On Avoiding the
Occasions of Sin


Jesus Appears, and Instructs the Faithful Eleven (11) Apostles in the "Upstairs Room" -
by DUCCIO di Buoninsegna - from Museo dell'Opera del Duomo, Siena

 

"When the Doors were Shut, where the Disciples were gathered together
for Fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood in the midst". - John 20:19.

 

On Avoiding the Occasions of Sin

by Saint Alphonsus Liguori

angelbar.gif (3645 bytes)

Supernatural Order
(Resides in the Essence of the Soul)

Human Being/Person
(A Unity (1) of Body and Soul)

Natural
Order

Supernatural
Order

Natural Body/
Lower Powers
Senses

Natural Soul/
Natural Virtues
(Dominant Partner)

Sanctifying Grace/Infused Virtues and Gifts of the Holy Spirit

Concupiscence = The Loss of the Harmony, Integrity, Coordination or Balance between Body and Soul. The Senses of the Body are not Docile Servants of the Soul, but often Rebel against the Limitations which Reason, Enlightened by Faith, impose as the Norm of Action.

 

We find in this day's Gospel, that, after His Resurrection, Jesus Christ entered, though the Doors were Closed into the House, in which the Eleven (11) Faithful Apostles were Assembled, and Stood-in the midst-of them. Saint Thomas says, that the Mystic-Meaning of this Miracle is, that the Lord does not enter-into our Souls, unless we keep the Door-of the Senses, Shut. "Mistice per hoc datur intelligi, quod Christus nobis apparet quando fores, id est sensus sunt clausi". If, then, we wish Jesus Christ to Dwell-within us, we must keep the Doors-of our Senses closed-against Dangerous Occasions, otherwise the Devil will make us his Slaves. I will show today the Great Danger of Perdition, to which they who do not avoid the Occasions of Sin, expose themselves.

We read in the Scriptures, that Christ and Lazarus, arose-from the Dead. Christ Rose, to Die no more - "Christ, Rising from the Dead, Dieth now no more" - Romans 6:9; but Lazarus Rose, and Died again. The Abbot Guerric remarks that Christ Rose, Free and Unbound; "but Lazarus came forth, Bound Feet and Hands" - John 11:44. Miserable the Man, adds this Author, who Rises-from Sin, Bound-by any Dangerous Occasion: he will Die again, by Losing the Divine Grace. He, then, who wishes to Save his Soul, must not only Abandon Sin, but also the Occasions of Sin: that is, he must 'Renounce' such an 'Intimacy', such a 'House'; he must 'Renounce' those Wicked Companions, and all similar Occasions that incite him to Sin.

In consequence-of Original Sin, (i.e. Concupiscence) we all have an Inclination-to do what is Forbidden. Hence Saint Paul complained, that he experienced in himself a 'Law', opposed-to Reason. "But I see another Law in my members, Fighting against the Law of my Mind, and Captivating me in the Law of Sin" - Romans 7:23. Now, when a Dangerous Occasion is present, it Violently Excites our Corrupt Desires, so that it is then very Difficult to-resist them; because God withholds Efficacious Helps from those who 'Voluntarily' Expose themselves to the Occasion of Sin. "He that Loveth Danger, shall Perish in it" - Ecclesiastes. "When", says Saint Thomas, in his Comment-on this Passage, We Expose ourselves to Danger, God Abandons us in it". Saint Bernardine of Sienna teaches, that the Counsel of 'Avoiding' the Occasions of Sin, is the best of all Counsel, and as it were the Foundation-of Religion. "Interconsilia Christi unum celeberrimum, et quasi religionis fundamentum, est, fugere peccatorum, occasiones".

