From Sin To Salvation
There is a difference between Catholicism and Catholics as there is a difference between the ideal and the real. While standing united under the banner of the Roman Catholic Church, there is a uniqueness in our believing. Differences may arise in the degree of devotion one has for certain prayers and rituals or the intensity one feels for particular moral issues, yet be clearly identifiable as a member of the Church. Tragically, there are many who have accommodated their sins and have distorted their beliefs to the point that their Catholicity has been reduced to a mere fondness for the name. In the presence of this community of faith, founded by Christ, fashioned by the apostles, and guided by the Holy Spirit, who are you and what are you becoming?
We are now immersed in the liturgical season of Lent. This penitential season of forty days challenges us to take stock of our spiritual state of being and to take action in respect to improving and enriching our characters. God has placed us in a creation where good and evil coexist. The fate of the individual and often the fate of nations depend on the wit and wisdom of human free will confronted with the choice between good and evil. Nothing of worth can be achieved during Lent unless we possess a keen awareness of the influence of grace and sin on our lives. This can be accomplished only in the face of personal honesty.
I remember a homily delivered by the principal (a priest) of a local Catholic high school to the student body during an Ash Wednesday Mass. He related a part of a conversation that he had with a former student who had become a rather successful businessman: "You know, Father, I'm not an angel. I don't do everything right all the time, but at least I know right from wrong. Father, I have a number of friends who don't even know (right from wrong)." In my opinion, those words: "don't even know" are among the most terrifying words that can be said of the people of any land and of any age. All of the tyrants and dictators throughout history have suffered from this malady. Let us then seek to know the nature of grace and of sin.
In the Old Testament, grace is living a life of "righteousness" before God. Keeping the law of God alive in one's heart leads to a spiritual "peace" which is a state of harmony with God and neighbor. This suggests the Great Commandment of Jesus that one must love God, neighbor, and oneself. Sin results in the lack of this God-given peace. The wicked are deprived of God's peace and whatever peace they experience is neither authentic nor lasting. Sin is often described as "missing the mark" in the sense of an archer missing the bull's eye. It is a failure to live up to the expectations of God's covenant with His creation. The Old Testament also considers sin as living a life of spiritual and moral deformity or as in rebellion against God and neighbor. In order to restore a sinner to God's peace. The person must be converted - a true change of heart - from sinful to righteous living. Only God can forgive sin and reconcile the sinner.
In the New Testament Jesus establishes a new and everlasting covenant between God and all people. God's love extends to the sinner desiring reconciliation, but the sinner must grasp reclamation by turning from sin and seeking God's grace. While there are as many sins as there are acts of love, I have gleaned the following partial list of sins mentioned in the New Testament: pride, idolatry, adultery, stealing, usury, drunkenness, slander, cheating, fornication, jealousy, envy, murder, self-indulgence, foul language, impurity, greed, maliciousness, and spitefulness. All transgressions of love are sin. We need to know and understand the teachings of Christ and the Church in order to form a right conscience. In faith we must pray for God's grace and an increase of the gifts of the Holy Spirit such as: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, truthfulness, gentleness and self-control.
I believe that it is evident that sin is born of pride and self-worship with the concomitant degradation of the value and even the humanity of other people. God's grace is an indwelling of the Spirit and of the full potential of human love.
That preacher Billy Sunday once said: "One reason sin flourishes is that it is treated like a cream puff instead of a rattlesnake." May we heed these words as we make our Lenten journey toward Easter.
From the Breastplate of Saint Patrick
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