On the Malice of Mortal Sin


Jesus among the Doctors in the Temple - by FRANCKEN, Frans I - from O.-L. Vrouwekathedraal, Antwerp

 

"Behold Thy father and I have
sought Thee Sorrowing". Luke 2:48.

 

On the Malice of Mortal Sin

by Saint Alphonsus Liguori

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Most Holy Mary Lost her Son for Three (3) Days: During that Time, she Wept continually, for having Lost Sight of Jesus, and did not Cease-to seek-after Him, till she found Him. How then does it happen that so many Sinners, not only Lose Sight of Jesus, but even Lose His Divine Grace; and instead of Weeping for so Great a Loss, Sleep in Peace, and make no Effort to Recover so Great a Blessing? This Arises-from their not Feeling, what it is to Lose God by Sin. Some say: "I commit this Sin , not to Lose God, but to Enjoy this Pleasure, to Possess the Property of Another, or to take Revenge on an Enemy". They who Speak such Language, show that they do not Understand the Malice of Mortal Sin. What is Mortal Sin?

First (1st): It is a Great Contempt, shown-to God.
Second (2nd): It is a Great Offence, offered-to God.

 

First Point
Mortal Sin is a Great Contempt, shown to God

The Lord calls upon Heaven and Earth to Detest the Ingratitude of those who Commit Mortal Sin, after they had been Created-by Him, Nourished-with His Blood, and Exalted-to the Dignity-of His Adopted Children. "Hear, O ye Heavens, and give Ear, O Earth, for the Lord hath Spoken. I have Brought up Children, and Exalted them; but they have Despised Me" - Isaiah 1:2. Who is this God, Whom Sinners Despise? He is a God of Infinite (∞) Majesty, before Whom all the Kings-of the Earth, and all the Blessed in Heaven, are less-than a Drop-of Water, or a Grain-of Sand. ". . as a Drop of a Bucket, . . . as a little Dust" - Isaiah 40:15. In a Word, such is the Majesty of God, that, in His Presence, all Creatures are as if they did not Exist. "All Nations are before Him, as if they had no Being at all" - ibid 40:17. And what is a Man, who Insults Him? Saint Bernard answers: "Saccus vermium, cibus vermium". A Heap-of-Worms, the Food-of Worms, by which he shall be Devoured in the Grave. "Thou art Wretched, and Miserable, and Poor, and Blind, and Naked" - Revelation 3:17. He is so Miserable, that he can do Nothing, so Blind that he Knows Nothing, and so Poor that he Possesses Nothing. And this Worm, dares-to Despise a God, and to provoke His Wrath. "Vile dust", says the same Saint, "dares to Irritate such Tremendous Majesty". Justly then, has Saint Thomas asserted, that the Malice of Mortal Sin is, as it were, Infinite (∞). "Peccatum habet quandam infinitatem malitiae ex infinitate divinae majestatis". And Saint Augustine calls it an Infinite Evil. Hence Hell, and a Thousand (1000) Hells, are not sufficient Chastisements, for a Single (1) Mortal Sin.

Mortal Sin is commonly defined-by Theologians to be "a Turning Away from the Immutable Good" - Saint Thomas; a 'Turning One's Back', on the Sovereign Good. Of this, God complains-by His Prophet, saying: "Thou hast Forsaken Me, saith the Lord, thou art Gone Backward" - Jeremiah 15:6. Ungrateful Man, He says to the Sinner, I would never have Separated Myself from thee; thou hast been the First, to Abandon Me; thou art Gone Backward; thou hast Turned-thy-Back on Me.

He who Contemns the Divine Law, Despises God; because he Knows that, by Despising the Law, he Loses the Divine Grace: "Thou . . . by Transgression of the Law, Dishonorest God" - Romans 2:23. God is the Lord of all Things, because He has 'Created' them. "All things are in Thy Power . . . Thou hast made Heaven and Earth" - Esther 13:9-10. Hence, all Irrational Creatures - the Winds, the Sea, Fire and Rain - Obey God. "The Winds and the Sea obey Him" - Matthew 8:27. "Fire, Hail, Snow, Ice, Stormy Winds, which fulfill His Word" - Psalm 148:8. But Man, when he Sins, says to God: Lord, Thou dost Command me, but I will not Obey; Thou dost Command me to Pardon such an Injury, but I will Resent it; Thou dost Command me to give-up the Property of others, but I will retain it; Thou dost Wish that I should abstain-from such a Forbidden Pleasure, but I will Indulge-in it. "Thou hast broken My Yoke, thou hast burst My Bands, and thou saidst: I will not Serve" - Jeremiah 2:20. In 'Fine', the Sinner, when he Breaks the Command, says to God: "I do not acknowledge Thee for my Lord". Like Pharaoh, when Moses, on the Part-of God, Commanded him in the Name-of the Lord, to Allow the People to go into the Desert, the Sinner answers: "Who is the Lord, that I should hear His Voice, and let Israel go?" - Exodus 5:2.

