From The Spiritual Exercises:
Third Point. The third is likewise to do the same on the Third particular Sin of any one who for one mortal sin is gone to Hell—and many others without number, for fewer sins than I have committed.
I say to do the same on the Third particular Sin, bringing to memory the gravity and malice of the sin against one’s Creator and Lord; to discuss with the understanding how in sinning and acting against the Infinite Goodness, he has been justly condemned forever; and to finish with the will as has been said.
Lesson: If pondering sin is difficult and uninspiring, do not worry. Sometimes that which is most healthy can, at first, be challenging (such as exercise). So it is with the act of facing sin. Sin and its consequences are hard to face. Many people today fall into the trap of presumption by simply ignoring the deadly effects of sin on their soul and falsely presuming that “God will understand.”
God does understand. But what He understands is the truth about sin and its consequences. It must be your goal to enter into that same understanding so as to understand what God knows. Though you must end with an understanding of God’s mercy and forgiveness won by the Cross of Jesus, you must begin with your need for the grace poured forth on the Cross. And the only way you will understand the need you have is to understand your own sin as God sees it.
In regard to personal sins, you now face the truth, that those throughout history who have died in an unrepentant state of mortal sin now suffer the consequences for all eternity. The truth is that mortal sin separates us from God forever when you refuse to admit your guilt and repent. Though this may be unpleasant, it is exceptionally important to take time to “feel” the reality of that truth. Sin is lethal. It can permanently destroy. Hell is real and remains a possibility for each one of us.
In our day and age, there is a cultural tendency to downplay the reality of sin and to presume that God understands and will not hold sin against us. Thinking that way is a complete misunderstanding of sin, especially mortal sin. God does not punish you or “hold your past against you”; rather, you punish yourself, in that mortal sin is your own free personal rejection of God, His will and Truth itself. God will not impose Himself upon you or upon anyone. If you reject Him by your grave actions, He will respect your choice, and you will be eternally separated from Him by your choice.
Reflection: Ponder the filthiness of sin for a while. Begin this task by pondering it from a distance. First, think about those who may have died in a state of grave and unrepentant sin. Let yourself be deeply saddened by this thought with a holy sorrow. Recall the Beatitude, “Blessed are the sorrowful…” As you do, allow yourself to be filled with a holy sorrow for anyone throughout history who may have died in such a state. (Silent Reflection)
As you “feel” the effects of these truths, allow yourself to grow in a healthy fear of mortal sin. A holy fear of sin is the first and most essential step in overcoming your own sins by God’s grace. Take time to ponder sin in general so that you may grow in a healthy fear of mortal sin. (Silent Reflection)
- God, the Creator of All That Is
- God, the Intimate Guide for Your Life
- God, the Goal, Purpose and End of Your Life
- Sin of the Angels
- Sin of Adam and Eve
- The General Effects of Sin
- Introduction to Meditations Seven–Nine
- Personal Sin: In the Light of the Divine Sun
- Personal Sins of My Life
- Humiliation and Humility