THE ROMAN CATHOLIC CHURCH
Her Doctrine and Morals
Fifteenth Sunday after Pentecost
22 September 2019
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Jesus worked many miracles both for bodies and souls. Most men focus their attention upon the physical miracles. We are in awe of the healing of the sick, the curing of the blind, the lame, the deaf and dumb. The most impressive of these is the raising of the dead. More impressive than all these are the many miracles performed in healing souls and restoring them to life.
We know that Jesus has done much more than the scriptures have recorded for us. He likely raised many more to physical life than the three that have been preserved for us in the Holy Scriptures. St. Augustine points out these three and leads us to consider a much deeper meaning than what appears on the surface. The physical death of the body symbolizes the spiritual death of the soul.
In the Gospels, we see that Jesus raised the young girl to life just after she had died (she was still in her home). In today's Gospel, we read that Jesus restored life to the young man who was being carried out of the city. The third was Lazarus who was already in the tomb. These three stages of physical death represent three degrees of spiritual death.
When we gravely sin in desire we are dead. Jesus has instructed us that the man who lusts after a woman in his heart is already guilty of adultery. In these sins, our death is not yet known outside of ourselves. We have, in a sense, died in our own homes.
When we act upon these sinful desires, our death becomes known to others. We are like the young man being carried out of the city.
When these grievous sins are repeated they soon become a habit, and it is as if we are already in the tomb and the decay of death is obvious to everyone. Often at this stage, the habit of sin has blinded us so that we do not even reflect upon the death of our soul. Without this reflection, we are unable to rise up or even to call out for help from our spiritual tombs.
As we progress in spiritual death, the return to life becomes less and less likely, unless through the mercy of Jesus we are restored to life. Jesus has given to the Church the power to work these miracles in the soul, which are much greater than the physical ones. We only need to sincerely repent, confess our sins, and do penance for our sins. The longer we remain in sin and the further along we progress in this spiritual death, the more difficult it is for us to return to spiritual life. God continually holds out to us the opportunity to rise, but the longer we remain away the less likely we will cooperate with Him. We should, therefore, run to Him as soon as we have had the misfortune of entering into the spiritual death of sin before it becomes any worse.
The spiritual death that occurs in the secret of our hearts is a terrible evil, but it is only dangerous for our own souls. The spiritual death that carries us out of the gates of the city when our sins are carried out in actions is much worse. These sins affect those around us. We scandalize those around us and in this way tempt them or cause them to sin also. This death through sins of desire and actions makes us ever more guilty because of scandal. Jesus has said that scandals are necessary but He pronounces woe to those by whom scandal comes. He says that it would be better that a millstone be placed around their necks and they should be drowned.
The last kind of spiritual death is that of habitual sin. These sins are continual and often are committed without reflection or by rote we do them without deliberately thinking about them. As there was already a smell coming from the tomb of Lazarus, so those who have died in this habitual death have already placed one foot in Hell.
As serious as all these deadly sins are, we must never lose hope. We see that Jesus restored life in all those stages and this reveals to us that He does the same for our spiritual lives. However, once we are dead we must depend upon the prayers of others. In the first death, the girl was restored to life because of the faith and prayers of her father. In the second it was for the benefit of the mother. In the third, it was for the sisters of Lazarus. We must, therefore, seek the love, assistance, and prayers of those in the Church for our welfare. We should pray for ourselves and others and seek that we are not forgotten in their prayers. We cannot see the death of the soul or tell who among us is spiritually alive or dead, but our prayers are never without value.
Let us avoid this spiritual death with even more effort than the world strives to avoid physical death. We should seek the medicine and remedies (Sacraments, Sacramentals, prayers, and indulgences) that Jesus has placed in the Church for the health of our souls with increasing diligence. If we have the misfortune to commit deadly sins and destroy the very life of our souls, do not give up, but rather rise as quickly as possible, lest our spiritual death becomes permanent.
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