Thursday, January 10, 2008

From "Deadly Sin" ... to Alive in Christ!

From this weekend's readings:

If anyone sees his brother sinning, if the sin is not deadly, he should pray to God and he will give him life. This is only for those whose sin is not deadly. There is such a thing as deadly sin, about which I do not say that you should pray. All wrongdoing is sin, but there is sin that is not deadly. From 1 John 5:14-21

I don't know how I did it, but for the first thirty years of my life (including four years in Bible school), I managed to gloss over this passage in the Bible without ever stopping to think what it might mean. "Deadly" sin? Isn't all sin automatically forgiven the moment we become Christians?

Read it again. "If anyone sees his brother sinning..."

Therefore, we must assume that it is possible to fall out of grace through our own bad choices, even after we belong to God. This is what the early Church Fathers taught as well; they identified seven "deadly" sins: pride, envy, gluttony, lust, anger, greed, and sloth. Fortunately, the Church has always taught that by practicing the corresponding virtue, by God's grace, we can eradicate the habit of sin. These virtues include humility, trust, temperance, courage/modesty, compassion, generosity, and industry/prudence.

The Catechism distinguishes between mortal (deadly) and venial (not deadly) sin; sin that breaks our spiritual connection with God, vs. sin that damages but does not break it off altogether. Mortal ("deadly") sin, according to the Catechism meets three conditions: its object is "grave matter ... committed with full knowledge and deliberate consent" (CCC 1857).

The good news is that it is never too late to start over. There is no sin so great, but that God's love and mercy is not greater still. This is not cheap grace -- it cost God dearly to redeem the human race. Nor is that damage repaired without effort on our part. It requires repentance, restitution ... and, in some cases, a lifetime of deliberately and even painfully choosing the virtuous habit over the sinful one.

In the March/April issue of Canticle, I write about how I discovered this reality to be true in my own life, in an article called: "Tender Mercies: The Story of St. Faustina Kowalska" (to order a copy, call 800-558-5452). This was a difficult article to write -- I had to relive parts of my life that frankly I'd just as soon forget. And yet, I know there are others who (like I did) continue to struggle under the weight of the past. The good news is, you don't have to.

Lent is just around the corner now (is it possible?). And so it is a good time to take stock and resolve any outstanding issues that might still be niggling at your soul. Perhaps it's nothing that you've done, but something that was done to you. Something you can't get past, can't let go of.

Something just too awful to contemplate. I understand. More importantly, so does God.

As we enter the Lenten season, consider whether this might be the year to let the Great Physician plumb the depths of your heart, and take away that little hard spot you've never quite known what to do with. No matter how big and ugly it seems to you, it's nothing He can't handle. Go to Him and receive His healing touch in the sacrament of reconciliation. He's waiting for you!

Here's a song I grew up with, that I always think of when I remember that dark time in my life ... You can listen to it here. Here's the chorus:

He touched me, oh He touched me.
And oh, the joy that floods my soul.
Something happened, and now I know ...
He touched me, and made me whole.

God bless you!

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