Fall From Grace

In 05 Homilies by Fr. Reid on 2016/02/05 at 12:00 AM


The story of how the devil fell from grace through his rebellion against God is recorded for us in the Book of Revelation.
Faced with an eternity of loving and serving God and sharing in the Lord’s glory, or serving himself out of a devilish pride, the evil one chose to rebel against God in a complete and irrevocable way – taking, it is believed, a third of the angels with him.
Tradition tells us that his famous words of rebellion were: “Non serviam” – “I will not serve.” And with those words he set out to oppose God in every way, most especially by making war on God’s most precious creation: mankind.
Whether we recognize it or not, all of us are drawn into this war with the evil one on a daily basis, most especially through the temptations to sin that we regularly suffer.
We can see from his actions that the devil’s primary sin is pride, a pride that he expresses most especially in jealousy and a murderous hatred of God and man.
Our readings today speak to us about these primary sins of the devil: pride, jealousy and hatred. In presenting us with these readings, Holy Mother Church is warning us of the destruction these terrible sins can cause in our souls.
While all sin has a corrosive effect upon our souls, these sins and the other capital sins have a particularly damaging effect, and if left unchecked, will lead a soul to hell with expediency.
No doubt all of us have been tempted by each of these sins at some point in our life, and when these temptations come, we must guard ourselves carefully! For giving into these particularly destructive sins is an invitation to allow the devil to reign in our hearts.
We see each of these sins in the sentiments of the wicked men described for us in our reading from the Book of Wisdom. Truly, this reading shows forth the ugly side of man’s fallen nature in their desires to destroy the just man because he is just.
The wicked men know of the just man’s innocence and goodness, but their sins have hardened their hearts to such a degree that the just man’s very presence is a reproach to them.
Thus this reading gives us an example of how sin can harden our hearts and blind us to truth and goodness. While this passage is often understood to be a prophecy of Jesus’ passion and death, it shows us clearly how sin can devastate us morally.
This reading reminds us that we must choose who will reign in our hearts: either our Lord or the evil one. We must choose daily whom it is we will imitate, whom it is we will serve.
Our second reading also speaks of the sins of pride and jealousy, and St. James distinguishes for us the terrible fruits of these vices and the good fruits of true wisdom and righteousness.
St. James talks about what falling prey to our sinful passions can do to us. He tells us that: “where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there is disorder and every foul practice.”
He then asks: “Where do the wars and where do the conflicts among you come from? Is it not from your passions that make war within your members?”
St. James’ point is that if we fail to fight against our sinful passions and inclinations, we will lose our inner peace, making us vulnerable to falling even deeper into sin.
The problem is that all of us are marked by concupiscence, which is a disordered attachment to sin. Concupiscence is man’s sad inheritance from our first parents, the direct result of Adam and Eve giving in to the temptations of the serpent in the garden so long ago.
So all of us, from time to time, feel that draw toward sin. And when our passions are inflamed and concupiscence is aroused, we often believe that giving into our temptations is the only way to find relief from the turbulence of our passions. But that’s a lie.
Giving in to our passions only inflames them all the more and allows concupiscence to grow even stronger within us. And when the sins we commit are mortal, we are robbed of our interior peace as our souls are robbed of grace and plunged into spiritual darkness.
Furthermore, the more we give into our sinful passions and inclinations, the less able we are to see the Truth and act in accord with it. Sin blinds us to the truth.
Sin also hardens our hearts, and if we fail to fight the sin in our life, our hearts can harden to the point that we begin to hate that which is good and holy – just like the wicked men in the first reading.
So a life of growing in holiness necessarily entails that we seek to order our selves rightly, learning to master our passions and our will so that we do not fall prey to sinful inclinations and so that we can align our wills with God’s most holy will.
The good news is that our inheritance from being created in the image and likeness of God is stronger and more fundamental than the concupiscence we have received from our first parents!
Through baptism God has stamped all of our souls with Himself. He has created each of us for glory, the glory of His only begotten sons! And it is God’s most holy will that all of us one day share in His glory in the eternity of Heaven.
Even if we have damaged ourselves through habitual mortal sin, even if we have lived a most sinful life, our Lord is capable of healing us and restoring us to full spiritual health. But in order for this to happen, we must align our wills with His most holy will.
This begins by learning to be humble, obedient, and charitable. This is the lesson the devil never learned: that true greatness is found in humility, obedience, and generous charity.
You see, humility rightly orders our relationship with God, and obedience and charity are the beautiful and good fruits of that right relationship that strengthen us in holiness.
The more we grow in humility, the more we see God and ourselves as we truly are. The more that we understand our relationship with God, the more we love God for Who He Is. The more that we know God and love God, the more we want to obey and serve Him.
In the Gospel today Jesus says to the 12 apostles: “If anyone wishes to be first, he shall be the last of all and the servant of all.” Then taking a child and embracing him, Jesus tells the 12 that they must be ready to receive such a child in His name.
In these words and actions of Jesus, we see the virtues humility and charity extolled, and we hear the call to obey our Lord, just as the apostles were called to obey Him.
Jesus calls His disciples today to put away all ambitious pride, and He calls us to do the same. He calls us to follow Him, to serve Him, to be like Him. And it is in doing all this that we find holiness and are led along the path to Heaven.
My dear brothers and sisters, let us learn to turn away from all sin, especially the sins of pride, jealousy, and hatred, by strengthening ourselves against our passions and sinful inclinations. Instead, let us strive for humility, obedience and charity.
Let us refuse the proud pull of sin toward which the devil tempts us. Indeed, let us avoid sin at all cost, not only because of its corrosive effects on our souls, but also because of our love for God and our desire to be with Him for all eternity.
We all have to choose who will reign in our hearts. Let us choose Christ, and let our choice be strong: for the glory of God and for the salvation of our souls. May our Lady, Help of Christians, strengthen our resolve and lead us always to her Son.
23 September 2012

© Reverend Timothy Reid

Fr. Reid is the pastor of St. Ann Catholic Church, Charlotte, NC

Homilies from June 17, 2012 onward have audio .
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