Whatever Happened to Sin?

28 Sep

Perhaps it’s time for a real close look at the reality of sin — what it is and do we recognize sin for what it is?

“We just never hear about sin from the pulpit anymore – all those teenagers having experimental sex and young adults just living together and single women getting pregnant so they can have a child.”

That from a good Catholic woman who feels the stress and confusion of so many Catholics as they consider what their children and grandchildren are inheriting from our own generation.

However, there are more than sexual sins. For example, there are the sins of pride, intolerance, prejudice and greed.

Where did sin go? It’s still here, but somehow we don’t easily recognize it anymore. I have an observation about this:

Vatican Council II was filled with the wisdom of the Holy Spirit. It confirmed the Tradition of the Church and proclaimed anew the importance of Scripture in daily life as well as in worship. The council also set the Church smack dab into the world with all its beauty and ugliness – just as did the Son of God who became one of us and lived and still lives in the beauty and ugliness of the contemporary world.

In the local parish following Vatican Council II, we became involved in “implementing the changes” – for example, updating the liturgy and involving lay people in parish management and in ecclesial ministries. I think that we became so involved in “implementing” that we did not either grasp or pursue the major thrust of the council which, as I understand, was to bring us into the fullness faith . That fullness means we were to embrace the will of God and bring truth into the world of politics, economics, industry, education and marketing. We may not have understood that we were to embrace the world in all its beauty and ugliness.

This immediate and parochial concern, along with the decrease in priestly and religious vocations and the influence of horizontal mobility on our congregations, weakened our response to the outward thrust of Vatican Council II. Note especially a feverish increase in pluralism and an equally feverish increase in moral decay, insecurity in the face of war between nations and warring political parties here at home. The growing impact of secular media, amoral if not immoral, on the modern family also eats away at our faith.

So, do we need to refresh our memories about what sin is and is not?

Without the knowledge Revelation gives of God we cannot recognize sin clearly and are tempted to explain it as merely a developmental flaw, a psychological weakness, a mistake, or the necessary consequence of an inadequate social structure, etc. Only in the knowledge of God’s plan for man can we grasp that sin is an abuse of the freedom that God gives to created persons so that they are capable of loving him and loving one another (Catechism of the Catholic Church, No. 387).

Sin is as varied as an international buffet – but sin is not limited to what you choose or ignore as sin. A Christian cannot form a good conscience by personally deciding what is right or wrong without God’s truth at the center of such decision.

Perhaps we all need to examine our own druthers where the Gospel and Tradition are concerned. It’s easy to point fingers at others, but it’s not so easy to live a holy life and to love other sinners enough to help them come closer to God.

Finally, we need to live our faith out there in the beauty and ugliness of the contemporary world, giving witness to God’s merciful love and the unimaginable gift of his calling us into the very essence of his own divinity.


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