DIVINIZATION: DEFEATING EVIL IN YOUR PERSONAL LIFE – THE TRIUMPH OF GRACE
V. DEFEATING EVIL IN YOUR PERSONAL LIFE – THE TRIUMPH OF GRACE
We have discussed in the previous chapters the cause and effect of grace on souls who are already Christians, be they Roman Catholics, Eastern Rite Catholics, Greek or Russian Orthodox, or any of the now thousands of denominational Protestants. The Revolt of Luther from the Apostolic and Magisterial Teaching of the Roman Catholic Church and, more importantly, in the historical context of sixteenth-century Germany, the opportunity it gave to certain nobles and lords to confiscate church property, has led to a continual and seemingly never-ending deconstruction of Christian unity. Once true Authority was overthrown, then every person was theoretically capable of claiming their own authority and the floodgates of Christian disunion were open. As a consequence of this historical development there are presently many thousands of Protestant sects worldwide, and this number grows each year!
In this chapter we will be talking about the effect of grace upon everyone in this world who is not a member of the Body of Christ, either in the fullness of that meaning or having some grasp of that fullness.
When our dear Lord came into time and space He brought with Him salvation for ALL MEN AND WOMEN, from the beginning of the world until the end, and this had always been the desire of the Triune God, even from the creation of the world. After His death and just prior to His Ascension into Heaven, and even as Our Lord was instructing His Apostles to go forth and preach the Good News to all the earth, He gave them the consolation that He would be with them until the end of time (Matthew 28).
But something went amiss. Even as the Apostles were being sent forth with the truth and light of love, at that same moment of human history the drums were pounding and the forces of Satan were being summoned in opposition to the new freedom obtained through Christ’s great sacrifice at Calvary. The gathering forces of error, hatred, and what we would call in our age “disinformation,” the perversion of truth by half-truth, which is synonymous with heresy.
One of the great mysteries of evil is the story of how Judas betrayed his Lord after spending three years with Him, all that time with Grace Himself and having the privilege of His living example and listening to all His sacred teachings. We have had, through the centuries, new Judases who continue to betray the Kingdom and the King.13 It would be impossible for me to talk about betrayal without briefly mentioning that the most damaging and painful example of this is when a Minister of Christ who has taken binding holy orders is a source of scandal by openly teaching his own agenda in defiance of his duty to defend true teaching (Orthodoxy). By their actions they willfully abandon not only the Truth which they should defend with their lives, but they also mislead the “little ones” who were given to their protection. Jesus said that unless they repent their punishment shall be great. The one thing that all these men and all their movements have in common is that Satan either directly or indirectly influenced and continues to influence their activity. How do we know this? We know this because Jesus promised that He would be with His one true Church, even to the end of the world (John 16:13). He also promised on the eve of His crucifixion that He would send the Paraclete, the Consoler, the Holy Spirit to guide His Church (John 14:26). He also promised the apostles that the gates of Hell would not prevail against His Church (Matthew 16:18 and following). This is all biblical and no one should feel scandalized by the Truth. Now, having said that, it follows that if heresies develop either within the Church or from without then these denials of the Truth must be, unless you call Jesus Christ a liar, and I repeat, MUST BE, from a source other than the Holy Spirit. Jesus called Satan “a liar from the beginning and the father of lies.” It is Satan who whispers into the ear of heretics and those who seek discord and conflict over the Truth. Over the centuries Satan has used everything at his disposal, allowed to him by God, to frustrate or overthrow the Kingdom of God here on this earth. Even though he knows that he cannot ultimately succeed in his evil work, nevertheless, he so despises and hates all of mankind that he will continue to hate us even to the very return of the King in majesty. At that time Satan and all the evil spirits (fallen angels) will be thrown into Hell eternally and all human beings will be judged according to how we individually responded to the grace given to us. This will be without exception. The rich and the poor, the prince and the pauper, the powerful and the weak will all be judged on the merits of our own lives and our relationship with God through grace. This is why Satan will struggle to defeat your journey toward grace and the indwelling of the Spirit within you. He knows that then you are making a decision, a choice of movement toward the Light, toward the Truth, toward Love. So therefore let us make a choice not to be one of the Betrayers. Let us choose life!
Now let us turn to those who, for whatever reason, have never known or heard of grace.
