small].”

And in The Revelations of St. Bridget, Our Lord said: Moreover, know that just as all mortal sins are very serious, so too a venial sin is made mortal if a human being delights in it with the intention of persevering.” (Book 7, Chapter 27)

According to this definition by Our Lord Jesus Christ, if a person were to commit a venial sin but does not want to or intend to continue committing this sin again in the future, such a person would not be in a state of damnation because of his sin, even if it turned out that he committed it again in the future, because his will at the time was not to continue doing it.

In contrast, if another person has “the intention of persevering” in a venial sin and does not repent with a firm resolution or will to stop doing this sin again in the future (such as the at least venial sin of continuing putting oneself in proximate or direct occasion of sinning), but intends to continue doing it and are unrepentant for his sin: then he is in a state of damnation.

Our Lord’s words are crystal clear that a venial sin is made mortal if a human being delights in it with the intention of persevering.” Hence, even if a sin is “only” venial, and, provided they commit it with an intention of persevering: they fall under the direct condemnation of Jesus Christ above, and they commit a mortal sin since they have an “intention of persevering” doing this sin, for the smallest sin, lusted after, is enough to damn anyone from the kingdom of Heaven, who does not repent.” (Jesus speaking to St. Bridget, Book 1, Chapter 32)

The Angelic Doctor, St. Thomas Aquinas, has the following interesting things to say about how a venial sin can become a mortal sin, and about the evil action of choosing sin before choosing to love God:

The very fact that anyone chooses something that is contrary to divine charity, proves that he prefers it to the love of God, and consequently, that he loves it more than he loves God. Hence it belongs to the genus of some sins, which are of themselves contrary to charity, that something is loved more than God; so that they are mortal by reason of their genus… Sometimes, however, the sinner’s will is directed to a thing containing a certain inordinateness, but which is not contrary to the love of God and one’s neighbor, e.g. an idle word, excessive laughter, and so forth: and such sins are venial by reason of their genus… It is written (Sirach 19:1): "He that contemneth small things shall fall by little and little." Now he that sins venially seems to contemn small thingsTherefore by little and little he is disposed to fall away together into mortal sin.” (St. Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologica, First Part of the Second Part, Q. 88, Art. 2 & 3, Reply to Objection 1/On the contrary)

And further on, he says:

Whether a venial sin can become mortal? I answer that, The fact of a venial sin becoming a mortal sin… This is possible, in so far as one may fix one’s end in that venial sinor direct it to some mortal sin as end, as stated above (Article 2). [Excerpt from article 2:] … it happens sometimes that a sin which is venial generically by reason of its object, becomes mortal on the part of the agent, either because he fixes his last end therein, or because he directs it to something that is a mortal sin in its own genus; for example, if a man direct an idle word to the commission of adultery [or if a man takes illicit and secret delight in beholding what is not lawful to behold, such as by viewing at and searching for immoral images].” (St. Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologica, First Part of the Second Part, Q. 88, Art. 4 & 2)

Pope Innocent XI, Various Errors on Moral Matters #61, March 4, 1679: “He can sometimes be absolved, who remains in a proximate occasion of sinning, which he can and does not wish to omit, but rather directly and professedly seeks or enters into.” – Condemned statement by Pope Innocent XI.

Pope Innocent XI, Various Errors on Moral Matters #62, March 4, 1679: “The proximate occasion for sinning is not to be shunned when some useful and honorable cause for not shunning it occurs.” – Condemned statement by Pope Innocent XI.

Pope Innocent XI, Various Errors on Moral Matters #63, March 4, 1679: “It is permitted to seek directly the proximate occasion for sinning for a spiritual or temporal good of our own or of a neighbor.” – Condemned statement by Pope Innocent XI.

For instance, in order to help people avoid occasions of falling into sin, we often tell them about the absolute need to surf the internet without images on and with an adblock (which means that they can’t see images at all when surfing various websites or any internet ads) so as to avoid innumerable occasions of falling into sin, not only venial sins, but also mortal sins of impurity.

Brother Roger, a Franciscan of singular purity, being once asked why he was so reserved in his intercourse with women, replied, that when men avoid the occasions of sin, God preserves them; but when they expose themselves to dangerthey are justly abandoned by the Lord, and easily fall into some grievous transgressions.” (St. Alphonsus Liguori, The True Spouse of Jesus Christ, Mortification of the Eyes, p. 221)

Please see this section below for some more quotes on the issue and on the help and the steps on how to block images in your web-browser and how to surf the internet with an adblocker:

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