Can Anyone tell us we sinned? I get asked almost every weekend, is this action a sin. I have to resist just saying, what do you think or would you be asking if it wasn’t. Too many people have the wrong notion of how to determine a sinful act and I know who to blame. I blame years of poor teaching on our part. So when I hear, I did (fill in the blank), is it a sin, I need to do a little teaching first.
Defining sin, people constantly ask, if I am sure. To avoid people thinking I’m making this up, here is the Catechism of the Catholic Church’s definition:
1849 Sin is an offense against reason, truth, and right conscience; it is failure in genuine love for God and neighbor caused by a perverse attachment to certain goods. Sin wounds the nature of man and injures human solidarity. It has been defined as “an utterance, a deed, or a desire contrary to the eternal law.
To just add a bit more Church talk a mortal sin must meet this conditions:
1857 For a sin to be mortal, three conditions must together be met: “Mortal sin is sin whose object is grave matter and which is also committed with full knowledge and deliberate consent.”
Having worn contacts since the mid 70’s this is a very painful image. Even a piece of dust under a contact is like the Rock of Gibralter under there. I have taken them out while driving and many of other times to stop the pain.
I used to take this as just another analogy of worrying about your own salvation before that of others, but this year with the who series of readings and preaching almost everyday, I came to realize a deeper meaning.
When there is a foreign object in our eye, we can’t see at all, no less to remove a splinter from anyone’s eye. We need to be able to see clearly to do that. Basically our sins keep us from seeing others and the world clearly. The challenge of this is the for us to really see the world and others as God created them, we have to be working on forgiveness for our sins and I am not sure we ever get there in this world, so the real point is that we need to be there for our brothers and sisters, but not be judging them as we will be judge as we judge others.
If you know me you guessed it, we are back to Reconciliation…
This brings us to what the true use of the Sacrament of Reconciliation should be. The Sacrament isn’t about just reading off a list of sins and coming back the next time with the same list of sins. It is about our conversion to living the life that God’s has called us to and created us for. I worry that we worry that we have done at a basic action level, and not enough about what it is underneath that causes us to sin in the first place.
So as we remove the plank in our eye, we see the world more clearly and with that clarity we can see what God is calling us to and in that process we worry much less about the splinter in the eye of a neighbor.
I was told this by a young person after asking, why do you think “x” is a sin. The full answer was “I don’t think it is a sin, but I’m afraid of hell and am ‘hedging’ my bets.” This betrays a belief that God can be “played” or that God really doesn’t know what is in our hearts. More importantly, it points to what in my opinion and that of a few priest friends is an abuse of the sacrament of Reconciliation. No wonder our protestant brothers and sisters have serious questions about that sacrament.