Just as Satan and his minions were attempting to thwart the efforts of the Apostles as they ventured into new territories preaching the Good News, these same evil forces were active in those places where the Gospel, for whatever reason, would not be taught. It must be remembered that Christ Himself commanded that the Gospel be preached to all the earth! Not just certain places where it would be readily received but the WHOLE EARTH, and therefore we know that this has always been the intention of God. Consequently, grace is available to all men and women regardless of whether they ever actually come into contact with Christian teaching. God, in His infinite mercy, accomplishes His goal by sending His grace, in the words of Father Charles Journet, “at a distance” in an “abnormal, uncovenanted way” as a sign of His infinite desire for their salvation. This area of the developed doctrine of grace is very mysterious and yet also very beautiful in its revelation of God’s love for each and every individual. It is mysterious in the sense that these graces are given outside of the Church, and in that sense they also exist outside of the Church. However, those individuals who accept and correspond to the graces given to them are by their actions establishing a spiritual connection with the Mystical Body of Christ and are therefore in some imperfect way “spiritual Christians” even if they are still members of another religion. By allowing grace to work through their soul, they will begin to become illuminated by Truth, and their thoughts and actions will start to project the truth regardless of who they are and in whatever time or culture they exist. Christ therefore completes the mission Himself even though His own missionaries have failed. God never fails, and His Will is always done despite the weakness and frailties of His followers! Father Journet, in his treatise THE MEANING OF GRACE, gives examples of individuals who are outside the Church and yet reflect the work of grace in their lives:
I recall the processions of pilgrims in South India who go year by year to the sanctuary of the god Vishnu, whose statue the priests anoint with oil and perfume. A few years ago, the hymns of these pilgrims were translated into English, and parts of them into French as well. They were written by a man of humble rank, in the middle of the seventeenth century of our era. They are superb:
How can our minds grasp him of whose light the sun and moon are but a reflection? This God is our God, soul of souls, close beside us, in us and around us…. This God of love can be reached only by love. . . . We have fashioned a Vishnu of stone, but the stone is not Vishnu; adoration is given to Vishnu, and the stone remains in the stone figure. . . . It is your glory, O God, to be called the Saviour of sinners…. The saints call you the Lord of those who despair; and when I heard it, my heart took courage.
Among these pilgrims there are, doubtless, some who dwell mainly on the words of the hymns and who perform the traditional rites and sacrifices simply as a matter of custom, and others who pay little attention to the meaning of the hymns and whose main concern is with the idolatrous practices. The former, unlike the latter, belong spiritually to Christ and the Church.
Another example is furnished by Judaism. ‘As concerning the gospel, indeed, they are enemies for your sake; but as touching the election, they are most dear for the sake of the fathers. For the gifts and calling of God are without repentance’ (Rom. xi. 28-29). The day will come when God will bring them into the Church. In the errant course they are now pursuing, divine grace never ceases to try to stir their hearts, and wc find among them great examples of holiness. Such were the Hassidim—the word means ‘pious’—who lived in Polish ghettos at the beginning of the eighteenth century, at times in extreme poverty. De Menasce gives an excellent account of them in his book, “Quand Israel aime Dieu.” Some of them even arrived at the idea of co-redeeming love, an idea foreign to Judaism. Though they never spoke of Christ, their utterances have a distinctly Christian resonance.
So you see that grace is manifested by God as a source of connection with Him and is a reflection of His indescribable love and mercy. Christ Jesus had no need of a Church while He was present physically upon this earth. But Our Lord, in His infinite wisdom, knew that other “sons of man,” that is to say, other human beings, must be His successors and lead His Church until He comes again. The Old Covenant had been fulfilled, and the New Age, the authentic NEW AGE, of the Kingdom and of what we may call the Age of the Holy Spirit, was and is at hand. Once the Church came into being at Pentecost, grace became available to the entire world through the power of the Cross, the Resurrection of Jesus, and the descent of the Holy Spirit. That is why the Lord told His Apostles on that first Holy Thursday that it is a good thing that He go. Can you imagine Our Lord saying this and how difficult it was for His followers to understand this saying! But He went on to state that upon His leaving the world would then receive the Holy Spirit, the Spirit that will dwell in each and every heart, if that heart will welcome Him. Christ promised that the Spirit will guide the Mystical Body, His Church, until Jesus comes again at the end of time.
