While the soul is in mortal sin nothing can profit it; none of its good works merit an eternal reward, since they do not proceed from God as their first principle, and by Him alone is our virtue real virtue. The soul separated from Him is no longer pleasing in His eyes, because by committing a mortal sin, instead of seeking to please God, it prefers to gratify the devil, the prince of darkness, and so comes to share his blackness. I knew a person to whom our Lord revealed the result of a mortal sin and who said she thought no one who realized its effects could ever commit it, but would suffer unimaginable torments to avoid it. This vision made her very desirous for all to grasp this truth therefore I beg you, my daughters, to pray fervently to God for sinners, who live in blindness and do deeds of darkness.
—-Teresa of Avila
‘Not everyone who says to me, “Lord, Lord”, will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only one who does the will of my Father in heaven. On that day many will say to me, “Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many deeds of power in your name?” Then I will declare to them, “I never knew you; go away from me, you evildoers.”
For most of the world, good works and words equal oneness with God. The mystic Teresa of Avila and Jesus himself have something else to say. Jesus, while addressing the religious zealots of his day, points out that words and actions not grounded in the heart will leave us without peace. His message is clear. There are untold numbers of people who do things for their own self-aggrandizement and pretend that they are doing them for God. That was true then, and it’s true now. He met these people with a scathing” I never knew you” and sent them away. Teresa picked up on this theme in her writing that we use today.
She referred to the state that a soul finds itself in when mortal sin exists. I would venture to say that being absent from the grace of God is simply being present in our own grace. We are prideful creatures who love to relish in our own greatness. No matter how great our self-worth rises, there are still times when we feel threatened. In these threatening times, we are pushed to do something to prove our worth. The temptation of the garden was to have the knowledge of good and evil. When man attained this knowledge, a knowledge that was reserved for God, he was ejected from the peace of the Garden of Eden and banished into a life of struggle and toil. We are the heirs of that banishment and we must seek the path of grace. Let us consider a few facts.
· THE REALIZATION THAT WE CANNOT DO SAVE OURSELVES
Somehow, somewhere we all believe that we have the power to save ourselves. People are inbuilt with the inclination that we can do things our way, and our way is enough to please God or anybody else.
· OUR BEST EFFORTS FALL SHORT
If we can just do our best, that will be enough. We deny that we have a real sin nature and feel that steady improvement will get us to a true and solid relationship with God. The very idea that we have a serious problem with sin causes our sin nature to balk.
·THE GRACE OF GOD IS NOT FOR SALE
In our frantic path to do our best we somehow feel that we will eventually attain the price that God wants out of us. What will it take to please God short of admitting that we can’t do it on our own? That is the haunting question that cries out from our souls. The grace of God is a free gift set for distribution by the sacrifice of Jesus the Messiah on the cross.
· THERE IS NO SUCH THING AS A SELF-MADE MAN
Here in the United States, we love the story of the self-made person. The classic rags to riches stories are what makes the American dream. In our minds, we think of pleasing God by doing all the work ourselves. That “I can” attitude is deeply ingrained in us and the only way to be one with God is to say, “I can’t” and turn ourselves over to his mercy and grace.
Just as Teresa said to the Carmelites many years ago, “While the soul is in mortal sin nothing can profit it; none of its good works merit an eternal reward,” our efforts to come to God without first admitting our sin falls short. Let today be the day that we take a serious look at who we are and come to know that without grace we are not what God made us to be. Our relationship with our creator is not measured by what we do but by who we love and serve. On that day many will say to me, “Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many deeds of power in your name?” Then I will declare to them, “I never knew you; go away from me, you evildoers.”
Lord, help me to see myself as I really am. Free me from the burden of working frantically to attain a salvation that is your free gift to me and the whole world. Help me to control my ego and to turn to you. May I accept my sin and ask for your grace.