3  Part III: Life in Christ

Jesus came to give us life and give us life abundantly. What does this mean? The Lord wants us to live a spirit filled life of meaning, purpose, and joy, leading especially to eternal life. Our loving Father wants to give you all good things—especially eternal life. When we live according to Christ’s example, we will have abundant life in this world and life forever in heaven. If we copy his life, he will help us avoid sin and the works of Satan, the evil one. Jesus told us what was evil and how to know when we are being good. This section discusses how we are to grow in holiness, in the example of Christ, and then how to recognize how we fail..

3.1 Conform Our Lives to Christ

The gospels show us how Jesus lived. He was a model for us to follow. Though he was perfect, he told us to try to be perfect as well. He gave us the Holy Spirit to help us become more perfect. He showed us his mercy so we can ask and receive forgiveness when we fail and to forgive others as well. The sacraments help conform our lives to Christ. When we are conforming our lives to Christ, we see a growth in virtue. These are the fruits of the spirit and Jesus preached about these virtues in the Beatitudes.

3.1.1 Great Commandment

Jesus taught us that the whole law is summed up as follows:

"You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your being, with all your strength, and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself." Luke 10:27

This is called the Great Commandment. This is clearly doing God’s will, to love him above all else and to love all his children on earth. All of the Law of God can be understood in this Great Commandment.

3.1.2 Virtues

Virtue is a gift from God that lets us live our lives as we are called to do. God has given us various kinds of virtues. This section discusses them. Theological Virtues

The Theological Virtues are gifts from God; these are as follows:
Faith the gift of belief in God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit and in his Holy Catholic Church
Hope the desire for eternal life and the resulting joy to live our lives in conformance to Christ, Jesus
Charity is the love of God and neighbor as defined in the Great Commandment Cardinal Virtues

 The Cardinal Virtues are the primary human moral virtues from which the all other moral virtues flow. These are as follows:
PrudenceKnowing the right thing to do at the right time and the way to do it according to God's will.
JusticeGiving God and others what is rightfully theirs, all they deserve.
TemperanceRestraining our appetites to only what we need and not taking more than that.
FortitudeDoing what is right in all cases, even when it is hard. Conquering Virtues

The conquering virtues are those that fight against the Deadly sins. These are: Humility, Chastity, Self-restraint, Generosity, Zeal, Meekness and Charity. What do these mean? The table below defines them and the related deadly sin in parenthesis.

Understanding our selves and our relationship to Almighty God and realizing that we depend on him for every good thing. All that we have is from him.
Habit of loving God for who he is and others for the sake of God. Our model is the Trinity: God the Father's love for the Son and the Holy Spirit.
Self Restraint
Using all of God’s worldly gifts in moderation.
Sharing God’s gifts to us with all his children.
Doing God’s work joyfully.
Moderating our anger and desire for revenge.  bearing wrongs with patience, humility and charity, trusting in God’s providence
Obeying God’s design for our sexuality. Using this gift only in marriage and as God intends: to increase a married couple’s bond of love and to procreate children with God.

If we find ourselves growing in these traits, then we are probably growing in God’s grace.

3.1.3 Fruits of the Spirit

Saint Paul tells us that we should look for fruits of the spiritual life. These are as follows:

Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness,
gentleness,  and self-control. Gal 5:22-23

If we find ourselves growing in the Fruits of the Spirit, we will be much less likely to fall into the deadly sins listed below. These are signs that we are letting the Gifts of the Holy Spirit (a grace of Confirmation) be effective in us.

3.1.4 Beatitudes

In his sermon on the mount, Jesus taught the spiritual characteristics we should possess to gain the Kingdom of Heaven. These are called the Beatitudes. “Beatitude” means happy, blessed.

sermon on the mount 

Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are they who mourn, for they will be comforted.
Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the land.
Blessed are they who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be satisfied.
Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.
Blessed are the clean of heart, for they will see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.
Blessed are they who are persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Mat 5:3-12

What do these words mean?
Poor in Spirit This is humility. We understand our relationship to God. He is far above us and we always need him. We bow down, always, before him whom we depend on for everything.
Mourn This is compassion. We feel the pain of those who suffer and we try to help them, especially those who have lost a loved one to death. To be sorry for our sinfulness.
Meek This is the virtue of meekness. To control our anger and to bear wrongs with patience, humility and charity
Righteousness This is doing God’s will in all things.
Mercy This is being kind to others beyond what they deserve. God rewards us for this kindness by giving us mercy beyond what we deserve.
Clean of Heart This is freedom from sin, especially the mortal sins. If we are free from these sins when we die, then we will see God in heaven. But even now, if we are free of these sins we will see God in others.
Peacemaker  This means our hearts should be at peace. We should speak truth (about God) in a loving way. We should take unkindness toward us without complaining or becoming bitter, because of our hope in heaven. We should pray for healing between others.
Persecuted We should be true to Jesus, to God.  We should suffer persecution in the name of the Lord with patience.

