Our Best Defense is Sanctifying Grace
If you are in the state of sanctifying grace, you and God are friends.
The whole world finds itself in a frantic search for a defense against Covid-19. Some recommend such preventative “medicine” as exercise, rest, nutrition, hydration, fresh air, sunlight, vitamins and minerals. Others suggest masks and gloves. Some say hydroxychloroquine is the answer. (Though some physicians are so convinced that hydroxychloroquine is effective against Covid-19 that they are going beyond FDA regulations to prescribe it, many media personalities insist that hydroxychloroquine is not effective — using the powerful logic that Donald Trump suggested that it might be).
Though the response to Covid-19 has brought out the worst in some people, it has nevertheless illustrated a basic truth: people want to live. Thus, it is perfectly reasonable to seek that prevention or prescription which extends life and avoids death. For, whenever it comes, death itself is tragic; there’s no way to sanitize that reality.
But there is something more tragic: dying in the state of mortal sin. There is no greater catastrophe than choosing the eternal death of damnation for oneself by willfully and finally rejecting the friendship and love of God.
This is not a popular topic — even for Catholics. Nevertheless, it is a terrible injustice for us Christians to proceed as though there is no place of suffering after death. It is a frightful lie to assure another that he can routinely lie, cheat, steal and worse — with deliberate and final unrepentance — and have no worry about Hell. This pop theology can hardly be called “Christian,” for if there is no danger of going to a self-loathing place of “outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth,” there’s no need for a savior. (Save me from what?) This form of feel-good theology is also a sickening denial of grace.
But the truth is we need sanctifying grace. As the Catechism explains, “Sanctifying grace is an habitual gift, a stable and supernatural disposition that perfects the soul itself to enable it to live with God, to act by his love.” Here, “live with God” is meant in the most meaningful way.
If you are in the state of sanctifying grace, you and God are friends — for the “friendship of God” is an attribute of sanctifying grace. Ponder that for a moment. But your relationship with God goes beyond friendship. Your relationship even goes beyond an “intimacy” with God. Just how close to God, then, is the person in the state of sanctifying grace? This close: the Holy Trinity dwells within you. The divine indwelling means that you are holy and pleasing to the Triune God. If that thought overwhelms you, that’s a good sign that you are grasping just the smallest surface of what that means. As C. S. Lewis put it:
To please God… to be a real ingredient in the divine happiness…to be loved by God, not merely pitied, but delighted in as an artist delights in his work or a son—it seems impossible, a weight or burden of glory which our thoughts can hardly sustain. But so it is.
Thus, it is not simply that sanctifying grace is our best defense against spiritual death; it is that sanctifying grace makes for a happy and abundant life. We will still have suffering, we may still have viruses, we will still wade through a vale of tears, but God is with us. And that makes all the difference in this world, and in the world to come.
If you have fallen out of the state of grace through mortal sin, perhaps this current environment can serve as your wake-up call. And please be sure of this: regardless of how serious and/or how numerous your sins have been, sanctifying grace can be fully restored in the Sacrament of Reconciliation. God dwelt within you at your Baptism, and he wishes to dwell within you again.
In this tumultuous time, many priests are offering drive-through Confessions. Please take advantage of that opportunity right now! (If that’s currently impossible, you can certainly make an act of perfect contrition until you are able to receive the Sacrament of Penance.) The more serious your sins might be, the more that priests want to offer you absolution. That’s why they are there! Priests want to be instruments of God’s forgiveness and mercy. They want to heal your soul. They want to help restore what your soul craves: sanctifying grace.