Catholics give sin a lot of thought. When God created the world He created a paradise free of sin. In that world, God placed Adam, then Eve. He gave them free will and clear instructions. Life was good. Good until Satan succeeded in tempting Eve. That changed everything.
God could have just given up at that point. Yet, as undeserving as we are, He didn’t. Instead God sent us an instruction manual for life in the commandments. He loves us so much that he even sent His son to directly teach it to us. If that were not already enough, Jesus freely suffered a horrible death as punishment for our sins. Jesus died so that we do not have to.
Amen, amen, I say to you, whoever keeps my word will never see death.
This is the greatest gift we could ever get. In return, we are only asked to love the Lord and each other. We sometimes fail and that is sin.
Sin does not hurt God. He is disappointed but His love is infinite. Sin hurts us. When we give in to the devil’s temptations, we may think we benefit in some way but we do not. What we are doing is distancing ourselves from God or even breaking our relationship with Him. Catholics call these venial and mortal sins respectively. Mortal sins are grave sins, that we know are sins and deliberately commit anyway. They are mortal because they are a spiritual death by our separation from God.
We can sin in several different ways. It can be overt by what we say or do. It can be less obvious to others (not to yourself or God), but equally damaging, by what we think or fail to do. All sins put a heavy weight on us. They are a burden to our soul.
I know that much of this is familiar to all Christians. Some, like my friends Nick and Mike, take it to heart, avoid temptation and are truly sorry for their slips. That is good and will help them to live a Christian life and obtain salvation. On the other hand, some think they are saved by simply proclaiming their belief in Jesus (without the inconvenient necessity of living as He taught). Yet others believe a general corporate confession as part of their Sunday service will cover it without having to face the uncomfortable specifics.
Catholics believe you must clearly understand what are sins, face yours head-on and repair your relationship with God. There is no easy out or glossing over the shameful facts! You not only maintain a state of grace by doing this, but over time strengthen your defenses to temptation. This might be “uncomfortable” but is spiritually very healthy and required if you hope to actually live as a Christian.
Venial sins – a damaged but unbroken relationship with God – may be forgiven in several ways, including saying an act of contrition, the use of a sacramental (such as praying the Rosary or blessing oneself with holy water) or other acts of sincere repentance. They may also be repaired by receiving Communion – which Catholics do at least every Sunday at Mass (unless they have committed mortal sin and are thus not in a state of grace). The catechism says:
Communion with the Body and Blood of Christ increases the communicant’s union with the Lord, forgives his venial sins, and preserves him from grave sins. Since receiving this sacrament strengthens the bonds of charity between the communicant and Christ, it also reinforces the unity of the Church as the Mystical Body of Christ.
Mortal sins – a broken relationship with God – must generally be repaired through the absolution received in the Sacrament of Reconciliation (confession). This is the subject for my next post (update, see: Confession, getting out of deep trouble).
People often say Catholics have too many rules. In truth, these rules only push you to live the Christian faith you profess. As a Christian you must live as Jesus taught anyway, and the Catholic Church helps you to do that. This makes it easier, not harder, for me.