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Endnotes:Two Types of Sin
There are two types of sin: original sin and personal sin. These two types of sin could possibly occur in four combinations.
1. A person could have neither original sin nor personal sin. Jesus and the Virgin Mary had neither original sin nor personal sin. They did not have original sin, because the Virgin Mary was preserved free from original sin at her Immaculate Conception. And neither Jesus nor Mary ever sinned in the least during their entire lives. Adam and Eve, before they fell from grace, also were free from both original sin and personal sin. God created Adam and Eve without original sin.
2. A person could have both original sin and personal sin. Most people who have ever lived on earth have both original and personal sin.
3. A person could have personal sin, but not original sin. This was the case with Adam and Eve after they fell from grace. They were not created with original sin, but they both committed personal sins against God. Since all the descendants of Adam and Eve, except Jesus and Mary, inherited original sin, no one on earth today is free from original sin. The Immaculate Conception, which preserved Mary and Jesus from original sin, was a singular event (occurring only once). The Apostolic Constitution, Ineffabilis Deus, states that the Immaculate Conception of the Virgin Mary was "different from the conception of all other human beings" and that it resulted from a "singular grace and privilege granted by Almighty God." 1
4. There is one more possibility. A person could have original sin, but no personal sins whatsoever, not even the least semi-deliberate venial sin.
It must be possible for someone who has original sin to still avoid personal sins. When someone commits a personal sin, they cannot say to God that they were unable to avoid that sin. God's grace is always available to help anyone avoid any sin. Each instance of sin is avoidable, therefore, it is possible to avoid all sin. God is willing to help anyone avoid each and every sin. God's Mercy and Love is inexhaustible.
It is conceivable that someone born with original sin could avoid all personal sin throughout their entire life. However, even the holy Saints, canonized by the Catholic Church, went to confession and admitted committing some sins. These holy disciples of Christ may have committed no mortal sins in their life, and no wholly deliberate venial sins, but they did commit some small acts of selfishness, that is, some partly-deliberate venial sins, if only in their thoughts or in the least of their actions. But how are we to know, among those persons with original sin, which persons have committed only a few of the smallest personal sins, and which persons, if any, have committed no personal sins at all? We must look to God's Sacred Infallible Scripture to find the answer.
"For there is no distinction; since all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, they are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus…." (Romans 3:22-24).
This passage is sometimes used by some Protestants to argue that the Virgin Mary is not sinless. However, the Sacred Infallible Teaching of the Holy Catholic Church is that the Virgin Mary was justified by God's grace and redeemed by Christ Jesus so thoroughly that she was preserved free from all sin (both original sin and personal sin) throughout her entire life. Thus, there are some exceptions to the phrase "all have sinned." But there are no exceptions to the statement by Sacred Scripture that all are redeemed from sin by Christ Jesus. Though the Virgin Mary never sinned, it was by the suffering and death of her Divine Son Jesus Christ that she was kept free from all sin. Thus, it may also be the case that some persons with original sin would be able to avoid all personal sin.
The First Fruits
"Then I looked, and lo, on Mount Zion stood the Lamb, and with him a hundred and forty-four thousand who had his name and his Father's name written on their foreheads. And I heard a voice from heaven like the sound of many waters and like the sound of loud thunder; the voice I heard was like the sound of harpers playing on their harps, and they sing a new song before the throne and before the four living creatures and before the elders. No one could learn that song except the hundred and forty-four thousand who had been redeemed from the earth. It is these who have not defiled themselves with women, for they are chaste; it is these who follow the Lamb wherever he goes; these have been redeemed from mankind as first fruits for God and the Lamb, and in their mouth no lie was found, for they are spotless." (Rev 14:1-5).
These holy Christians, who are called the First Fruits, are redeemed from the earth by Jesus Christ during the end time (the time described in the book of Revelation). Sacred Scripture tells us that they follow Jesus Christ, the Lamb, wherever He goes. This expression means, not that they travel with Jesus everywhere He goes, but that they follow His example in all things. Clearly, the First Fruits are very holy.
The words of Sacred Scripture: "It is these who have not defiled themselves with women," means that the First Fruits are chaste, in that they have not committed sexual sins. The word translated as "chaste," can also be translated as "virgins" (as the note in the RSV states). The First Fruits have followed Jesus Christ in all things, even in His Holy Virginity. Therefore, they could not have committed any sexual sins at all, not even the least impure thought or desire, otherwise they could not be said to have followed the Lamb wherever He goes. So, when Sacred Scripture describes the First Fruits as being chaste and free from defilement, the true meaning is that they are completely free from all sexual sins. How thoroughly chaste a person must be to be called chaste by God's Sacred Infallible Scripture!