But didn’t grace, as a spiritual benefit, connect people with their Creator before the Son of God came into the world and took on human flesh as the “Son of Man”? What about all those holy saints we read about in the Old Testament, what about Abraham, Moses, the Prophets, and King David? The answer to that is that grace was indeed dispensed by God to those people. Grace was dispensed directly by God through what has become known as “Christian grace by anticipation.” Because God exists outside of space and time He is free to demonstrate His mercy and love to humans who do exist within space and time prior to the advent of Jesus. Therefore, in anticipation of the merits of the Cross of Christ necessary graces were made available to the servants of God at all times and in all places.
So then a profound truth is revealed to us by meditating upon this mystery of grace. What is this truth? It is: ALL GRACES (BEFORE, DURING, AND AFTER HIS MANIFESTATION UPON THE EARTH) COME THROUGH JESUS AS THE ONE TRUE MEDIATOR OF GRACE. Jesus, in His human nature, suffered, died, was buried, and rose again on the third day and thereby became the ransom for and the Lamb of Sacrifice for the Honor of God, for the Justice of God. Sin and death were destroyed forever. Life and love were restored forever.
So the King, long anticipated, came into His Kingdom, and His Kingdom knew Him not. But despite the rejection of His own people, He, nevertheless, was and is the Messiah, the Anointed One, the long-awaited Christ of the world! So we come to a new understanding of salvation history and so now there is no longer an “anticipation of grace.” There is now a presence of grace among men and when Jesus was upon the earth grace literally came out of Him (Luke 8:46 and following)! And at that point in human history, we have Grace Itself present and existential. His grace, WHO IS GRACE, existed for Jews and now also for the Nations.
But let us return for a moment to this mystery of a person of grace existing in time and space. Let us ponder miracles. Our Lord performed them and let us consider how they were manifested. Some were a physical manifestation of Our Lord (Mark 7:32) (John 6:6). Many more were at a distance and probably the most famous of these is the healing of the Roman Centurion’s servant (Matthew 8:7 and following). Probably the most mysterious of all of Our Lord’s miracles was the bringing back to life of His friend Lazarus. It is not mysterious because Jesus brought him back to life. It is mysterious because of the circumstances described in the eleventh chapter of the Gospel of John. Saint John the Apostle explains that Jesus had been warned that Lazarus had a sickness, but Jesus proclaimed that it was not a SICKNESS UNTO DEATH. Yet Jesus does not go to his friend until the illness had indeed become death. This is the miracle of Jesus whereby He shows Himself to be the King, the Ruler of Life, and the Liberator from death itself, and He does it at a distance! He does not touch Lazarus or in any way approach the body within the tomb. Rather He stands without the tomb and simply exclaims: “Lazarus, come forth!” This leads us to ponder a great mystery that many people have wondered about through the centuries. Is the capacity of God to achieve His ends in any way limited or diminished? Can The Evil One thwart the Will and Action of God in the world? Is God forced in any way to work exclusively through the senses? Of course not! But He does choose to do so, and this mystery will only be answered when we see God face to face. But we can use our human intellect to ponder this mystery and perhaps obtain some insight into the mind of God.
When God created Adam and Eve, there was no need for a physical contact, a contact of the senses. God communicated His graces directly to our first parents, before their fall from grace, as He does with the Angels. When Adam and Eve fell into sin and lost their original purity, and consequently lost their direct relationship with God, they henceforth principally lived in and by their senses. These senses, ever since the fall in the Garden of Eden, become a source of temptation for all human beings. God forever takes the sources of temptations to sin and evil and transforms them into opportunities for salvation. Therefore, in the fullness of time, God became a man and ever thereafter the Person of Jesus would be the source of grace. At His Incarnation grace comes to all by “derivation,” not “anticipation.” God is now revealed to mankind through the senses, the humanity of Jesus, and that is why Jesus says in Matthew 11:11 that the least member of the Kingdom of Heaven is greater than the greatest of all the Old Covenant prophets, John the Baptist. This is so because the New Covenant established by Our Lord Himself is the fulfillment of the Old, and membership in this New Covenant far surpasses and indeed fulfills that which existed prior to God coming into the world. Thus Jesus was able to say in Luke 10:23: “Blessed are the eyes that see the things that you see. For, I say to you, many prophets and kings have desired to see the things that you see and have not seen them, and to hear the things that you hear and have not heard them.”
Therefore the physical presence of Our Lord upon the earth some two thousand years ago was the demarcation of human history between anticipation of Redemption and its realization.