3.2 Sin

Simply put, sin is a turning away from God. You must know you did something against God's will and do it on purpose, without someone else making you do it.  Recall that original sin was the sin of Adam and Eve, going against God’s will, desiring to be like God. This sin of pride is one that all humans  (except the Blessed Virgin Mary) have inherited.

Sin is a word, an act, or a desire contrary to God’s will for us. We offend God and go against his love for us. It hurts the sinner and others, especially the whole Church. Jesus’ death on the cross shows us the seriousness of sin. He also revealed to us God’s mercy to forgive sin.

Sin can be venial or mortal. With any kind of sin, we should seek God's forgiveness, especially by frequently taking advantage of the Sacrament of Reconciliation.

3.2.1 What is Venial Sin?

Venial sins are a small turning away from God, like not doing your chores or stealing cookies and the like. Since God is perfect, even the “minor” flaw of venial sin is horrible to God. When we ignore such sins, thinking them unimportant and continuing to sin, we become more open to temptation to serious sin. It weakens our friendship with God. Frequent use of the Sacrament of Reconciliation will help us stay away from this trap and build a strong friendship with God.

3.2.2 What is Mortal Sin?

A mortal sin is very serious. Mortal means deadly. It breaks our friendship with God. We completely turn our back on God and reject him. If you die after committing a  mortal sin that was not forgiven, you will be forever separated from God. This separation is  hell.

Upon death, the punishment of mortal sin is eternal separation from God and all Goodness

For a sin to be a mortal sin, the following three things must all be true:
Because we are made in God’s image and have free will, we can choose to commit a mortal sin. If you commit a mortal sin, it is very, very important to ask for God’s forgiveness as soon as possible, especially by using the sure means of forgiveness, the Sacrament of Reconciliation. Jesus told us that all sins can be forgiven and he gave us this Sacrament. So never doubt that you can be forgiven, even when you think you have done something terrible. God wants you to ask for forgiveness, for you to repent and to forgive you. God always waits for us to come back to him.

3.2.3 What is Temporal Punishment (Purgatory)?

When we hurt someone (say we steal from a friend), even after they forgive us, we still need to give back what we have taken or make amends in some other way. Temporal punishment is like this. God has forgiven us of our sin, but we still have to make amends for what we did. In the spiritual world, this is called purification. This purification can be done in this life by the good works that we do and prayers that we say, both out of our love for God. If we die before we are purified, we are purified in Purgatory. Paul talks about this purification:

The work of each will come to light, for the Day will disclose it. It will be revealed with fire, and the fire (itself) will test the quality of each one's work. If the work stands that someone built upon the foundation, that person will receive a wage.  But if someone's work is burned up, that one will suffer loss; the person will be saved, but only as through fire. 1 Cor 3:13-15

The Day referred to, is our judgment day, when we die and come face to face with Jesus.

3.3 How Do We Know the Matter is Serious?

How does someone know that the matter is serious? The Church has many teachings about what is sinful. A good place to start is in the Bible. See Deut 5 and Gal 5:19-21. The Church also guides us in its precepts.

3.3.1 Ten Commandments (Deut 5)

God made a covenant with the Jews after he led them out of Egypt. He told them that they would be his people and that he would be their God. They needed to follow some simple rules. These are called the Ten Commandments. We should obey God’s rules if we love him and these rules are good for us. The first three teach us about relating to God. The last seven teach us how to relate to other people. We will briefly discuss what these commandments mean:
I. I am the Lord, your God. You shall have no false gods before me
God must be the most important person in your life. There is only one God and we should not make any person, place, job or any other thing more important than God. God loved us first, we should love him above all things.
II. You shall not use the Lord’s Name in vain
Use God’s name with reverence, love and respect, such as when praying. God revealed his holy name to us, so we can have a special relationship with him. Don’t use God’s name or Jesus’ name when you are cussing or angry. Imagine using your mother’s name to cuss! Never do this with God’s or Jesus’ name!
III. Remember to keep holy the Lord’s Day
God made a day for us to praise and worship him. This is a day of rest from work so that we can praise God and give time to our loved ones. Jesus told us that the Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath.
IV. Honor your father and your mother
Obey your parents and others in authority over you. Don’t back talk to them. Parents should not overburden their kids. They should not make them anxious. Those in authority should not “lord” it over those who report to them.
V. You shall not kill
Do not take any life unless there is a serious reason to (such as they are going to kill you). Don’t kill someone’s spirit by demeaning them, by gossiping and the like. Treat everyone, yourself included, with respect.
VI. You shall not commit adultery
God made intimate relationships for marriage. Any sexual relations outside of marriage are wrong.
VII. You shall not steal
Do not take things that do not belong to you and that you have not paid for, from friends, relatives, stores or anywhere else. Instead of taking from others, we should be generous.
VIII. You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor
Don’t lie. Don’t make things up about others and spread rumors to hurt them or falsely protect or promote yourself.
IX. You shall not covet they neighbor’s wife
Be happy with what God has given you. If you have a spouse, love them and do not look beyond them. Jealousy will eat away at you and cause you to commit serious sin.
X. You shall not covet they neighbors’ goods
Be happy with the goods that God has given you. Your life, your job, your family, and all the things you have. God will provide for our needs. Jealousy is a serious sin. 

