MY CATHOLIC FAITH
XXXIX. Sanctifying Grace
A soul in the state of grace is very beautiful in the sight of God. Then we are friends and children of God and heirs of heaven; then we are like the very angels. We must always try to avoid sin. But when the soul has lost the grace of God by mortal sin, nothing on earth can be uglier in God’s sight. If we are so careful about our personal appearance before mortals, how much more should we be careful about the appearance of our immortal soul, that God may be pleased with us.
What is grace? –Grace is a supernatural gift of God bestowed on us through the merits of Jesus Christ for our salvation.
Grace is a favor, a free gift, granted to us though we have no claim to it. God grants us graces because He is good, not because we deserve them. God grants,us graces for the sake of His Son, Who died on the cross to earn for us these graces; we men can never merit these graces.
“All have sinned and have need of the glory of God. They are justified freely by his grace through the redemption which is in Christ” (Rom. 3:23-24).
In a similar manner the sun does not make the plants, but develops what is already planted; without the sun plants would die and be useless to man.
The supernatural is that which is beyond natural Powers. It is of two kinds:
When the fact is beyond natural powers in the manner of occurence: as when a blind man instantly can see; and
When the fact fundamentally and entirely surpasses all powers of the natural order: as when God imparts a part of His life to man through the gift of sanctifying grace.
The assistance of the Holy Ghost is necessary. Without the help of the graces that He dispenses, with merely natural powers, we cannot do the least work to merit salvation. Without God, we are nothing.
In order to reach heaven, we need God’s grace; so we say with the Apostle: “Not that we are sufficient of ourselves to think anything, as from ourselves, but our sufficiency is from God” (2 Cor. 3:5) ; “By the grace of God I am what I am. . . . I have laboured more than any of them, yet not I, but the grace of God with me” (1 Cor. 15:10).
There are two kinds of grace: sanctifying grace and actual grace.
What is sanctifying grace? –Sanctifying grace is that grace which confers on our souls a new life, that is, a sharing in the life of God Himself.
By sanctifying grace, our souls are made holy and pleasing to God. It is an abiding or permanent grace, which we gain by baptism, and lose only by mortal sin.
By Adam’s sin all mankind lost the friendship of God; that is, we are born in original sin, without sanctifying grace. Our Lord’s death won back sanctifying grace for us; it is granted freely at Baptism.
A soul to whom God grants sanctifying grace receives not merely a gift from God, but God Himself. The Holy Ghost lives in him and becomes united with him, so that he receives a new life, a new nature.
St. Paul refers to this acquisition of sanctifying grace as the putting off of the old man and the putting on of the new. It is as if an old and worn man were suddenly to become a handsome young man full of the vigor of life. The beauty of a soul in the state of sanctifying grace is too great for human eyes to bear. As a child said, when asked how his soul would look immediately after his confirmation, if it could be photographed, “Why, it would look like God!”
What are the chief effects of sanctifying grace? –The chief effects of sanctifying grace are:
First, it makes us holy and pleasing to God.-When we are in possession of sanctifying grace, we are free from mortal sin; the two cannot dwell together. The fire of the Holy Ghost sears away all that God abhors, so that we acquire God’s friendship.
However, although free from mortal sin, we do not: with sanctifying grace, become free from the remains of sin. So even saints feel the human inclination to sin, against which the struggle is lifelong, and from which we should gain merit. This human frailty is imbedded in our flesh, and is present in our souls as a result of original sin.
Sanctifying grace, however, although it does not cure us of the weakness of the flesh, strengthens our will, so that for us the war against sin becomes easier. The charity accompanying sanctifying grace makes us more prone to good works, more attracted to God, with minds illumined as to the folly of sin.
Second, it makes us adopted children of God. – With sanctifying grace, the Holy Ghost enters our soul; we are led by His Spirit, and are therefore His children: “For whoever are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God” (Rom. 8:14).
“Now you have not received a spirit of bondage so as to be again in fear, but you have received a spirit of adoption as sons, by virtue of which we cry, “Abba! Father!” The Spirit himself gives testimony to our spirit that we are sons of God” (Rom. 8:15-16).
Third, it makes us temples of the Holy Ghost.-Sanctifying grace brings the Holy Ghost to dwell in us as in a temple. St. Paul says, “For you are the temple of the Living God” (2 Cor. 6: 16).
“Do you not know that you are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwells in you? If anyone destroys the temple of God, him will God destroy; for holy is the temple of God and this temple you are” (1 Cor. 3: 16,17)
Fourth, it gives us the right to heaven.When we are in sanctifying grace, we are inspired to do good works. The Holy Ghost does not sleep within us, but expands our heart with His grace, and urges our will to do good. And as we are adopted children of God, such actions become meritorious for heaven.
If we are children of God, we are at the same time heirs, and therefore have a right to His Kingdom. “We are the sons of God. But if we are sons, we are heirs also; heirs indeed of God, and joint heirs with Christ” (Rom. 8:16-17)
Why is sanctifying grace necessary for salvation? –Sanctifying grace is necessary for salvation because it is the supernatural life, which alone enables us to attain the supernatural happiness of heaven.
The presence of God in the soul gives it life. When the Holy Ghost is dwelling in the soul, it is enabled to know and love God, to do supernatural works. Speaking of the “gift of God”, Our Lord said it “shall become in him a fountain of water, springing up unto life everlasting” (John 4:14). Without sanctifying grace, the soul is without God; and without God, the soul becomes the devil’s.
One cannot gain any merit for heaven as long as he is not in sanctifying grace, what is termed “in the state of grace”. For without sanctifying grace one is an enemy of God, and cannot enter His kingdom.
Mortal sin makes the soul displeasing to God, and thus deprives it of sanctifying grace.