Human Body

Body/Passions/Memory/
Senses/Imagination

Five External Senses -
Hearing/Smell/Sight/
Touch/Taste

Four Internal Senses -
Sentient Consciousness/ Imagination/ Sentient Memory/Estimation

Passions
Love/Hatred, Desire/Aversion,
Joy/Sorrow, Hope/Despair,
Fear/Courage, Envy/Lust/Anger,

Satisfactions
Food/Drink/Rest/Sex

Saint Peter says, that "the Devil goeth about seeking whom he may Devour" - 1Peter 5:8. He is constantly going-about our Souls, endeavoring-to 'Enter' and take 'Possession-of' them. Hence, he seeks to-place-before us, the Occasions of Sin, by which he 'Enters' the Soul. "Explorat", says Saint Cyprian, "an sit pars cujus aditu penetret". When the Soul Yields-to the Suggestions of the Devil, and Exposes Herself to the Occasions of Sin, he easily 'Enters' and 'Devours' Her. The 'Ruin' of our First Parents, arose-from their not Flying-from the Occasions of Sin. God had 'Prohibited' them, not only to Eat, but even to Touch the Forbidden Apple. In answer-to the Serpent Tempting her, Eve said: "God hath commanded us that we should not Eat, and that we should not Touch it" - Genesis 3:3. But she 'Saw', 'Took', and 'Ate' the Forbidden Fruit: she First Looked at it, she then Took it into her Hands, and afterwards Ate it. This is what ordinarily happens to all who Expose themselves to the Occasions of Sin. Hence, being once Compelled-by Exorcisms to tell the Sermon which Displeased him most, the Devil confessed that it was the Sermon on Avoiding the Occasions of Sin. As-long-as we Expose ourselves to the Occasions of Sin, the Devil laughs-at all our Good Purposes and Promises made to God. The Greatest Care-of the Enemy is, to Induce us not to avoid Evil Occasions; for these Occasions, like a Veil placed before the Eyes, prevent us from Seeing either the Lights received-from God, or the Eternal Truths, or the Resolutions we have made; in a 'Word', they make us 'Forget' (Memory) all, and as-it-were, 'Force' us into Sin.

"Know it to be a Communication with Death; for thou art going in the Midst of Snares" - Ecclesiastes. Every one Born-in this World, enters into the Midst-of Snares. Hence the Wise Man advises those who wish to be Secure, to Guard themselves against the Snares of the World, and to Withdraw-from them. "He that is Aware of the Snares, shall be Secure" - Proverbs. But, if instead of Withdrawing-from them, a Christian approaches-to them, how can he avoid being Caught-by them? Hence, after having, with so much Loss, learned the Danger of Exposing himself to the Danger of Sin, David said, that, to continue Faithful to God, he kept-at a Distance, from every Occasion which could lead him to Relapse. "I have Restrained my Feet from every Evil Way, that I may keep Thy Words" - Psalms. He does not say, from every Sin, but from every Evil Way, which conducts-to Sin. The Devil is Careful to find 'Pretexts', to make us believe that certain Occasions to which we Expose ourselves, are not Voluntary, but Necessary. When the Occasion in which we are placed, is really Necessary, the Lord always Helps us to avoid Sin; but we sometimes Imagine certain Necessities, which are not sufficient-to Excuse us. "A Treasure is never Safe" says Saint Cyprian, "as long as a Robber is Harbored within; nor is a Lamb Secure, while it Dwells-in the same Den with a Wolf". The Saint speaks against those who do not wish to-remove the Occasions of Sin, and still say: "I am not afraid that I shall Fall". As no one can be Secure-of his Treasure, if he keeps a Thief in his House, and as a Lamb cannot be Sure-of its Life, if it remain in the Den-of a Wolf, so likewise, no one can be Secure-of the Treasure of Divine Grace, if he is Resolved-to continue-in the Occasion of Sin.