The expression "have not defiled themselves with women" is a figure of speech which means, not only that they have literally not had relations with women, but also that they are free from all sexual sins. Thus, there may be some women among the First Fruits, for that expression has a general meaning, which excludes any kind of sexual sins, and is not limited to men who have refrained from relations with women. (Note also that the phrase "First Fruits" is not gender specific.) God's Ineffable Grace is equally effective in men and in women.
These First Fruits have been holy their entire lives, for they have never committed the least sexual sin and have imitated Christ in all things. Since they have been holy from their earliest years, it is also possible that some of the First Fruits are children. God's unfailing Grace is equally effective in adults and in children.
Sacred Scripture also reveals that "in their mouth no lie was found, for they are spotless." (Rev 14:5). No one among the First Fruits has ever told a lie in their entire lives. They are completely free from lies, and so, they must also be completely free from deceitfulness and guile. Here again, they "follow the Lamb wherever he goes," meaning that they imitate the Christ in everything.
"For we all make many mistakes, and if any one makes no mistakes in what he says he is a perfect man, able to bridle the whole body also." (James 3:2).
People in general make many mistakes, but if any persons could be found who make no mistakes in their words, such persons must also be perfect, and so free from every kind of sin. The word "mistakes" here means the kind of mistakes which offend God, that is, sins. Sacred Scripture reveals that the First Fruits have no lie whatsoever in their mouths, meaning also that they commit no sins in their words. Since the First Fruits never lie, and have no mistakes in their words, they must also be perfect and free from all sin. The last part of verse 5 makes this point clear: "…for they are spotless."
The First Fruits could not be called spotless by God's Sacred Infallible Scripture if they had ever sinned. The First Fruits have never lied, never committed any sexual sins; they imitate Christ Jesus in all things and are spotless. Therefore, these men, women and children, the First Fruits which Christ Jesus redeems from mankind, are free from all personal sins.
The First Fruits belong to the time described in Revelation, that is, to a future time. So, even the holiest of Saints in our present time and in past times are not those who are called First Fruits. How amazing that God's grace can produce the holiest of the disciples of Christ, even during the most terrible years which the earth will ever see.
The First Fruits are redeemed from mankind by Jesus Christ, and so they are members of the human race and descendants of Adam and Eve. The grace by which the Virgin Mary was preserved free from original sin at the first moment of her Immaculate Conception was a singular grace; it is not given to anyone else. Therefore, the First Fruits have original sin, even though they have no personal sins whatsoever in their entire lives.
John the Baptist
" 'I tell you, among those born of women none is greater than John; yet he who is least in the kingdom of God is greater than he.' " (Lk 7:28).
Jesus Himself testifies to the great holiness of John the Baptist. When Jesus says that John is great, He could not mean greatness as measured by this world, (power, money, fame, etc.), but rather greatness in God's eyes, which is measured by holiness.
Jesus does not say that no one is greater than John the Baptist. Instead, He says that, among those of a certain group, no one is greater than John. And Jesus does not say that John is the greatest among that group. He leaves open the possibility that some might be equal to John in holiness.
Jesus is greater than John the Baptist, yet Jesus says that "among those born of women none is greater than John…." Therefore, the group of persons indicated by the expression "among those born of women" does not include Jesus. The Virgin Mary is also greater than John the Baptist, and so she is not included in that group of persons either. Yet Jesus had the Virgin Mary as a mother, and she had Saint Anne as a mother. So then, in what way can it be said that Jesus and Mary were not born of women?
The phrase "born of a woman" cannot mean simply that one has a mother, otherwise the expression would include Jesus and Mary. John himself admits that Jesus is much greater than he (Lk 3:16). Therefore the phrase born of a woman means something else. In what way does the birth of Jesus differ from that of John? The Birth of Jesus was a Virgin Birth, but John's birth was not. 2 Blessed Anne Catherine Emmerich tells us, based on her visions from God, that John was not born in the same way as Jesus. John the Baptist's mother, Elizabeth was speaking to the Virgin Mary about John's birth. "Elisabeth said to her: 'You have been more favoured in giving birth than other women: the birth of John was a joy indeed, but it was otherwise than with you.' " 3 Jesus was born by means of a miracle of God, whereas John was born in the usual way.
