"And I beheld, and heard the voice of one eagle flying through the midst of heaven,
saying with a loud voice: Woe, woe, woe to the inhabitants of the earth....
[Apocalypse (Revelation) 8:13]

Thursday, April 21, 2016

The Grace of Justification

The Grace of Justification 
by Fr. Michael Muller, 1874
 The Sacraments of Baptism and Penance--the means
by which Justification is obtained

Q. What does the sinner become by receiving the sacrament of baptism or penance?

A. He becomes a child of God, a temple of the Holy Ghost, an heir of heaven, and capable of performing good works towards his salvation.
Q. What is this great grace called?

A. Sanctifying grace, or the grace of justification.

Q. Why is it thus called?

A. Because it makes the soul just or holy in the sight of God.

Q. How long does this sanctifying grace remain in the soul of the justified man?

A. It remains as long as he does not commit mortal sin.

Q. Can the sinner merit sanctifying or justifying grace?

A. No; he cannot.

Q. Why can he not?

A. Because all good works performed in the state of mortal sin, are dead works, and of too little value to merit so great a grace.

Q. Is it an article of our holy faith that a sinner cannot, whilst in the state of mortal sin, merit the grace of justification?

A. It is.

Q. What does the Church teach on this subject?

A. That "whatever precedes justification, whether faith or good works, is insufficient to merit the grace of justification." Council of Trent, Sess. 8. c. viii.

Q. How, then, is the justification of the sinner brought about?

A. It is brought about gratuitously, and through the pure mercy of God.

Q. In consideration of whom?

A. Not in consideration of his own merits, but in consideration of the merits of Jesus Christ.

Q. How so?

A. Jesus Christ is our only mediator, and by the price of His blood He has merited for us the grace of reconciliation with His Father.

Q. Is it then impossible for the sinner to obtain by his good works the grace of justification?

A. The sinner may, by his good works, avert many temporal punishments, dispose himself to receive the grace of conversion, and obtain it infallibly by prayer, but he can never merit it.

Q. What above all disposes the sinner for the grace of justification?

A. Faith in Jesus Christ our blessed Redeemer.

Q. Can any one be justified without this faith?

A. No, because it is impossible to please God, or to perform any good in the supernatural order without faith.

Q. Is faith alone sufficient to justify the sinner?

A. No; because, besides having faith, the sinner must fear and love God; he must be sorry for his sins, and make a firm resolution never to commit them again.

Q. Are all these necessary conditions, or are they works of merit?

A. They are not works of merit, but necessary conditions, without which it is impossible for the sinner to be received into the friendship of God.

Q. What is said in the fourth chapter of Deuteronomy, v. 29?

A. "You shall find God, if you seek him with all your heart."

Q. What says the prophet Ezechiel?

A. "If the impious man be converted and do penance, he shall live and shall not die." Chap, xviii. 21.

Q. What does our Savior Himself say?

A. "You are my friends, if you do the things that I command you." John xv. 14.

Q. What do we learn from these passages?

A. That faith alone is not sufficient to justify the sinner.

Q. Does not St. John say: "He that believeth in the Son hath life everlasting"? (Chap. iii. 36.)

A. St. John speaks here of an efficacious faith, and means that he who believes in the Son of God in such a manner as to practise His doctrine, will have life everlasting.

Q. Does not St. Paul say: "We account a man to be justified by faith without the works of the law"? Rom. iii. 28.

A. St. Paul speaks here of works of the Jewish law, and not of works of the Christian law.

Q. How can you show that he does not speak of works of the Christian law?

A. Because St. Paul surely does not contradict St. James, who writes thus: "You see that by works a man is justified, and not by faith only." Nor does St. Paul contradict himself, and yet he says: "Not the hearers of the law are just before Christ, but the doers of the law shall be justified." Rom. ii. 13. Again he says: "In Jesus Christ neither circumcision availeth anything, nor uncircumcision, but faith which worketh by charity." Gal. v. 6.

Q. How is it, then, that the same Apostle says: "Therefore, being justified by faith, let us have peace with God"? Rom. v.

