The Priest and the Eternal Truths
Mortal Sin in the Priest
Malice of Sin
I. The soul of every human being living by God's grace is God's temple. What of the soul that has lost this grace by mortal sin?
It is still the temple of God: at least it still retains sufficient spaciousness and suitable structure to be the dwelling of Him whose throne is the highest Heaven and the whole earth His footstool.
The soul of the sinner is indeed a temple: it was created by God for that purpose; but now that the temple has been rendered unholy, profane, polluted, by the filth of sin, God, its rightful Dweller, has fled, and will not return until it be made clean by repentance.
The most beautiful cathedral, if seriously and publicly profaned, will have the Blessed Sacrament taken away from it until it be reconciled with due solemnity; because it has forfeited that decency and decorum which its Guest demands. For church styles will change with the varying tastes of the times: one epoch will choose the Gothic style, another the classic or Romanesque; but there will ever be a style and an ornamentation without which the most sumptuous architecture will be unworthy to house God. "Holy is Thy house, and must needs be holy until the end of time." (Ps. 92)
So too, a soul unadorned by the holiness of grace, though made to be God's temple, and still retaining the design and structure of such, is nevertheless held in
abhorrence and is repudiated by its Lord; it is given up to ruin and ignominy, like a deserted and accursed house.
This was my soul when I grievously sinned; this it is now if in sin I still continue.
II. There are terrible diseases--cancer, for example - that so entwine themselves around the deep, vital fibres of the organism as to become one with them. There are subtle poisons and malignant tumours that encrust upon, and soak into, the entrails, and there they remain unprobed until the grave, where at length they evaporate and perish among the ashes of the dead body.
A more penetrating cancer is sin, which all the strength of men and angels is powerless to extirpate from the substantial tissues and essence of our spirit.
Death, a corrosive that annihilates the germs of every physical disease, in the presence of the disease of mortal sin becomes a fixing bath. When death's icy breath passes over mortal sin in the soul, it fixes the sin there for ever; and with such force, so deeply, that neither the influx of eternity, nor oceans of tears, nor even the flames of Hell with all their penetrating and grappling of the soul's inmost being, will succeed in toning down a single shade or in effacing a single lineament. Is there any disease more intimate or more detestable?
Only the Blood of Jesus Christ takes out that stain; only the Fire of the Divine Spirit has power to burn so deeply and eradicate that dreadful cancer.
If thus thou art infected, my soul, let us go searching, even if it should mean spending all we possess; let us go searching until we find that health-giving and vivifying Spirit!
III. But my dull intellect, notwithstanding its close attentiveness and anxious striving, does not seem fully persuaded nor manages to grasp how a human act, sometimes merely internal, other times as quick as a flash of lightning, and, in certain cases, as innocuous, it would seem, as the petal of a flower; how such an act can carry with it so much malice. After pondering all the reasons, metaphysical and theological, I must frankly confess perhaps that I do not understand; I do not see in sin such an abominable monstrosity to be shunned at all costs.
I don't see or understand, but God does; and His judgement is infinitely just!
These two divine, infallible facts bear witness:
1. God, who is Equanimity, Goodness, and Justice Itself; Who is the Infinite Lover of man, being the Father that He is; by His very Justice is constrained to allow a single mortal sin unrepented of to find its meet punishment in the everlasting misery of Hell.
My God, Thine all-seeing Eyes must behold something incomprehensibly horrible and detestable in that act which we call sin, and which perhaps to my eyes seems a harmless piece of mischief or a childish prank. Lord, I believe in the clear-sightedness of Thine unclouded Vision rather than in the range of my limited mind!
2. Jesus Christ, the all-innocent Lamb whose bleatings might turn the hardest heart into a fountain of mercy; Jesus Christ, the Eternal Word, the Co-Equal and Consubstantial Son of God in Whom the Father finds all His Delight; just because He clad Himself with the garment of our iniquities and went surety for the
transgressions of men, His brethren; just for that appearance of the mere shadow of sin which God finds in Him, He is allowed to be sacrificed so mercilessly that His torments have come down the centuries filling all generations with dread and sorrow.
This is the overwhelming lesson of the Cross. The red characters of His Blood portray the malice of sin. Only a sinister power like sin could possibly snatch away the human life of the Son of God! Now I see, dear Jesus, that my sins deserve one essential name: abomination.
From now on, every day, I shall pluck from the Tree of the Cross the first and most visible fruit that is offered to every passerby or to whosoever shelters in its shade: an immense detestation of sin and a clear knowledge of its malice.
Contemplating Jesus Christ crucified I can only cry out with David: "Who knows his own frailties?" Delicta, quis intelligit. . . ? (Ps. 18:13)
Who cannot decipher the detestable thing that sin is from the Blood-written letters upon the mangled frame of Christ on the Cross?
Adapted from The Priest at Prayer
by Fr. Eugenio Escribano, C.M. (© 1954)
Translated by B.T. Buckley, C.M.
Please pray for our priests and pray for vocations to the priesthood!