Sin

Summary of Catechism paragraphs 1846-76:

  • Sin is failing to love God and neighbor; by insisting on our own way, even in violation of what is right, we set ourselves against God and turn away from His love; as a result, sin offends God.
  • This disobedience, rooted in pride, is not just a matter of breaking a rule; it reveals an excessive attachment to ourselves, our will, our desires, that injures our spiritual health and our relationship with God, as well as with others.
  • Sin has levels of gravity, a fact confirmed by 1 John 5:16-17; mortal sin, as its name implies, is deadly to the soul and imperils our eternal salvation; venial sin is a lesser offense, but still to be avoided.
  • Sin qualifies as mortal only if it involves grave matter (i.e., actions covered by the Ten Commandments), full knowledge (being aware of its gravity) and deliberate consent (freely choosing the evil); through fulfilling all three conditions, one commits a mortal sin, and thereby loses God’s sanctifying grace.
  • Honest ignorance, compulsions of an exterior or interior nature, or emotions that overwhelm our reason can all reduce our culpability; but a hard-hearted pretense of claiming not to know just exacerbates our sin.
  • If any one of the aforementioned three elements is lacking, it is a venial sin; even when venial sins involve minor matters, they strike at our charity, stunt our spiritual life, and over time, cause us to grow apart from God.
  • As with a bad habit, sin becomes ingrained; the more venial sins we commit, the greater our tolerance for sin, until it becomes all too easy to slip into mortal sin; our conscience can also be impaired by habitual sin.
  • Certain sins have been described as “capital,” from the Latin caput for “head,” because they give rise to other sins; the seven capital sins are pride, avarice, envy, wrath, lust, gluttony, and sloth.
  • God is eager to forgive us all of our sins, however grave, and restore us in His sanctifying grace; but if we persistently refuse to repent, and want nothing to do with His friendship, we spurn His offer of eternal salvation; this is the sin against the Holy Spirit that cannot be forgiven – not on God’s part, but on ours.
  • Although sin is inherently a personal choice, we can incur responsibility for the sins of others if we approve and support them, or if we don’t try to prevent their evil; thus sins can worm their way into society and institutions, leading to “structures of sin” that ensnare more people into wrongdoing.

Live Your Faith

A lively awareness of sin doesn’t make us wallow in guilt and self-loathing, but instead keeps us grounded in reality, and inspires us to praise God for His limitless mercy toward us.

As a loving Father, God wants to keep us safe and protect us from anything that would hurt us. Unfortunately, like rebellious children, we sometimes view His law as an unreasonable curb on our desires.

But if we develop the spiritual sensitivity to see how damaging sin is, we understand why it’s vital to take responsibility for our failings and seek the sacrament of Reconciliation. Only by knowing ourselves as sinners can we realize our great need for redemption.

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