The Insult offered-to God by Sin, is Heightened-by the Vileness of the Goods for which Sinners Offend Him. "Wherefore hath the Wicked Provoked God?" - Psalm 9:13. For what, do so many Offend the Lord? For a little Vanity; for the Indulgence of Anger; or for the Beastly Pleasure. "They Violated Me among My People, for a Handful of Barley, and a Piece of Bread" - Ezekiel 13:19. God is Insulted for a Handful-of Barley - for a Morsel-of Bread! O God! why do we Allow ourselves to be so-easily Deceived by the Devil? "There is", says the Prophet Hosea, "a Deceitful Balance in his hand" - Hosea 12:7. We do not Weigh things in the Balance-of God, which cannot Deceive, but in the Balance-of Satan, who seeks only to Deceive us, that he may bring us with himself, into Hell. "Lord", said David, "who is like to Thee?" - Psalm 34:10. God is an Infinite (∞) Good; and when He sees Sinners put Him on a Level-with some 'Earthly Trifle' or with a 'Miserable Gratification', He Justly complains in the Language of the Prophet: "And to whom have ye likened Me, or made Me equal, saith the Holy One?" - Isaiah 40:25. In your Estimation, a Vile Pleasure is more-Valuable than My Grace. Is it a Momentary Satisfaction you have Preferred, before Me? "Thou hast Forgotten Me, and hast Cast Me off, behind thy Back" - Ezekiel 23:35. Then, adds Salvian, "There is no one for whom Men have less Esteem, than for God". Is the Lord so Contemptible in your Eyes, as to Deserve to have the Miserable Things of the Earth, Preferred before Him?

The Tyrant placed before Saint Clement, a Heap of Gold, of Silver, and of Gems, and promised to give them to the Holy Martyr, if he would Renounce the Faith of Christ. The Saint heaved a Sigh of Sorrow, at the Sight-of the Blindness-of Men, who put Earthly Riches in comparison-with God. But many Sinners 'Exchange' the Divine Grace for things of far-less-value; they seek after certain Miserable Goods, and Abandon that God, Who is an Infinite (∞) Good, and Who alone can make them Happy. Of this the Lord complains, and calls-on the Heavens to be Astonished, and on its Gates, to be Struck-with Horror: "Be Astonished, O ye Heavens, at this, and ye Gates thereof, be very Desolate, saith the Lord". He then adds: "For My People have done Two Evils. They have Forsaken Me, the Fountain of Living Water, and have digged to themselves, Cisterns, Broken Cisterns, that can Hold no Water" - Jeremiah 2:12, 2:13. We regard with Wonder and Amazement, the Injustice of the Jews, who, when Pilate offered to-Deliver Jesus or Barabbas, answered: "Not this Man, but Barabbas" - John 18:40. The Conduct-of Sinners is still Worse; for when the Devil proposes to them to Choose between the Satisfaction of Revenge - a Miserable Pleasure - and Jesus Christ, they answer: "Not this Man, but Barabbas". That is, not the Lord Jesus, but Sin.

"There shall be no New God in thee", says the Lord - Psalm 80:10. You shall not Abandon Me, your True God, and make yourself a 'New God', whom you shall Serve. Saint Cyprian teaches that Men make their God whatever they Prefer, before God, by making it their Last End; for God is the only Last End of all: "Quidquid homo Deo anteponit, Deum sibi facit". And Saint Jerome says: "Unusquisque quod cupit, si veneratur, hoc illi Deus est. Vitium in corde, est idolum in altari". The Creature, which a Person prefers-to God, becomes his God. Hence, the Holy Doctor adds, that as the Gentiles adored Idols on their Altars, so Sinners 'Worship' Sin, in their Hearts. When King Jeroboam Rebelled against God, he endeavored to make the People Imitate him, in the Adoration of Idols. He one day placed the Idols before them, and said: "Behold thy Gods, O Israel" - 3Kings (1Kings) 12:28. The Devil, Acts in a similar manner towards Sinners; he places before them such a Gratification, and says: Make this your God. Behold! this Pleasure, this Money, this Revenge is your God; adhere to these, and Forsake the Lord. When the Sinner consents-to Sin, he Abandons his Creator, and in his Heart, Adores as his God, the Pleasure he Indulges. "Vitium in corde est idolum altari".

The Contempt which the Sinner offers-to God, is increased-by Sinning in God's Presence. According to Saint Cyril of Jerusalem, some Adored the Sun as their God, that during the Night, they might, in the absence-of the Sun, do what they pleased, without Fear of Divine Chastisement. "Some regarded the Sun as their God, that, after the Setting of the Sun, they might be without a God". The conduct-of these Miserable Dupes was very Criminal; but they were careful not to Sin in the Presence of their God. But Christians know that God is Present-in all Places, that He sees all Things: "Do not I fill Heaven and Earth, saith the Lord?" - Jeremiah 23:24; and still they do not abstain-from Insulting Him and from Provoking His Wrath in His very Presence: "A People that continually Provoke Me to Anger before My Face" - Isaiah 65:3. Hence, by Sinning before Him, Who is their Judge, they even make God a Witness-of their Iniquities: "I am the Judge, and the Witness, saith the Lord" - Jeremiah 29:23. Saint Peter Chrysologus says that "the Man who Commits a Crime, in the Presence of his Judge, can offer no Defense". The thought-of having Offended God in His Divine Presence, made David Weep and Exclaim: "To Thee only have I Sinned, and have done Evil before Thee" - Psalm 50:6. But let us pass-to the Second Point, in which we shall see more-Clearly the Enormity-of the Malice of Mortal Sin.

