Because of grace, it is possible for a Christian to live a double life. What I mean by this statement is that we can live both a devine (spiritual) life and a natural (human) life. For some of us though, we might be biologically alive, but spiritually dead. For many people, their bodies might be alive, but their souls could be dead. So, if the life of the body is the soul, so too the life of the soul is grace (the partaking of the devine life).
Grace is a supernatural gift from God. It is bestowed on us by Jesus Christ in order to save us. There are two types of grace that we can receive from God, actual and sanctifying. Sanctifying grace makes our souls holy and gives us it supernatural life. Actual grace on the other hand does not live in our souls, but it is what helps and encourages our souls to seek out sanctifying grace.
In its natural state, our souls are not fit to enter heaven. So, in order to be able to live in heaven, we need to have sanctifying grace dwelling in our souls. At Baptism, Catholics believe that the entire person has been totally cleansed , both externally and internally. Our souls have been cleansed of original sin and all the sins a person has at that present moment (cf. Acts 2:38). It is then that we become a “new creation” (cf. 2 Cor 5:17). Through Baptism in Christ, we become adopted children of God, and therefore, adopted brothers and sisters of Jesus Christ.
Some Christians understanding of justification is that no one is really ever fully cleansed from sin, not even at Baptism. The belief is that Jesus’ blood does not cleanse our entire being, but only covers us so that we will be acceptable to enter into heaven. Many Protestants believe that it doesn’t matter what personal sin a person commits, it does not need to be purged—since Christ accomplished all the purging of sin when he died on the cross.
The Catholic understanding of justification is that after our baptismal birth into our heavenly family (cf. John 3:1-5, 22), God the Father gives us the free will to play in the “playground” of the world. We will then “muddy” ourselves spiritually when we commit sins throughout our lives. As a Catholic Christian, the Sacraments are vehicles of grace (instituted by Jesus) to spiritually clean and to nourish our soul on a regular basis. Through the sacraments we receive sanctifying grace. It is only through the Blood of the risen Christ that I can maintain my internal and external baptismal cleanliness. Just as I have to keep my human body clean on a wash-as-you-go basis, I must also cleanse myself spiritually/Sacramentaly on a wash-as-you-go basis.
The Bible tells us that there are two different types of sins: “If anyone sees his brother sinning, if it is not deadly, he should pray to God and he will give him life… There is such a thing as a deadly sin about which I do not say that you should pray…(cf. 1 John 5:16-17).” A “deadly” (mortal) sin (if not repented of), “cuts off” a person’s chances of going to heaven, while the “non-deadly” (venial) sin implies that there is a way for atonement to be made. Repenting of mortal sins in the sacrament of reconciliation (confession), restores and refills our souls with sanctifying grace.
The grace God gives everyone is called actual grace. This grace is used to push us toward the supernatural life. For example, if we cooperate with these devine pushes from God, it helps move us to repentance, where the guilt of our sins are remitted (cf. John 20:21-23).
The Catechism of the Catholic Church states:
The grace of Christ is the gratuitous gift that God makes to us of his own life, infused by the Holy Spirit into our soul to heal it of sin and to sanctify it. It is the sanctifying or deifying grace received in Baptism. It is in us the source of the work of sanctification (cf. John 4:14, 7:38-39)…Sanctifying grace is an habitual gift, a stable and supernatural disposition that perfects the soul itself to enable it to live with God, to act by his love. Habitual grace, the permanent disposition to live and act in keeping with God’s call, is distinguished from actual graces which refer to God’s interventions, whether at the beginning of conversion or in the course of the work of sanctification (CCC #1999, #2000).
Until next time, God bless.