Obtaining The Divine Life


From Death to Life: the Process of Salvation


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SANCTIFICATION



Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed--not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence--continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose. (Philippians 2:12-13)

All that is necessary for salvation is the mere possession of the supernatural life, but the stronger the hold supernatural life has on us, the less likely we are to lose it. Like an athlete training for competition is strengthened by continual practice, the continual practice of the virtues strengthens our soul so that eventually we can win the race. "Let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us." (Hebrews 12:1)

We still have the desire for selfish choices even after receiving supernatural life, and we have the free will to make those choices. It is even possible to choose to follow our selfish desires, to love ourself over God, so much that we destroy the supernatural life within us. And if we die in this state,
Like an athlete training for competition, continual practice of the virtues strengthens the soul so that we can win the race.
we are unable to live in the presence of God and are sent away from Him (to Hell). Therefore, we don't have absolute assurance of salvation, but instead have the "hope of salvation as our helmet" (1 Thessalonians 5:8). While we are assured that we are redeemed, we are not assured that we will be saved. We must continually strive to ensure that the supernatural life remains with us. How do we do this? God gives us many opportunities and means to obtain graces that strengthen this supernatural life.

First, there are ordinary ways to obtain graces and detach ourselves from our selfish nature, usually categorized into three areas: prayer, fasting, and almsgiving. Prayer involves conversation with God, in which we contemplate and interact with the supernatural, instead of dwelling on the natural. Fasting is any denial of a natural good for the purpose of obtaining a supernatural good. Denying something, such as food, just for the sake of the sacrifice is not the purpose; it is when our intention is to draw closer to God that we detach from our selfish nature. Almsgiving allows us to detach from this material world by using our resources for the good of the spiritual realm. Using the material resources available to us in order to further the kingdom of God both obtains graces for us, and detaches us from the natural world of those very resources.

Beyond these ordinary ways, God has given us supernatural ways to obtain grace: the sacraments. Receiving the sacraments is the way God touches our soul directly and either places the supernatural life in us (baptism), restores it (confession), or strengthens it (the other five sacraments, especially the Eucharist). The physical world reflects this divine reality: we must first be born into life (birth/baptism), we must be nourished to continue living (food/Eucharist), and, when we are injured, we must be healed (medicine/Confession).

These means are an extraordinary gift to each believer. God does not expect us to be able to maintain the supernatural life within us by our own power; in fact, this is impossible to do. He instead gives us exactly what we need to maintain and strengthen it in us.


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