Saturday, February 25, 2012

Fallen Creation

Man abused his creation in the beginning at the behest of the tempter.  Mankind lost out on a good deal, original justice, in which we had full reign over our bodies, innocence, complete satisfaction of our material needs, and life in the garden of eden.  The evil one was able to persuade us to turn our backs on it all.

Paradoxically, we were able to sin because we were created in the image and likeness of God: free.  Sin demonstrates our likeness to God as it demonstrates our freedom to choose good or evil.  Ironically, this likeness to God--free choice, but of evil rather than good--becomes our negation of God as the Creator.

Man wants not only freedom to choose good and evil, but to "be like god knowing good and evil," meaning to determine it.  That is neither our prerogative nor the basis of our relation to God.  Sin is thus a negation of our relationship with him.

What would happen if men lost the sense of sin, which many Popes and philosophers have warned of?  Frankly, we live in a society that doesn't know what a sin is.

Who can believe in it, we ask ourselves?  How can something be a sin if it doesn't hurt anyone?  How can anything between consenting adults be a sin?  How can anything I do in the privacy of my own home be a sin?

Fr. John wryly noted of California that the only mortal sin left there was smoking, but only of tobacco.  (BTW, he's having a good time at the expense of the once Golden State.)  Personally, I think there's another: downloading copyrighted material.

How can missing Sunday mass, for instance, be a mortal sin.  Many get nothing from it, find it boring and irrelevant.  The cost-benefit analysis they apply to it yields the conclusion to ignore it.

Not assisting at mass is easy to rationalize.  It can't be as grave as shooting someone we say to ourselves; they can't both be mortal sins.

Or, the weekly requirement is just an arbitrary rule made by people in power to control our lives.  Indeed, maybe that's true of all morality.

The only way out of this morass is to focus on relationships.  Imagine that I had a girlfriend who professed deep love for me, but because we were both so busy with work, hobbies, friends, activities or even sleeping in, she'd like to limit our time together to just once per month.

I would conclude that her deeds spoke louder than her sweet words, and that she did not love me as much as she loved those other things.  It would kill our relationship.  In other words, it would be mortal.

It's the same way with God.  We can kill our relationship with him by our indifference.  That's why the matter in question is rightly called a mortal sin.

With regard to sexual morality, society considers Catholic teaching--which promulgates the sinfulness of even impure thoughts and glances--neurotic, unhealthy.  But, consider them in the context of a young couple's relationship.

If every, or any, salacious looking woman turned his head when he was with her, she wouldn't like it.  His protests that he wasn't doing anything to hurt her would likely fall on deaf ears.

Every glance would say "You have competition.  And, right now, you're losing."

Our imagination says the same thing to God.  "You're losing the competition right now.  Something else beats you, hands down."  It's a mortal sin because it kills the relationship with God.

The pharisee and the publican are instructive in this regard.  "The Pharisee stood up and prayed, 'God, I thank you that I'm not like other people! I'm not a robber or a dishonest person. I haven't committed adultery. I'm not even like this tax collector."

"But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, 'God, have mercy on me, a sinner.'

Some have identified the pharisee with ethics and the publican with grace.  That doesn't capture the story's significance.

Rather, the pharisee looks to himself, without relation.  He is self sufficient.  The publican on the other hand knows that he draws life from being in relation with God, the font of goodness, forgiveness, mercy and love.

Grace doesn't dispense with ethics.  It liberates it and sets in relation to God.

Conquering sin is not simply a matter of avoiding negatives.  Actually, the positive aspect is primary for relations.

Imagine that our hypothetical boyfriend doesn't look at the attractive woman passing by.  Rather, he turns instead to his beloved and looks her in the eyes.  The message will be clear: he loves me; he only has eyes for me.

God sees these things, too.  He knows how we handle temptation, and what it means to our relationships with them.

One can even learn to view temptation with anticipation, which makes it possible to show love for God with deeds.  Nobody, however, has to look for temptation, which will find us without our help.  But, one can seize it when it arises.

We know the remedy for sinfulness, confession, which we can take frequent and full advantage of.  Proportionality should be our guide.

Mass-on-Sunday Catholics should probably confess monthly for the sake of their relationships with God.  Daily mass goers will want to confess weekly or bi-weekly.

It's a matter of spiritual hygiene rather than of mortal sin.  We bathe and brush our teeth before offending anyone with our odor.  Why wait until the relationship with our Lord is damaged?  We don't want to repulse him.

We cannot be afraid to confront sin, as doing so is the way to our Lord.  By facing it, we overcome barriers and gain greater intimacy with him than we enjoyed before sinning.

We can ask our lady, refuge of sinners, to help us make a concise, concrete, clear and complete confession.  With contrition and reparation for our sins, and those of others, we can rekindle this most important relationship with Jesus Christ.


  1. Excellent post, Noman, especially on illuminating how seemingly non-lethal actions can nevertheless be mortal sins. A great illustration of the guarding-your-eyes relationship-killer is the short story by Irwin Shaw called "The Girls in Their Summer Dresses."

    Could you write some more on the meaning of "original justice"? That's always been a cypher for me.