Father Fortea, what is the process that leads to eternal death?
As St. James teaches, “Each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, brings forth death” (James 1:14-15). With great insight, these two verses describe the process that leads to the death of grace in the soul. Sin is not produced by itself nor does it appear suddenly before us in such a way that we are not at fault. Rather there is a process, as James describes:
1. The passions tempt.
2. Sin is conceived.
3. Sin is born.
4. Sin reaches its maturity.
5. Sin gives birth to death.
Note the comparison of the growth of sin with that of a mother carrying a child in her womb. The apostle James uses the phrase “to give birth” because sin has a conception and gestation period. While a particular sin is committed at a specific moment, it is conceived beforehand in our passions. No immoral act appears without a process, a hidden process developing in the heart of the individual. This is why we need to cultivate a life of virtue to help us keep our sinful tendencies in check.
Just as the first sin one may commit is the result of a process, so too every sin that follows. This process leads to the death of the soul, which, if persisted in until bodily death, leads to eternal death in hell. Knowing this should lead us to value the supernatural action of the divine grace which vivifies the soul. If we commit ourselves to growing in the life of grace by loving God, obeying His commands, and striving to die to our self-will, we need not fear eternal death.
Editor’s Note: To learn more about spiritual warfare and demonology, Catholic Spiritual Direction recommends Fr. Fortea’s excellent book Interview With An Exorcist – An Insider’s Look at the Devil, Demonic Possession, and the Path to Deliverance.
Art for this post on the process that leads to eternal death: “El Infierno” (Hell), padre Hernando de la Cruz (Father Hernando de la Cruz), siglo XVII (17th century), PD-US author’s life plus 70 years or less, Wikimedia Commons.