How the Senses of the Body can Corrupt the Mind of the Soul

Life of the Senses

Two-Way
Passage

Life of the Mind

Passions/Emotions/
Imagination/Memory/
Sensitive Appetite


Soul/Intellect/Will/
Heart/Reason/
Rational Appetite

CC-1764 The Passions are Natural Components of the Human Psyche; they form the Passageway and ensure the connection between the Life of the Senses and the Life of the Mind.
Satan directly attacks the Psychosomatic Powers, already weakened by Original Sin. However, Satan can only Indirectly Affect the Intellect and Will through 'Natural', 'Physical', and 'Psychological' Causes.
Passions, Feelings, Emotions, Imagination, are Movements-of the Sensitive Appetite, which are limited-by the Rational Appetite. God's Grace strengthens the Rational Appetite.

Saint James Teaches, that every Man has within himself a 'Powerful' Enemy, that is, his own Evil Inclinations, which Tempt him to Sin. "Every Man is Tempted by his own Concupiscence, Drawn away, and Allured" - Saint James 1:14. If, then, we do not Fly-from the 'External' Occasions, how can we 'Resist' Temptation and 'Avoid' Sin? Let us, therefore, place before our Eyes the General Remedy which Jesus Christ has Prescribed-for Conquering Temptations, and Saving our Souls. "If thy Right Eye scandalize thee, Pluck it out and Cast it from thee" - Matthew 5:29. If you find that your Right Eye is to you a Cause-of Damnation, you must Pull-it-out, and Cast it far from you; that is, when there is Danger of Losing your Soul, you must Fly-from all Evil Occasions.

Saint Francis of Assisi used to say, as I have stated in another Sermon, that the Devil does not seek, in the beginning, to Bind Timorous Souls with the Chain of Mortal Sin; because they would be Alarmed-at the Thought-of Committing Mortal Sin, and would Fly-from it, with Horror ... he endeavors-to Bind them by a Single (1) Hair, which does not Excite much Fear; because by this 'Means', he will Succeed more-easily in Strengthening their Bonds, till he makes them his Slaves. Hence, he who wishes to be Free-from the Danger of being the Slave of Hell, must 'Break' all the 'Hairs' by-which the Enemy attempts-to Bind him; that is, he must avoid all Occasions of Sin, such as certain Salutations, Billets, little-Presents, and Words-of-Affection. With regard to those who have had a Habit of Impurity, it will not be sufficient-to avoid 'Proximate' Occasions; if they do not Fly-from 'Remote' Occasions, they will very easily Relapse-into their Former Sins.

Impurity, says Saint Augustine, is a Vice which makes War on All, and which Few Conquer. "The Fight is Common; but the Victory Rare". How many Miserable Souls have entered the Contest with this Vice, and have been Defeated! But, to Induce you to-Expose yourselves to Occasions of this Sin, the Devil will tell you not to be Afraid-of being overcome-by the Temptation. "I do not wish", says Saint Jerome, "to Fight with the Hope of Victory, lest I should sometimes Lose the Victory". I will not Expose myself to the Combat, with the Hope-of Conquering; because, by Voluntarily Engaging in the Fight, I shall Lose my Soul and my God. To 'Escape' Defeat in this Struggle, a Great Grace of God is Necessary; and to Render ourselves Worthy-of this Grace, we must, on our part, avoid the Occasions of Sin. To Practice the Virtue of Chastity, it is necessary to recommend ourselves continually-to God: we have not Strength to Preserve it; that Strength must be the Gift of God. "And as I knew", says the Wise Man, "that I could not otherwise be continent, except God gave it, I went to the Lord, and besought Him" - Wisdom 8:21. But if we Expose ourselves to the Occasions of Sin, we ourselves shall provide our Rebellious Flesh with Arm, to make War against the Soul. "Neither", says the Apostle, "Yield ye your Members as Instruments of Sin unto Iniquity" - Romans 6:13. In explaining this Passage, Saint Cyril of Alexandria says: "You Stimulate the Flesh; you Arm it, and make it Powerful against the Spirit". Saint Philip Neri used to say, that in the War against the Vice of Impurity, the Victory is gained by 'Cowards' - that is, by those who Fly-from the Occasions of this Sin. But, the Man who Exposes himself to it, Arms his Flesh, and Renders it so-Powerful that it will be Morally Impossible, for him to Resist its Attacks.

