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Sense of sin

By Fr. ROY CIMAGALA, roycimagala@gmail.com
March 25, 2014

IT is inherent in our rational nature that we develop an idea of what is right and wrong. As soon as we are old enough to use our reason, aside from perceiving and knowing things, we start to distinguish what is good and evil.

Obviously, our capacity to distinguish good from bad starts in a primitive stage, kind of shallow and very limited in scope, based solely what we see and feel, and not much more. But with time, experience and education, this capacity grows and hopefully matures.

It is for this reason that we all have the need to base ourselves on the very foundation of reality, the very source of what is moral and immoral. This is none other than God, the author and creator of the universe.

Grounding our capacity to distinguish between right and wrong on another basis would set us on the offside. Sadly, this is what is happening these days. There seems to be a systematic distancing from God and a growing dependence on our own ideas, ideologies, philosophies, and other methods that practically ignore or are even hostile to God.

We need to remind ourselves strongly these days that we need God for us to know and judge properly. We just cannot depend entirely on our legal and technological systems, for example, no matter how sophisticated they have been developed.

For this to happen, we need faith to give substance and direction to our reason. Reason cannot stand on its own. It is incomplete without faith. In practical terms, this means we need to overcome our tendency to make ourselves the standard, the ultimate lawgiver.

It is God who is all of these, and we need to enter into an intimate relation with him to know and judge things properly. Thus, we need to pray, to talk to him and get to know and love him more and more. We need to study his teaching, now the doctrine of the Church. We need to develop virtues, have recourse to the sacraments. Only then can we be intimate with God, and live and work always with him.

One big problem that the world today faces is the loss of the sense of sin. Many people do not anymore know what sin really is. Many think sin is only a matter of what is legally prohibited, socially tabooed, politically incorrect, or what is unpopular, what turns out to be a failure in some sense, etc.

This loss of the sense of sin, greatly lamented by many saints and popes, is mainly due to our drifting away from God. Thus, we are now even legalizing what are actually outright sins like abortion, contraception, many forms of sensuality and corruption, etc.

These developments reflect what St. Paul once said: “For many…are enemies of the cross of Christ, whose end is destruction, whose God is their belly, and whose glory is in their shame, who mind earthly things.” (Phil 3,17)

To have the proper sense of sin, we need to meditate on the passion, death and resurrection of Christ. There we can see both the ugliness of sin as well as the unending mercy of God, since as St. Paul also said, “where sin has abounded, grace has abounded even more.” (Rom 5,20)

Yes, it’s our faith more than our reason alone that captures the true essence of what is sinful. It’s also our faith that gives us hope where reason tends to plunge us into despair whenever we consider our attitude toward our sinfulness.

Our faith teaches us how to deal with sin. It tells us that whenever we are tempted, let us be tempted always with Christ and not simply by ourselves, so that we would know how to overcome the devil with Christ also. We cannot do this just by ourselves.

Let’s be convinced that in this life we cannot avoid temptations. But as St. Augustine once expressed it, if we are with Christ, the temptations can serve to occasion spiritual progress, since “no one knows himself except through trial, or receives a crown except after victory, or strives except against an enemy or temptations.”

As St. James said in his letter, we are put to the test to make us patient, since patience would make us “fully-developed, complete, with nothing missing.” (1,4)

We just have to humbly accept our guilt, but neither should we forget the unfailing mercy of God. We should not be afraid or ashamed to acknowledge our sin. But we should neither be despondent of God’s mercy. His delight is to forgive us!