See how the phrase "born of a woman" means born in the usual way, that is, not born by means of a miracle of God. Anyone whose birth was a Virgin Birth is therefore excluded from that group of persons among whom none is greater than John the Baptist. The Virgin Mary is certainly greater than John the Baptist, therefore, she also must have been delivered out of her mother's womb solely by a miracle of God, and not in the usual way. This passage of Sacred Scripture reveals that the Births of both Jesus and the Virgin Mary were Virgin Births. 4
The phrase "born of woman" also means born with original sin. Human beings, conceived and born in the usual way, have original sin which was passed on to them from their parents. Original sin is transferred, from one generation to the next, through ordinary conception. Birth implies that conception has occurred. Thus, conception and birth in the usual way implies that the child born has original sin.
The Virgin Mary was preserved free from original sin by a singular act of God's Mercy and Grace at the first moment of her existence in the Immaculate Conception. And the Virgin Mary did not have original sin to pass on to her Divine Child Jesus Christ. The Virgin Mary and Jesus Christ did not have original sin, so they must have been conceived and born by an extra-ordinary miracle from God, and not in the usual way.
The Virgin Conceptions of Mary and Jesus
The Holy Conception of Jesus Christ was a Virgin Conception, occurring solely by a miracle of God (Mt 1:18; Lk 1:35). The Immaculate Conception of the Virgin Mary was also a Virgin Conception, occurring solely by a miracle of God, and not in the usual way. (It is not that Saint Anne was a virgin, but that the manner of conception in her womb was virginal.) The Holy Births of both Jesus and the Virgin Mary were each Virgin Births. And the Holy Conceptions of both Jesus and the Virgin Mary were each Virgin Conceptions. A Virgin Birth implies a Virgin Conception, and a Virgin Conception implies a Virgin Birth. (For a detailed theological argument in favor of the Virgin Mary's Virgin Conception and Virgin Birth, see the booklet, the Virginity of Mary and Jesus.) 5
Blessed Anne Catherine Emmerich says that, if not for the fall of Adam and Eve from grace, all conceptions would have been like the Virgin Mary's conception. "I was also told that Mary was conceived just as conception would have been effected, were it not for the fall of man." 6 She also says: "I understood, that as a result of the grace here given, the conception of Mary was as pure as all conceptions would have been but for the Fall." 7 Thus, if Adam and Eve had never sinned, every conception would be free from original sin, and every conception would have been a virgin conception. A conception brought about in the usual way is how original sin is passed on from one generation to the next. However, all conceptions would not have been exactly like the Immaculate Conception of the Virgin Mary. For the Immaculate Conception was a singular grace in that the Virgin Mary alone was preserved free from inheriting original sin from her parents who had original sin. But if Adam and Eve had not fallen from grace, there would be no original sin to inherit.
Jesus and the Virgin Mary did not have original sin, and they each had a Virgin Conception. When Jesus says "among those born of women," He means among those whose births were not virgin births, and whose conceptions were not virgin conceptions, none is greater than John the Baptist. In other words, among those who were conceived and born descendants of Adam and Eve, and who thus inherited original sin, none is greater than John the Baptist. Jesus and Mary are descendants of Adam and Eve in the sense that Adam and Eve were their ancestors, but they are not descendants of Adam and Eve in the sense of inheriting the sin of Adam and Eve, called original sin. That is why Jesus and the Virgin Mary are not included in the group Jesus refers to by the words "among those born of women."
John the Baptist Never Sinned
John the Baptist did have original sin, for he was born of Zechariah and Elizabeth, who were Israelites and descendants of Adam and Eve (Lk 1:5). And John could not have been kept from inheriting original sin at his conception by a miracle of God, for this unique grace is found only in the Immaculate Conception of the Virgin Mary.
The First Fruits also have original sin, therefore, they are not conceived and born virginally. Because they have original sin, and are conceived and born in the usual way, they are included in the group among whom none is greater than John. The First Fruits had original sin, but no personal sins whatsoever, yet they are not greater than John. Therefore, John the Baptist must also have had original sin, but no personal sins whatsoever. John the Baptist never committed the least personal sin in his entire life, not even a single, semi-deliberate venial sin. John the Baptist never committed even the least of sins in his heart, mind, words, or actions.
The Words of Jesus about John
Blessed Anne Catherine Emmerich spoke of John the Baptist, based on her visions from God.
"He sees, he knows, he speaks only Jesus…. In the desert, blameless and pure as a babe in the mother's womb, he comes forth from his solitude innocent and spotless as a child at the mother's breast. 'He is pure as an angel,' I heard the Lord say to the Apostles. 'Never has impurity entered into his mouth, still less has an untruth or any other sin issued from it.' " 8
According to Blessed Anne Catherine, Jesus taught the Apostles about the great holiness of John the Baptist. To avoid speaking any untruth and any other kind of spoken sin is to be perfect (James 3:2). And to be pure as an angel, one would have to be sinless.
