Moral Conversion Prepares for the Coming of Christ

“The first question in the young man’s conversation with Jesus: ‘What good must I do to have eternal life?’ (Mt 19:6) immediately brings out the essential connection between the moral value of an act and man’s final end . . .

Jesus’ answer and his reference to the commandments also make it clear that the path to that end is marked by respect for the divine laws which safeguard human good. Only the act in conformity with the good can be a path that leads to life.”

Pope St. John Paul II, Enc. Veritatis Splendor


Faith is the supernaturally-assisted and transformed human decision for God and all that that choice implies. Faith is a gift freely offered, and one that we must also freely accept; it is a choice that will not be forced on us.

And through many daily choices, we are called to reaffirm, by grace, the choice we have made for God.

Life is about choices: the fundamental choice of Faith, and all the daily choices that either affirm or deny the reality of our faith.

We live in times in which people like to demand free choice, but also like to evade the responsibilities that come with making choices.

In Deuteronomy, Moses describes the fact that the choice we make for or against God will have consequences:

“If you obey the commandments of the LORD, your God, which I enjoin on you today, loving him, and walking in his ways, and keeping his commandments, statutes and decrees, you will live and grow numerous, and the LORD, your God, will bless you in the land you are entering to occupy.

If, however, you turn away your hearts and will not listen, but are led astray and adore and serve other gods, I tell you now that you will certainly perish; you will not have a long life on the land that you are crossing the Jordan to enter and occupy.”

(Deuteronomy 30:15-20)

Choices have Consequences

Even little daily choices have the cumulative affect of moving us in one direction or the other, toward God and our goal or away. Many little choices also have a way of forming our hearts:

Deeds become habits; habits become character; character becomes destiny.

Many little choices form our hearts, establish our character, and move us into one future or another. Choices begin with our thoughts, and our “thought life” determines our ultimate destiny (Sow a thought, reap a deed. Sow a deed, reap a habit. Sow a habit, reap a character. Sow a character, reap a destiny).

Therefore daily choices are important, and making frequent examinations of conscience and frequent confession are essential. Each day we ought to ask and consider the question, “Where am I going with my life?” If we go on too long living an unreflective life, it is easy to find ourselves deeply locked in sinful habits and patterns that are harder and harder to break. Thus frequent reflection is necessary, and we ought not make light of small daily decisions.

“Quod minimum, minimum est, Sed in minimo fidelem esse, magnum est.” (What is a little thing, is (just) a little thing. But to be faithful in a little thing is a great thing.)

St. Augustine’s De Doctrina Christiana, IV, 35

(More reflection on small matters: Mathew 25:21 & Luke 16:10)

True faith is incarnational. That is to say, it takes on flesh in our very “body.” It is about a transformed life; it is about truly loving God and making His Commandments manifest in the way we live. It is about the loving of neighbor.

Principles of Catholic Morality

Freedom makes man a moral subject. When he acts deliberately, man is, so to speak, the father of his acts. Human acts, that is, acts that are freely chosen in consequence of a judgment of conscience, can be morally evaluated. They are either good or evil.

Made in the Image of God

The most basic principle of the Christian moral life is the awareness that every person bears the dignity of being made in the image of God. He has given us an immortal soul and through the gifts of intelligence and reason enables us to understand the order of things established in His creation.

God has also given us a free will to seek and love what is true, good, and beautiful. Sadly, because of the Fall, we also suffer the impact of Original Sin, which darkens our minds, weakens our wills, and inclines us to sin.

Baptism delivers us from Original Sin but not from its effects—especially the inclination to sin, concupiscence.

Within us, then, is both the powerful surge toward the good because we are made in the image of God, and the darker impulses toward evil because of the effects of Original Sin.

The Responsible Practice of Freedom

Without freedom, we cannot speak meaningfully about morality or moral responsibility. Human freedom is more than a capacity to choose between this and that. It is the God-given power to become who He created us to be and so to share eternal union with Him. This happens when we consistently choose ways that are in harmony with God’s plan. Christian morality and God’s law are not arbitrary, but specifically given to us for our happiness.

God gave us intelligence and the capacity to act freely. Ultimately, human freedom lies in our free decision to say “yes” to God. In contrast, many people today understand human freedom merely as the ability to make a choice, with no objective norm or good as the goal.

“Ours is a free universe of character and soul making. Almighty God has placed into our hands the power to make us saints or devils. It is up to us… In a moral universe we are free either to obey the laws of God or to disobey them, just as we are perfectly free to obey the laws of health or to disobey them.