A. The Apostle speaks here of a living faith, which is animated by charity and fruitful in good works.

Q. What sacrament conveys the grace of justification to the soul?

A. Baptism or penance.

Q. Can we merit heaven whilst in the state of mortal sin?

A. We cannot, because all the good works performed in the state of mortal sin are dead works, for which we cannot get any reward in heaven.

Q. Can we merit heaven whilst we are in the state of the grace?

A. A just man, by his good works, merits an increase of glory, but it is impossible for him to merit the first degree of glory.

Q. To whom are we indebted for the right which we have to Paradise?

A. Solely to the mercy of God, and to the merits of Jesus Christ.

Q. How so?

A. Because it was Jesus Christ who, by His merits, obtained for us heaven as our inheritance.

Q. Why do you say that the just man merits by his good works an increase of glory?

A. Because heaven is held out to us in Scripture as a recompense, and a recompense cannot be obtained without merit.

Q. What are the words of our Savior?

A. "Rejoice and be exceeding glad, because your reward is very great in heaven." St. Matt. v. 12.

Q. What says the Holy Ghost through the wise man?

A. "To him that soweth justice, there is a faithful reward."

Q. What says St. James?

A. "Blessed is the man that endureth temptation, for he shall receive the crown of life." Chap. i. 12.

Q. What says St. Paul?

A. "I have finished my course--there is laid up for me a crown of justice, which the Lord, the just judge, will render to me at that day." 2 Tim. iv. 7, 8.

Q. What is it that gives value to our good works?

A. Sanctifying grace.

Q. Is it God who gives it to us or do we give it to ourselves?

A. It is a gift which we receive from the infinite liberality of God.

Q. What does St. Paul say, speaking of this sanctifying grace?

A. "The charity of God is poured out into our hearts, by the Holy Ghost, who is given to us." Rom. v. 5.

Q. To whom are we indebted for sanctifying or justifying grace?

A. "We are indebted for it solely to the merits of Jesus Christ.

Q. What do we remark concerning the efficacy of the merits of Jesus Christ?

A. That Jesus Christ, not content with meriting heaven for us, has also obtained for us that grace, by means of which we may be enabled to merit still higher degrees of glory.

Q. But since our Savior says: "When you shall have done all the things that are commanded you, says We are unprofitable servants; we have done that which we ought to do "--Luke xvii. 10--how can we presume that we are able to merit anything?

A. We are, it is true, unprofitable servants with regard to God, but not so with regard to ourselves. We are unprofitable servants with regard to God, because, although we should not perform any good actions, God would not be the less happy on that account--whilst we are not unprofitable towards ourselves, since by our good works we are enabled to obtain that recompense which He has been pleased to promise us.

Q. Could God require of us the performance of good works, without promising us, at the same time, any recompense?

A. He certainly could.

Q. What do the Fathers of the Council of Trent say on this subject?

A. "The goodness of God towards man is so great, that He is desirous that His own gifts should be changed into merits for them." Sess. vi. 16.

Q. Are we all bound to do good works?

A. Yes; for "Every tree that doth not yield good fruit, shall be cut down and cast into the fire." Matt. iii. 10.

Q. What kind of good works should we perform before all others?

A. Those, the performance of which is commanded to all Christians by the commandments of God and of the Church; and, 2. Those which are necessary, or useful, to fulfill the duties of our state of life.

Q. Are there any other good works especially recommended to us in Holy Scripture?

A. Yes; prayer, fasting, and alms, that is, the works of devotion, mortification, and charity.

Q. What is it that God is particularly pleased with in our good works?

A. Our intention to please and honor Him by our good works.

Q. How may we make a good intention?

A. We may make it in the following manner: "O my God, I do this for the love of Thee," or, "My Jesus, all for Thy honor and glory."

Q. When should we make a good intention?

A. It is very useful to make it before and after each, action, but we should make it especially in the morning.

Q. Have we any just reason to confide in the good works which we perform in the state of grace, and with the intention of pleasing and honoring God by them?

