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Psychological Healing
in the Catholic Mystic Tradition

Questions and Answers

Well, then, are we justified by faith or by works?

Outline of the Answer
• Introduction
• Justification
• Salvation
• The Truth that Refutes False Beliefs
• The Wedding Banquet
• The Psychology of Desire
• Spiritual Battle

Saint Paul says it quite clearly: “. . . a person is not justified by works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ . . .” (Galatians 2:16). And yet Saint James says, “What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him?” (James 2:14). Confused? Well, I don’t blame you. Let’s see, then, what all this means in plain English.


Paul is speaking about justification (which is also called redemption). Our redemption is a gift from God and totally unmerited on our part. There’s nothing we have to do—or can do—to earn it or be worthy of it. To be redeemed is to be rescued—rescued from a life of slavery to evil and sin. Thus no one can get into heaven through his or her own effort. God is offering us a great gift of everlasting life, and only through faith in Christ as the One who showed us the path to divine love can we receive that gift of love.


But notice that we are still creatures of free will. Even with faith in Christ we can still commit sin, if we will it. Saint James, then, speaks about the matter of our salvation. This amounts to saying that even though we can’t get into heaven by our own efforts, we can easily enough, through our own actions, send ourselves right to hell. That’s why Saint Paul tells us to “work out your salvation with fear and trembling” (Philippians 2:12b).

Thus it can be said in summary that redemption is a gift from God, worked out through the sacrifice of Christ, while salvation is a matter of our own personal responsibility. If we accept the gift of redemption, renounce sin, and live a holy lifestyle thereafter, until the end, we will be saved from being excluded from heaven.

The Truth that Refutes False Beliefs

Persons who take statements from the Bible out of context and therefore too literally can fall into a trap filled with many false beliefs about the nature of our salvation. Below are some spiritual truths that are often “disproved” by recourse to incorrectly understood Biblical passages.

God created us good. Everyone is a sinner (Romans 3:23), dead in his sins (Ephesians 2:1), full of evil (Mark 7:21-23), unable to understand spiritual truth (1 Corinthians 2:14), does not seek for God (Romans 3:11), is a slave to his own sinful nature (Romans 6:14-20), and is hostile in mind and deed to God (Colossians 1:21). These are all truths about our fallen state, ut not about our true nature as created by God. It is a Protestant self-deception to claim that we are inherently evil.

Salvation is open to all souls. When Saint John said that no one can come to God unless it has been granted to him from the Father (see John 6:65), he did not mean that salvation is open only to a select few predestined by God. He meant that we cannot fabricate our own salvation and that we are all dependent on God’s grace, which is given to all. Nevertheless, because of free will, not all of us are willing to accept that grace. Those who do accept the grace of redemption can then take up the task of working out their salvation with fear and trembling (Philippians 2:12b); hence they are the “elect” in the sense that they belong to the community of saints who through their free will have elected to seek their salvation from hell.

Gender differences are important in the Church. When Saint Paul said that there is neither Jew nor Greek, neither bond nor free, and neither male nor female in Christ Jesus (see Galatians 3:28), he meant that there are no factions in the community of saints based in nationality or race or gender. He did not mean that there are no differences in the roles men and women have in the Church.

Salvation is not guaranteed to any individual. When Christ said that His “sheep” shall never perish and that no one can take them out of His hand (see John 10:27-28), He did not mean that no Christian can fall away into doom. He meant that those who stay faithful to Him will not perish; hence, any Christian can perish who turns away from Christ through unrepentant sin. Thus even though no exterior power can separate us from Christ, when under the influence of temptation we can, through our own free will, take ourselves out of His hands and send ourselves to our doom.

The Wedding Banquet

Think of justification, then, as a sort of ticket to the heavenly wedding banquet. Christ is our ticket to that wedding banquet. He freely gives Himself to everyone. At the door to the banquet, we are admitted when we present that ticket in faith. No other ticket will be honored, nor can we earn a ticket through our own efforts. But, even if we have a ticket, if we have not renounced sin and kept His commandments to live a pure and fruitful life—that is, if we have not put on the wedding garments provided by Him—we will be thrown out of the banquet into the darkness (see Matthew 22:1-14).

The Psychology of Desire

Now, we might wonder why anyone would refuse to put on the wedding garment that is so freely offered with such grace. Well, here is where psychology comes into play. Our wills are motivated by desire, and desire is largely unconscious. In fact, it is through the “desire of the Other”— such as in social media, movies, TV, music, and advertising—that we become “infected” with the evil of anti-Christian values without even being aware of it. Moreover, there are powerful, unconscious parts inside all of us that are so terrified of abandonment and loss, and so caught up in resentment and anger, that they will refuse holiness itself in order to seize from the world any satisfaction and pleasure they can get, pursuing their desires at all costs, even if the ultimate cost is hell itself.

Well, that’s a terrifying thought. It’s even more terrifying once you wake up and realize that this sort of battle is really happening right now, right under your own nose.

Spiritual Battle

This battle, however, is not a battle to overpower and defeat evil; the battle is a personal struggle to keep evil out of your life. The entire Church Militant is faced with this spiritual battle—but it cannot be fought just with a manual of prayers for you to recite with your lips. Christ Himself taught us that the real weapon against evil must come from deep within the heart: deny yourself. Stop seeking self-gratification from secular pleasures and you will be immune to the unholy desires of the corrupt world around you. As you take up the humble task of healing your darkest wounds by surrendering your pride and defensive identity, you can become aligned with God’s will. To do this, though, it will be necessary to take hope in psychological purgation through your own dark night of soul.

That’s why Saint Paul, right as he speaks about justification by faith, in the very same paragraph, emphasizes this point: “I have been crucified with Christ” (Galatians 2:19). Thus, unless your life ends in crucifixion—at least, psychological crucifixion, the death of ego and pride—you’re putting your salvation into your own hands, not God’s. But if you accept your crucifixion freely and willingly with chaste purity of heart and with ardent desire for God’s love, you have all the hope and all the mercy in the whole universe available to you in the battle against evil.


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Psychological Healing in the Catholic Mystic Tradition

by Raymond Lloyd Richmond, Ph.D.

A treasure of a resource for psychological and spiritual healing. Information gathered from my websites is now available at your fingertips in book form with a comprehensive index.
Psychological defenses help to protect us from emotional injury, but if you cling to the defense mechanisms that were created in your childhood and carry them on into adulthood—as most everyone does unconsciously—your quest for spiritual healing will be thwarted by overwhelming resentments and conflicts.
Still, God has been trying to show you that there is more to life than resentment and conflict, something so beautiful and desirable that only one thing can resist its pull: hate.
So now, and in every moment until you die, you will have a profound choice between your enslavement to old defenses and the beauty of God. That decision has to come from you. You will go where you desire.

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