3.3.2 Deadly Sins

There are seven categories of Sin, called Capital or Deadly Sin. These sins are at the heart of other sins. The table below defines them with the Conquering Virtue is in parenthesis.
Excessive love of one’s own excellence. We think we know what is best, we can do better than God. This is the cause of many other sins. Because of your belief in yourself, you withdraw your love and obedience from God. It leads to other sins. This is the sin of Lucifer and of Adam and Eve.
Sadness at another’s good fortune, especially their grace from God, instead of being happy for them.
(self restraint)
This is eating or drinking or doing too much of anything, especially more than is required to satisfy you.
This is an inordinate love of money and things. It is desiring more and more, beyond what is required.
This is being sad or distressed about the effort it takes to be good, to do God’s work.
This is to desire vengeance upon one who does not deserve it or to a greater extent than it is deserved. To hate others.
This is a sin against purity. Purity is obeying God’s teaching about the proper use of sexual relations. Lust is disobedience to this.

3.3.3 The Precepts of the Church

The Church also teaches five precepts, or laws, that we are to follow in living our lives. While it is a serious matter to ignore these precepts, it is better to think of them as the least we should do to follow the Lord’s Great Commandment, "You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your being, with all your strength, and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself." 
  1. Attend mass on Sundays and Holidays.
  2. Confess your sins at least once a year. This is true when you have committed mortal sins, but good practice in any case.
  3. Receive the Holy Eucharist at least once during the Easter season.
  4. Obey the rules on fasting and abstinence. Fasting is defined as one meal and two snacks that is less than one meal. Abstinence is defined as not eating meat. Fasting is required on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday for those between 18 and 60 years old. Abstinence is required on Fridays during lent and Ash Wednesday for those over the age of 14.
  5. Contribute to the support of the Church.

3.4 Models for Us

Jesus came into our world to redeem us from our sins, but also to teach us how to live according to God’s will. He is our best model of how to love one another. Sometime it is hard to live like Jesus because he was perfect. God has given us other models, through his love and the Church. We have a great Communion of Saints, those who have gone before us and now serve God in heaven. We can ask them to help us. They lived imperfect lives but conformed their lives to Christ and now are in heaven.

3.4.1 MaryHail Mary

The angel greeted Mary by saying “Hail, full of grace!” Mary was conceived and born without having original sin. This is called the Immaculate Conception. Because she would say yes to God, God gave her this special grace. She said yes to God for her whole life, always living according to his will. She was always without sin, always full of grace. So we honor her just as the Bible says:

“ For he has looked upon his handmaid's lowliness; behold, from now on
 will all ages call me blessed. The Mighty One has done great things for me, and holy is his name.” Lk 1:48-49

Mary said yes to God to become his mother, but more than this she said yes immediately! Even Moses and the other prophets argued about doing God’s work.  Mary simply said:

"Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word." Lk 1:38

Asking Mary to help us is a great way to pray. She is Jesus’ mother and he is very close to her. Jesus gave Mary to us as our Mother when he was dying on the cross. Also, the Bible tells us that Jesus listened to Mary and honored her, as in the Wedding Feast at Cana. If we ask Mary to help us with good things, she will ask her son, the Son of God, and he will listen to her!

We should ask her to help us say YES to God!

3.4.2 Saints

We believe that all those who have died in God’s grace and have been purified are in heaven. God allows us to ask them to help us as well. It can be very helpful to find a saint who struggled in his or her life like we do. After all, saints were ordinary people like us who because they loved God so much did extraordinary things. We can learn from their lives how to live ours and we can pray to them to help us in the same way with ours. Some examples of saints follow: