"First, we must carefully avoid sin, and every occasion of sin." Yes, that is what must be done, if the love of ourselves is to be a Christian love. We must carefully avoid sin. In the first place, we must be willing and determined to suffer every possible pain, to die a hundred, nay, a thousand times, rather than ever to commit even one mortal sin. More than that, we must strive very earnestly with the help of divine grace, to keep from committing even the smallest venial sins. Venial sins easily lead to the committing of mortal sin, and the committing of even one mortal sin puts the soul in danger of everlasting damnation. Hence the angel Raphael said to Tobias and his son, "They that commit sin and iniquity are enemies to their own soul." (Tob. 12: 10)
But it is not sufficient for the saving of one's soul only to avoid sin, particularly mortal sin, but it is also necessary to avoid the occasions of sin. This subject will be treated more fully at some future time. At present it will suffice if we remember this: It is absolutely necessary to avoid the proximate occasions of sin. By "a proximate occasion of sin" is meant any person, place or object that has been the means of leading one to commit a mortal sin, and that would lead one to commit the sin again if not carefully avoided. "If thy right eye cause thee to offend, pluck it out and cast it from thee; for it is better for thee that one of thy members should perish than that thy whole body should be cast into hell." (Matt. 5: 29) These words of Christ teach us the necessity of avoiding the proximate occasion of sin, if we wish to make sure of saving our souls.
"Secondly, if nevertheless we have sinned, we must not delay to do sincere penance." What does that mean? You may be ever so earnestly resolved to avoid every mortal sin, yet it may happen that you will knowingly and deliberately commit one. Human nature is very weak, and temptations sometimes are very strong. If you have had the misfortune to commit a mortal sin, what must you do or not do" You "must not delay to do sincere penance," says the catechism. As soon as you become aware that you have committed a mortal sin, you must turn away from the sin and return to your grievously offended God by making an act of contrition and humbly asking His pardon. See that you make an act of perfect contrition, and to it also add the resolution of going to confession at the very next opportunity. But do not stop with making this resolution - go, to confession as soon as the opportunity presents itself. Nay, do not wait for the opportunity to come, but go and seek it. It is easy to find, morning noon, or night. Remember that it is the most dangerous thing that you can do, to live on in the state of mortal sin without a thought of doing "sincere penance." "Delay not to be converted to the Lord," says Holy Writ, "and defer not from day to day; for His wrath shall come on a sudden, and in the time of vengeance He will destroy thee." (Eccles. 5: 8-9)
"Thirdly we must earnestly endeavor to practice virtue, and to do good works." To save one's soul it will not be enough to avoid sin, however carefully that might be done. It is also necessary to practice virtue, it is necessary to perform good works. True, virtues are practiced to some extent and good words are performed by endeavoring to avoid sin. When you suppress your anger so as to keep yourself from saying or doing anything harsh or offensive, you thereby practice the virtue of meekness. When in time of illness and suffering you take care not to grumble or become discontented, you thereby practice the virtues patience and fortitude. By going to mass on Sunday, by fulfilling your Easter duty, by abstaining from meat and fasting on the days prescribed, etc. you avoid sin, and at the same time you perform good works. But virtues must be practiced and good works performed not merely in a negative way, that is, by trying to avoid sin, but in a positive way, by making the proper acts. Faith, hope and charity, for instance, must be practiced by daily making the acts of faith, hope and charity. You must perform works of piety by praying, receiving the sacraments, hearing sermons and instructions, etc. You must perform works of charity by exercising the corporal and spiritual works of mercy. You must perform works of mortification by denying yourself some of the pleasures and comforts of a worldly life, even though these pleasures and comforts may in themselves not be sinful. "Wherefore, brethren," thus St. Peter exhorts us, "labor the more, that by good works you may make sure your calling and election." (II Peter 1: 10)
Source: The BeeHive by A.M. Grussi, Imprimatur 1908