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Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Why It's So Hard to Admit We've Sinned

Today is the feast of St. Paul. He is certainly a saint for our times. He persecuted the early Church as a true believer and even approved the murder of St. Stephen. Yes, in the days before his conversion Saul could easily have been numbered among the members of P-FFAB: parents, family, and friends against blasphemers. He no doubt justified killing Christians as an act of love for Yahweh. The Christians had to be stopped by any means possible. He saw his sin as virtue and it took an act of God for him to change direction.

How many today don't recognize sin as sin because they have such a big stake in it and see it as a positive good? Fulton Sheen recognized that. If someone had a problem with a particular teaching of the Church, he urged them to look to their sin. Every dissenter I've ever known personally whether the issue was abortion, contraception, remarriage after divorce, etc. hated the teaching that identified what they wanted to do as a sin.

Rationalization is the human response to unrepented sin. Some married couples who contracept have serious reasons for doing so and justify it on that basis. Couples who long for a child can't see in vitro fertilization as a sin when the desire for a baby is so good. And, of course, women who abort often face serious problems that make their sin such a "necessary" solution. They all choose what they see as a good; they rarely look at the offense that that thrust the spear into the side of Christ.

No one chooses sin, as St. Thomas Aquinas says; they choose the good they see and blind themselves to the sinfulness of the choice. The lustful choose the pleasure which in a sacramental marriage is a good. The greedy choose all the things that money can by which are not sinful in themselves but become idols. The slothful skip Mass to sleep in; a needed rest after an exhausting work week. It is likely, I think, that most people sin, even commit serious sin, out of ignorance and laziness rather than malice. And no one knows the depths of their culpability except God. Which is why we need, like the shepherd children of Fatima, to pray so hard for "poor sinners."

St. Paul, before his conversion, is the icon for spiritual blindness. He literally had scales covering his eyes and it was only when Ananias came and prayed over him that the scales fell away and he began to see. I say "began to see" because he was like the blind man Jesus cured who gained sight only gradually. Paul studied the faith for several years before he went out and began his missionary journeys. He did not immediately become the Apostle to the Gentiles.

Every one of us is a sinner and St. Paul's feast day is a good time to reflect on it. How many of us will be so grateful to God for his forgiveness that we will have the zeal to imitate Paul? We are more likely to say thanks at Mass and go home, turn on the computer, and play solitaire or World of Warcraft or immerse ourselves in the inanity of Facebook.

I recognize myself too much in that picture so I'm praying today for the zeal of St. Paul. I'm also praying that God will remove the scales from my eyes so I can see the state of my own soul and be convicted to change. I have no doubt that if I were not so spiritually blind I would love and serve God more faithfully than I do today. May he give me the grace to do it.

1 comment:

Old Bob said...

Good advice for me too. Thanks!