"Cry", says the Lord to Isaiah; "All Flesh is Grass". Now, says Saint John Chrysostom, if all Flesh is 'Grass', it is as Foolish for a Man who Exposes himself to the Occasion of Sin, to Hope to Preserve the Virtue of Purity, as to expect that Hay, into which a Torch has been thrown, will not take-Fire. "Put a Torch into Hay, and then Dare to Deny that the Hay will Burn". No, says Saint Cyprian; it is impossible to stand in the Midst of Flames, and not to Burn. "Impossibile, est flammis circumdari et non ardere". "Can a Man", says the Holy Ghost "hide Fire in his Bosom, and his garments not burn? or can he walk upon Hot Coals, and his Feet not be Burnt?" - Proverbs 6:27, 28. Not to be Burnt in such circumstances, would be a Miracle. Saint Bernard teaches, that to Preserve Chastity, and, at the same time, to Expose oneself to the 'Proximate' Occasion of Sin, "is a Greater Miracle than to Raise, - a Dead Man to Life".

In explaining the Fifth Psalm, Saint Augustine says, that "He who is unwilling to Fly from Danger, wishes to Perish in it". Hence, in another place, he exhorts those who wish to Conquer, and not to Perish, to avoid Dangerous Occasions. "In the Occasion of Falling into Sin, take Flight, if you desire to Gain the Victory". Some Foolishly Trust in their own Strength, and do not see that their Strength is like that of 'Tow' (a fiber) placed in the Fire. "And your Strength shall be as the Ashes of Tow" - Isaiah 1:31. Others, Trusting-in the 'Change' which has Taken-place in their Life, in their Confessions, and in the Promises they have made to God, say: Through the Grace of the Lord, I have now no Bad Motive in seeking the Company of such a Person; her presence is not even an Occasion of Temptations. Listen, all you who speak in this manner. In Mauritania, there are Bears that go in quest-of the Apes, to feed upon them: as soon as a Bear appears, the Apes run-up the Trees, and thus Save themselves. But what does the Bear do? He stretches himself on the Ground, as if Dead, and waits till the Apes Descend-from the Trees. The Moment he sees that they have Descended, he springs-up, seizes-on them, and Devours them. It is thus, the Devil Acts: he makes the Temptation appear to be Dead; but when a Soul Descends, and Exposes Herself to the Occasion of Sin, he stirs-up Temptation, and Devours Her. Oh! how many Miserable Souls, devoted-to Spiritual Things, to Mental Prayer, to Frequent Communion, and to a Life of Holiness, have by Exposing themselves to the Occasion of Sin, become the Slaves of the Devil! We find in Ecclesiastical History, that a Holy Woman, who employed herself in the Pious Office of Burying the Martyrs, once found among them, One who was not as yet Dead. She brought him into her own House, and procured a Physician and Medicine for him, till he recovered. But, what happened? These Two (2) Saints (as they might be called - One (1) of them on the Point-of being a Martyr, the Other, Devoting her Time to Works of Mercy, with so much Risk, of being Persecuted by the Tyrants) Fast-Fell into Sin, and Lost the Grace of God, and, becoming Weaker by Sin, afterwards Denied the Faith. Saint Macarius relates a Similar Fact, regarding an Old Man who Suffered to be half-Burned in Defense of the Faith; but, being brought-back into Prison, he, unfortunately for himself, formed an Intimacy with a Devout Woman who served the Martyrs, and Fell into Sin.