Upon the Resurrection of Jesus, this means of grace by visible and physical signs did not end, but rather continued and continues still through the Church He founded. These signs of grace manifested in both a supernatural and natural way simultaneously are called sacraments. It is the primary sacrament of Baptism that confers upon each individual the supernatural grace and virtues of Faith, Hope, and Charity. Through baptism Jesus continues to stay with us by the indwelling of the Holy Spirit Who instructs and guides us in the knowledge of the Christ. Because Jesus established one true Church, it follows that the Church will be guided by the Spirit in a manner that will never allow Its teaching to be in error or to be without the brilliant light of Truth. Jesus told us that He is the Way, The Truth, and the Life, and no one can enter His Kingdom EXCEPT THROUGH HIM. It follows then that no one will enter the Kingdom outside of His Church. To say otherwise is to call Jesus a liar. The Church is never deceived but the individual who does not follow the Church and its Teachings, as guided by the Spirit of Christ, can easily be deceived by Satan and his demons. The essential teachings of Christ must be believed by Faith under the authority given by Jesus to His Church. The Truth cannot be understood by natural discernment outside of the action of grace.
We live in an age where there is great emphasis on individual freedom. We live, in fact, in a secular age that has abandoned objective truth as understood through natural law. All the forefathers of our nation accepted natural law and objective truth. The Declaration of Independence and the Constitution of the United States of America are premised upon this philosophy. But we have wandered far from truth, and, as a consequence, we are descending into social chaos and despair. We are deconstructing into an abyss, a hole that has no bottom except Hell. This is an age of contradiction, an age of heterodoxy, a word that is translated from the Greek as two or more ways of understanding something. This is opposed or in contradiction to orthodoxy, a word that basically means the one and the true way of understanding something. This is why the Orthodox Jews and the Orthodox Churches use this term. They want a self-revealing identity. They are telling the world that they consider themselves as being holders of the truth. They believe that their faith system is the one and the true teaching of God. But, of course, there can be only ONE TRUE TEACHING OF GOD! How do we know the Truth? How do we choose wisely? Because it is through the voice of the Holy Spirit, the authentic and only voice of the Spirit, the Church speaks infallibly. This is what Saint Paul referred to at the beginning of his Letter to the Romans (1:5) as “the obedience of faith.” This is obedience, through faith, to the voice of the Spirit. It then follows that the teaching authority of Jesus, through the Spirit, is passed on to His Mystical Body, the Church. The authority that Jesus left to His Apostles was manifested, as Luke tells us in the Acts of the Apostles chapter 2, when the Holy Spirit came upon them at Pentecost. At that moment the Church of the original and only Apostles, led by Peter, became the “Spouse of the Holy Spirit” (John 14:26)! So we must recognize that this entire discussion of grace has no meaning whatsoever without our understanding that grace can only be obtained within the context of faith in Jesus Christ. The one exception to this profound truth would be, as we discussed previously, “invincible ignorance,” an exception that has become more and more unlikely in the 21st century. This is a time, after all, when the message of Christ is being spread worldwide through the communicative powers of global networks of television, radio, short wave, and the Internet. Praised be Mother Angelica and EWTN! Add to this the work of men like Mel Gibson who use their brilliant talents to convey through cinema Grace Himself and His Passion.
If grace is indeed the manifestation of Jesus, through the Spirit, then it certainly makes a great deal of sense to say that the closer you are to Jesus in an “up close and personal” way, then the more His grace will be able to work in you by the exercise of your free will. I again turn to Saint Paul’s Letter to the Romans (8:17): “Now if we are children, then we are heirs—heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory.” And again Romans (8:29): “For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers.” The presence of evil has always been in opposition to the salvation of Christ and throughout history the forces of Satan have been busy in the work of human destruction. The grace of God, however, has been the weapon that Satan cannot defeat. Grace raises us to supernatural dignity, and if we cooperate with it, then the Evil One can and will be defeated. There is only Jesus!
So we come to the end of our journey toward grace. I have attempted in a simple and straightforward way to discuss my journey and yours, my destiny and yours. The world today is so complex and full of spiritual pitfalls, and the Enemy is waiting at every moment to weave a web of evil and despair around each and every one of us. But we have available to us something that makes the Enemy run in fear, something that he knows that he cannot ultimately defeat. That something is a someone, and His name is Jesus the Christ. Jesus also promised that the gates of hell will not prevail against His Church and that He will be with us even to the end of the world. He left us a Church guided by the Holy Spirit, a Church that will dispense His Grace and His Sacraments to sustain us in love until the end.