A. God forbid that a Christian should confide in himself, or glory in himself, and not in the Lord. "God forbid that I should glory but in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world is crucified to me and I to the world." Galatians vi. 14.

by Fr. Joseph Di Bruno, D.D, 1895
Repentance for past sins, with a purpose to avoid sin in future: two necessary dispositions to Justification prior to the reception of the Sacrament of Penance

Justification is a divine act which conveys sanctifying grace, and by that grace communicates a supernatural life to the soul, which by sin, whether original or actual, had incurred spiritual death; that is to say, justification is a change in the human soul or translation from the state of sin into the state of grace.

It is a gift of Almighty God, a ray, as it were, coming direct from the divine goodness and filling the soul, which makes those who receive it pleasing to God and justified in His sight.

The grace of justification produces a change affecting the soul of the regenerate by its presence, elevating and perfecting it. By this grace the likeness to God is brought out in them, and they are raised to a state of friendship with Him, and of divine sonship.

The Catholic Church teaches that the grace of justification not merely covers sin, but blots it out; that is, blots out the guilt and stain arising from sin, and remits the everlasting punishment due to it.

Justifying is not dressing splendidly a dead man's body, it is vivifying it. It is not covering a leprosy with a beautiful shining dress, it is curing it thoroughly. It is not gilding a piece of coal, leaving it inwardly black, but it is transforming it into a brilliant diamond.

What unspeakable regrets it would leave in the justified man if he had ever to see his soul, indeed magnificently arrayed, still in itself stained with sin, deformed, corrupt, black, and horrible as before.

Merely covering sin is a human way of forgiving, which consists in passing over the crime of a sinner, and in treating him outwardly as if he had not committed it, and as if no stain were in the soul in consequence of it, though the guilt and the stain are still there.

God's way of pardoning a sinner is very different, and wholly divine. It is a way worthy of His infinite goodness, sanctity, omnipotence, and worthy, too, of the immense efficacy of Christ's blood, and of His superabundant redemption, and of His infinite merits.

God's way of pardoning is to cleanse away entirely the guilt and stain of sin, so that instead of it, God sees in the pardoned sinner the "charity of God poured forth in our hearts by the Holy Ghost" (Rom. v. 5), which, like a fire, has destroyed all the dross of sin, and rendered man pure, upright, and holy.

Hence the justification of a sinner is represented in Scripture as the putting on of the new man who is "created in justice, and holiness of truth" (Ephesians iv. 24); the "renovation of the Holy Ghost." (Titus iii. 5.)

In the case of grown-up persons, some dispositions are required on the part of the sinner in order to be fit to obtain this habitual and abiding grace of justification. A man can only dispose himself by the help of divine grace, and the dispositions which he shows do not by any means effect or merit justification, but only serve to prepare him for it; and for that reason are simply called dispositions or preparations. This is the teaching of the Council of Trent, which declares: "We are said to be justified gratuitously, because none of the things which precede justification, whether it be faith or good works, can merit this blessing for us." (Session VI. chapter viii.) The same holy council declares that sins are remitted gratuitously by the mercy of God through the merits of Jesus Christ. (Sess. VI. chapter vii.)

The principal dispositions required for justification are the following acts, which can only be made by the assistance of God's actual grace, namely, an act of faith or belief in revealed truths, of fear of God, of hope, and of charity; an act of repentance for past sins, with a purpose to avoid sin in future, and to keep the commandments; a desire of receiving baptism for those who have not yet been baptized, and for those who have fallen into sin after baptism, a resolution to approach the sacrament of penance. (Council of Trent, Sess. VI. chap. vi.)

Justification may be lost by wilfully violating a commandment of God, either by doing what is forbidden, or by not doing what is commanded. Justification is a talent or gift which should be made to bear fruit, or we shall be punished for the neglect.

By justification we are raised to the dignity of sons of God, heirs of His kingdom; and this entails upon us the duty of acting in a way becoming to so high a dignity. "If thou wilt enter into life, keep the commandments," said our Lord. (St. Matt. xix. 17.) By justification we are incorporated with Christ, like a branch growing on a vine; but if the branch produces no fruit it will be cut off and cast into the fire. (St. John xv. 6.) Hence, the grace of justification is compared by our Saviour, not to a pond, but to a fountain, whose waters reach unto heaven: "But the water that I will give him shall become in him a fountain of water springing up into life everlasting." (St. John iv. 14.)