The Holy Ghost tells us, that we must Fly-from Sin, as from a Serpent. "Flee from Sins as from the Face of a Serpent" - Ecclesiates. Hence, as we not only Avoid the Bite-of a Serpent, but are careful neither to-Touch nor Approach it, so we must Fly not only from Sin, but also from the Occasion of Sin - that is, from the House, the Conversation, the Person that would lead us to Sin. Saint Isidore says, that he who wishes to Remain-near a Serpent, will not Remain-long, Unhurt. "Juxta serpentem positus non erit diu. illaesus". Hence, if any Person is likely to prove an Occasion of your Ruin, the Admonition-of the Wise Man is, "Remove thy Way far from her, and come not nigh the Doors of her House" - Proverbs 5:8. He not only tells you not to enter the House, which has been to you a Road-to Hell ("Her House is the Way to Hell" - Proverbs 7:27); but he also Cautions you not to approach it, and even to keep at a distance from it. "Remove thy Way far from her". But, you will say, if I Abandon that House, my Temporal Affairs shall Suffer. It is better that you should Suffer a Temporal Loss, than that you should Lose your Soul, and your God. You must be persuaded-that, in whatever regards Chastity, there cannot be too-great Caution.

If we wish to Save our Souls from Sin and Hell, we must always Fear and Tremble. "With Fear and Trembling, work out your Salvation" - Philippians 2:12. He who is not Fearful, but Exposes himself to Occasions of Sin, shall scarcely be Saved. Hence, in our Prayers, we ought to say every-Day, and several-times in the Day, that Petition of the OUR FATHER - "and lead us not into Temptation". Lord, do not permit me to be Attacked-by those Temptations which would Deprive me of Your Grace. We cannot Merit the Grace of Perseverance; but, according to Saint Augustine, God grants it to every one that 'Asks' it, because He has Promised to-Hear all who Pray to Him. Hence, the Holy Doctor says, that the Lord, "by His Promises, has made Himself a Debtor".

 

- End of Liguori Sermon -

 

Prayer for the Graces Necessary for Salvation

Eternal Father, Your Son has Promised that You will Grant us all the Graces which we ask for in His Name. In the Name and Merits of Jesus Christ, I ask the following Graces for myself and for all Mankind. Please give me a Lively Faith in all that the Church Teaches. Enlighten me, that I may know the Vanity of the Goods of this World, and the Immensity of the Infinite Good that You are. Make me also see the Deformity of the Sins I have Committed, that I may Humble myself and Detest them as I should.

Give me a Firm Confidence of Receiving Pardon for my Sins, Holy Perseverance, and the Glory of Heaven, through the Merits of Jesus Christ, and the Intercession of Mary. Give me a Great Love for You, that will Detach me from the Love of this World, and of myself, so that I may Love none other, but You.

I Beg of You a Perfect Resignation to Your Will. I Offer myself entirely to You, that You might do with me, and all that belongs to me, as You Please.

I Beg of You a Great Sorrow for my Sins.

I ask You to give me the Spirit of True Humility and Meekness, that I may Accept with Peace, and even with Joy, all the Contempt, Ingratitude and Ill-treatment I may receive. At the same time, I also ask You to give me Perfect Charity, which shall make me wish well to those who have done Evil to me.

Give me Love for the Virtue of Mortification, by which I may Chastise my Rebellious Senses and oppose my Self-Love. Give me a Great Confidence in the Passion of Jesus Christ and in the Intercession of Mary Immaculate. Give me a Great Love for the Blessed Sacrament, and a Tender Devotion and Love to Your Holy Mother. Give me, above all, Holy Perseverance, and the Grace always to Pray for it, especially in Time-of Temptation, and at the Hour-of Death.

Finally, I recommend to You the Holy Souls of Purgatory, my Relatives and Benefactors, and in a special manner I recommend to You all those who Hate me or who have in any way Offended me; I Beg You to Render them Good, for the Evil they have done or may wish to do me. Grant that, by Your Goodness, I may come One Day to sing Your Mercies in Heaven; for my Hope is in the Merits of Your Blood and in the Patronage of Mary. Mary, Mother of God, Pray to Jesus for me.

Amen