Our Frequent Lapses
1. It is sad to have to admit that, in spite of our good resolutions and in spite of the graces which wereceive from God, we continue to fall into sin. Our continual lapses can cause us to become discouraged. This, however, is a device of the devil, who has already lured us into sin and now proceeds to suggest thoughts of despair. He wishes to convince us that resistance is useless, that our nature is completely corrupt, and that there is no escape for us.
“My dear children,” wrote St. John to the early Christians, “these things I write to you in order that you may not sin. But if anyone sins, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ, the just; and he is a propitiation for our sins, not for ours only but also for those of the whole world.” (1 John 2:1-2) “If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we acknowledge our sins, he is faithful, and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all iniquity.” (1 John 1:9) “He who says that he knows him, and does not keep his commandments, is a liar and the truth is not in him. But he who keeps his word, in him the love of God is truly perfected.” (1 John 2:5)
It is clear, therefore, that we ought to avoid sin by every means in our power, because it extinguishes our charity and brings death to the soul. Nevertheless, even if we continue to fall into sin, we should never lose heart. Discouragement and despair are stratagems of the devil. No matter how great and how numerous our sins may be, God is always prepared to pardon them. Let us recall the example of Mary Magdalen, of the repentant thief, and of the prodigal son. As long as we repent sincerely we may be sure that God will forgive us and clasp us to His breast, for God is infinitely merciful.
2. The mercy of God, however, should not provide us with a reason for continuing to fall into sin. On the contrary, it should be a motive for greater gratitude and love. We cannot claim that it is impossible for us to conquer temptation. If we implore God's grace and employ all the means of resistance at our disposal, temptation cannot overcome us.
How often in the past, when we prayed fervently and fought with determination, have we not successfully routed temptation ? Why cannot we do the same again? Then we shall have interior peace in this life and an everlasting reward in the next. “God is faithful,” St. Paul assures us, “and will not permit you to be tempted beyond your strength, but with the temptation will also give you a way out that you may be able to bear it.” (1 Cor. 10:13)
3. There is a golden rule which we should always remember, as it will be helpful to us in fighting temptation and in resisting discouragement. It is simply this: As long as we implore God's grace and do all we can and ought to do in order to withstand the onslaught of temptation, God will do the rest.
If God nevertheless allows us to fall, this will be in order to humble us and to make us understand more clearly that we can do nothing without Him. When we, fall, moreover, we may be certain that in His infinite goodness He will accept our repentance and forgive us.