Actual Grace

After we are justified we still stand in need, in order to perform any meritorious good work, of another grace called actual. Justifying grace, of which we spoke in the preceding chapter, called also habitual grace, is something in itself lasting; actual grace is something that passes, and extends only to individual acts for the time it is needed. Actual grace is a passing, supernatural, divine help, enlightening our understanding, and moving our will, and enabling us to perform any single good action; for instance, to accept any supernatural revealed truth, or to perform any good work considered good in the supernatural order.

Grace does not force man's free will, but respects it, and leaves man free to act with it or not. Grace, therefore, does not destroy our freewill, but only helps it, and our own working with grace is required. "God who has created thee without thee, will not save thee without thee" ("Qui creavit te sine te non salvabit te sine te"), says St. Augustine: and in Holy Scripture it is repeatedly stated that God will render to every one according to his works. A renovation which renders a soul renewed, pure, bright, amiable and endearing to God.

We stand in continual need of actual grace to perform good acts, both before and after being justified. "Without me you can do nothing," says our Saviour, and St. Paul declares that without God's grace we are incapable of even a good thought. The good acts, however, done by the help of grace without justification are not, strictly speaking, meritorious, but serve to smooth the way to justification, to move God, though merely through His mercy and condescension, to help us and render us better disposed for the same. But if, with the assistance of actual grace, good works are done by a person who is in a state of justifying grace, then they are acceptable to God, and merit an increase of grace on earth and an increase of glory in Heaven.

Hence St. Paul says: "God is not unjust that He should forget your work, and the love which you have shown in His name." (Hebrews vi. 10.)

How Christ's Redemption is Applied to Men

And writing to Timothy, he declares that "a crown of justice" was laid up for him; and not only for him, "but to them also that love His [Christ's] coming." (2 Timothy iv. 8.) And in his Second Epistle to the Corinthians, he says, "for that which is at present momentary and light of our tribulation, worketh for us above measure exceedingly an eternal weight of glory." (iv. 17.)

All our merits, however, without any exception, are grounded on the merits of Jesus Christ, and on His grace, without which no one can move a step towards heaven.

The merit of a good action performed in a state of grace, as being in consequence of justification, and in union with our Lord, is truly our own merit, because that good action is really performed by us, by our co-operation with God's grace; but it is also, and principally, a merit of our Lord, as a grape is the fruit of the branch, and yet also and principally the fruit of the parent vine without which, or if not connected with which, the branch could not produce any fruit, or indeed have become a branch at all. Our merit, therefore, does not take away from Christ's merits, for without Him we can do nothing. We merit through Christ, Christ makes us merit; or still more properly, Christ merits in us, and therefore all the glory is His. "God forbid," says the Council of Trent, "that a Christian should confide or glory in himself and not in the Lord, whose goodness towards men is so great that He regards as their merits the very gifts which He Himself bestows upon them." (Session VI. chap. xviii.) And St. Augustine had said long before, "God crowns His own grace when He crowns our merits."

Jesus Christ died for all mankind; He truly died that "He might taste death for all." (Hebrews ii. 9.) Yet we know that all men will not be saved, but only those who do His will; for we read in St. Paul: "And being consummated, He became to all that obey Him the cause of eternal salvation." (Hebrews v. 9.) And so, notwithstanding Christ's redemption, it is stated in the gospel that some "shall go into everlasting punishment." (St. Matt. xxv. 46.) St. Paul did not say that God will save all men, but, "Who will have all men to be saved" (1 Timothy ii. 4), implying thereby that for salvation, man's will and co-operation is required to fulfil the conditions, and use the means appointed by God Himself for the purpose.

Only those who "have washed their robes and have made them white in the blood of the Lamb" (Apocalypse [Rev.] vii. 14), that is, who have the merits of Christ applied to them, and who persevere to the end in doing what is commanded, will be saved.

The direct means instituted by Christ Himself for applying His infinite merits to the souls of men are the holy sacraments, which are so many channels instituted by Jesus Christ to convey to men His grace purchased for us at the price of His most precious blood: "You shall draw waters with joy out of the Saviour's fountains." (Isaias xii. 3.)