How was John the Baptist able to avoid all sin? Sacred Scripture tells us the words of the angel who spoke to Zechariah about his future son (John the Baptist). " '…he will be great before the Lord…and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit, even from his mother's womb." (Lk 1:15). John the Baptist was filled with the Holy Spirit even before he was born, when he was a child in his mother Elizabeth's womb.
When was John the Baptist filled with the Holy Spirit? Sacred Scripture describes the visit of the Virgin Mary to Elizabeth. "And when Elizabeth heard the greeting of Mary, the babe leaped in her womb; and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit…." (Lk 1:41). When Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit, so too was the child within her womb filled with the Holy Spirit. At that time, the child Jesus was in the womb of the Virgin Mary, and John the Baptist was in the womb of Elizabeth. Thus, it was through Jesus, present in the Virgin Mary's womb, that the Holy Spirit was sent upon Elizabeth and upon John the Baptist.
The Least in the Kingdom of God
" 'I tell you, among those born of women none is greater than John; yet he who is least in the kingdom of God is greater than he.' " (Lk 7:28).
If John has original sin, but no personal sins whatsoever, then how can the least in the kingdom of God be greater than he? The usual interpretation of this passage is that the kingdom of God here refers to the Church on earth, and that Jesus was saying that even the least Christian is greater than John the Baptist. That interpretation is false. What honest Christian, who goes to confession and admits to God his/her own sins, would stand up and say that they are greater than John the Baptist? John was filled with the Holy Spirit, even before he was born. John lived in self-denial and prayer in the desert from his childhood until his ministry to prepare the Lord's way (Lk 1:80). John was chosen by God to baptize our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Even we Christians today who have the Sacraments, and the New Testament, and the Teaching of the Catholic Church (things which John mostly lacked), are not holier or greater than John.
In this passage from Sacred Scripture, the kingdom of God refers to Heaven, and the least in the kingdom of God means the least souls who are in Heaven. All the souls in Heaven are greater even than John the Baptist was, when he was on earth, because the souls in Heaven have been freed from all their sins, including original sin. And even the least of the souls in Heaven has the Beatific Vision, that is, they see God and are one with Him. 9
During his entire lifetime, John the Baptist remained completely free from all personal sin, by means of the grace and redemption which came to him from Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ through the most Holy Virgin Mary. Of all those persons with original sin, none is, or ever will be, greater than John the Baptist, not even the holiest of canonized Saints, because, by grace of the Holy Spirit, John never committed the least personal sin whatsoever.
1. Ineffabilis Deus, Apostolic Constitution issued by Pope Pius IX on December 8, 1854.
2. The term 'virgin birth' means born solely by a miracle of God, without any part of the usual process of delivery. First the child is inside the womb, next the child is outside the womb, without having traveled through any place in-between, and the transfer from in the womb to out of the womb is accomplished solely by a miracle. In view of the perfect Virginity of Jesus Christ and His Most Blessed Mother, no other definition of the term virgin birth would be sufficient or acceptable.
3. Blessed Anne Catherine Emmerich, The Life of the Blessed Virgin Mary, (Rockford, Illinois: TAN Books and Publishers, Inc., 1970), p. 217.
4. For more on the Virgin Births of Jesus and Mary, see my booklet, the Virginity of Jesus and Mary, available at CatholicPlanet.com.
5. For more on the Virgin Conceptions of Jesus and Mary, see my booklet, the Virginity of Jesus and Mary, available at CatholicPlanet.com.
6. Blessed Anne Catherine Emmerich, The Life of Jesus Christ and Biblical Revelations, (Rockford, Illinois: TAN Books and Publishers, Inc., 1986), Vol. 1, p. 138.
7. Blessed Anne Catherine Emmerich, The Life of the Blessed Virgin Mary, p. 41.
8. Blessed Anne Catherine Emmerich, The Life of Jesus Christ and Biblical Revelations, Vol. 1, p. 416.
9. The expression 'kingdom of God' may also refer to the 'new earth' mentioned in the Book of Revelation (Rev 21:1-7).
-- by Ronald L. Conte Jr.
Note that St. Catherine of Siena also believed that John the Baptist never sinned.
once more I gave you the light to see your true path, namely, humiliation of yourself,
and you answered the Devil with these words:
'Wretch that I am, John the Baptist never sinned and was sanctified in his mother's womb. And I have committed so many sins, and have hardly begun to know them with grief and true contrition, seeing who God is, who is offended by me, and who I am, who offend Him.' "
Dialogue of Saint Catherine of Siena, A Treatise of Prayer.
See also: Dialogue of Saint Catherine of Siena, A Treatise of Prayer.