What makes a thing good? A thing is good when it attains the purpose for which it was made.

We have a moral standard within our conscience. What is good and bad is in relationship to a standard which is not of our own making… We do not arbitrarily set our own watches; we set them by a standard outside of us… Good helps us reach the attainment of purpose, goals, and destinies in accordance with right reason.”

Fulton Sheen, Your Life Is Worth Living

“Love is like liberty – it can be misused.”

Fulton Sheen, The Power of Love

“The Redemption of Our Lord on the Cross was offered once for all, but its actualization has depended upon the unfolding of history. Potentially every human being in the world was redeemed on the cross; the actualization and application of that redemption depends upon the free cooperation of man in the course of history.”

Fulton Sheen, This is the Mass

“Fallacies do not cease to become fallacies because they become fashions.”

G.K. Chesterton

“Without love, deeds, even the most brilliant, count as nothing.”

“I know now that true charity consists in bearing all our neighbors’ defects- not being surprised at their weakness, but edified at their smallest virtues.”

St. Therese of Lisieux

The Reality of Sin and Trust in God’s Mercy

We cannot speak about life in Christ or the moral life without acknowledging the reality of sin, our own sinfulness, and our need for God’s mercy. When the existence of sin is denied it can result in spiritual and psychological damage because it is ultimately a denial of the truth about ourselves. Admitting the reality of sin helps us to be truthful and opens us to the healing that comes from Christ’s redemptive act.

Definition of Sin

Sin is an offense against reason, truth, and right conscience; it is failure in genuine love for God and neighbor caused by a perverse attachment to certain goods. It wounds the nature of man and injures human solidarity. It has been defined as “an utterance, a deed, or a desire contrary to the eternal law.”  (CCC 1849)

Sin is an offense against God: “Against you, you alone, have I sinned, and done that which is evil in your sight.”

Sin sets itself against God’s love for us and turns our hearts away from it. Like the first sin, it is disobedience, a revolt against God through the will to become “like gods,” knowing and determining good and evil. Sin is thus “love of oneself even to contempt of God.” In this proud self- exaltation, sin is diametrically opposed to the obedience of Jesus, which achieves our salvation.

“If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.”

1 John 1:8

SIN | Mortal and Venial Sins

Morality and making good decisions at the heart of it involves real relationships. When we choose to do wrong instead of good, we commit sin – and we hurt our relationship with ourselves, others, and God.

Sin is any word we speak, action we perform, or desire we have that is contrary to the Law that God has inscribed in our hearts at the very moment we are conceived.

When we sin we reject God’s will for us to be good and are guilty of disobedience, and are not following the example of Jesus who was obedient to God in all things. It may seem that most sins hurt only the sinner, but even the most private acts have a social dimension.

Sins can be distinguished according to their objects, as can every human act; or according to the virtues they oppose, by excess or defect; or according to the commandments they violate. Sins are rightly evaluated according to their gravity. There are different kinds of sin.

“All wrongdoing is sin, but there is sin that is not deadly.”

1 John 5:17

“That servant who knew his master’s will but did not make preparation nor act in accord with his will shall be beaten severely; and the servant who was ignorant of his master’s will but acted in a way deserving of a severe beating shall be beaten only lightly. Much will be required of the person entrusted with much, and still more will be demanded of the person entrusted with more.”

Luke 12:47-48

Mortal Sin

A mortal sin is a serious offense against God, one that destroys the virtue of charity within us, which helps us love God and our neighbor. Mortal sin involves serious immoral acts, or what the Church calls grave matter.” (10 Commandments)

Mortal means death and these sins have the power to cause eternal death –eternal separation from God.

Mortal sin requires full knowledge and complete consent on the part of the person committing the seriously wrong act.

You must know how wrong an action is, and then deliberately and freely choose to do it.

“Mortal sin is sin whose object is grave matter and which is also committed with full knowledge and deliberate consent.”

Venial Sin

Venial sins are less serious than mortal sins because they do not destroy our relationship with God, but they do damage it. They involve a lesser degree of evil, or they may be seriously wrong acts committed without full knowledge of just how wrong they are.

Venial Sins are closely associated with vices (vices are the opposite of virtues, which are habits of good actions). Repeating venial sins brings one in danger of forming bad habits, vices.

Do not fall into the trap of thinking that we are responsible only for the sins we directly commit (sins of commission) – there are also sins of omission. A sin of omission occurs when we fail to do something that is required by God’s moral law.