 

Second Point
Mortal Sin is a Great Offence offered to God

There is nothing more Galling, than to see oneself Despised by those who were most-Beloved and most-Highly Favored. Whom do Sinners Insult? They Insult a God, Who bestowed so many Benefits upon them, and Who Loved them, so as to Die on a Cross for their sake; and by the Commission-of Mortal Sin, they Banish that God from their Hearts. A Soul that Loves God is Loved by Him, and God Himself comes-to Dwell-within Her. "If any one Love Me, he will keep My Word, and My Father will Love him, and We will come-to him, and will make Our Abode with him" - John 14:23. The Lord, then, never departs-from a Soul, unless He is Driven-away, even though He should Know, that She will soon Banish Him from Her Heart. According to the Council-of-Trent, "He Deserts not the Soul, unless He is Deserted".

When the Soul consents-to Mortal Sin, She Ungratefully says to God: Depart from me. The Wicked "have said to God: Depart from us" - Job 21:14. Sinners, as Saint Gregory observes, say the same, not in Words, but by their Conduct. "Recede, non verbis, sed moribus". They Know that God cannot Remain, with Sin in the Soul; and in Violating the Divine Commands, they feel that God must Depart; and by their Acts, they say to Him: Since You cannot Remain any longer with us, Depart - Farewell. And through the very Door, by which God departs-from the Soul, the Devil enters, to take-possession-of Her. When the Priest Baptizes an Infant, he Commands the Demon to depart-from the Soul. "Go out from him, Unclean Spirit, and make room for the Holy Ghost". But when a Christian consents-to Mortal Sin, he says to God: "Depart from me; make Room for the Devil, whom I Wish to Serve".

Saint Bernard says, that Mortal Sin is so opposed-to God, that if it were possible for God to Die, Sin would deprive Him of Life. "Peccatum quantum in se est Deum perimit". Hence, according to Job, in committing Mortal Sin, Man rises-up against God, and stretches forth his hand against Him: "For he hath stretched out his hand against God, and hath strengthened himself against the Almighty" - Job 15:25.

According to the same Saint Bernard, they who Willfully Violate the Divine Law, seek to-Deprive God of Life, in-proportion-to the Malice of their Will. "Quantum in ipsa est Deum perimit propria voluntas" - Sermon. Because, adds the Saint, Self-Will "would Wish God to see its own Sins, and to be Unable-to take Vengeance on them". Sinners know that the Moment they consent-to Mortal Sin, God Condemns them to Hell. Hence, being Firmly Resolved to Sin, they wish that there was no God, and consequently, they would wish to take-away His Life, that He might not be able to Avenge their Crime. "He hath", continues Job, in his description of the Wicked, "run against Him with his Neck raised up, and is armed with a Fat Neck" - Job 15:26. The Sinner Raises his Neck; that is, his Pride Swells-up, and he runs to Insult his God; and, because he contends-with a Powerful Antagonist, he "is armed-with a Fat Neck". "A Fat Neck" is the Symbol-of Ignorance, of that Ignorance which makes the Sinner say: This is not a Great Sin; God is Merciful; we are Flesh; the Lord will have Pity on us. O Temerity! O Illusion! which brings so many Christians to Hell.

Moreover, the Man who Commits a Mortal Sin, Afflicts the Heart of God. "But they Provoked to Wrath, and Afflicted the Spirit of his Holy One" - Isaiah 63:10. What Pain and Anguish would you not feel, if you knew that a Person whom you Tenderly Loved, and on whom you Bestowed great Favors, had sought to take-away your Life! God is not capable-of Pain, but, were He capable-of Suffering, a Single (1) Mortal Sin would be sufficient-to make Him Die, through Sorrow. "Mortal Sin", says Father Medina, "if it were possible, would Destroy God Himself, because it would be the Cause of Infinite Sadness to God". As often, then, as you committed Mortal Sin, you would, if it were possible, have caused God to Die of Sorrow, because you Knew that by Sin you Insulted Him, and Turned-your-Back upon Him, and after He had Bestowed so many Favors upon you, and even after He had given all His Blood and His Life for your Salvation.

 

- End of Liguori Sermon -

 

Act of Sorrow

I Love you, Jesus, my Love.
I Love You with all my Heart.
I Repent of having Offended You.
Never Permit me to Offend You again.
Grant that I may Love You always,
and then do with me, what You Will.

Saint Alphonsus Liguori