The Dimension of Sin
Theology speaks of mortal sins and venial sins (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1457-58).
Mortal sin is a rupture with God, a "death-dealing" separation from God, like a branch cut off from a tree that sustains it. It is a disobedience, an open and explicit rejection of God's will, His commandments, and the commandments of the Church. It deprives the sinner of God's friendship, breaking the filial bonds that bind him to his maker. This can occur in a direct and formal way, as in the sins of idolatry, apostasy, and atheism. Any act of formal disobedience to God commandments committed with full knowledge and deliberate conscience belong to this category. Mortal sin, as St. John says, leads to death.
Venial sin, however, does not lead to death. It does not reach the point of a turning away from God, but it does weaken the filial relationship we have with Him. We must be on our guard against venial sins. They weaken our Christian life, blunt our conscience, and can lead to serious sin.
Some theologians speak of "grave sins". Therefore, in the Church and pastoral ministry, as stated by the Pope, grave sin is in practice identified with mortal sin. It is a sin in a grave matter, committed with full knowledge and our full will.
Every sin has a spiritual dimension in the Church. Surely, a Christian who commits a mortal sin loses sanctifying grace and cuts himself from God, from Christ, and from His Mystical Body, the Church. He renounces his mission received at Baptism to be a sign and witness of Christ in the world. Every sin is a personal act, but it has its repercussions in society - in the family and in the social units of society. Unemployment, inadequate salaries, slums, illiteracy, hunger, exploitation, extortion, social injustice, tyranny, oppression . . . all these have their roots in sin, in the greed and selfishness of individuals.
Our true centre is God. We were created by Him and for Him. In the immortal words of St. Augustine: "You have created us, O Lord, for yourself; our hearts cannot rest but in you." We are essentially spiritual beings. What matters in our lives are things of the spirit - goodness, kindness, generosity, love, and magnanimity. Material things cannot satisfy our inner hunger. Toys may distract a child for a time, but they can never replace a mother's love.
The moment we forget this vital truth and create other centres, everything becomes topsy-turvy. That is our tragedy. We can ignore our true centre. We make other centres for ourselves - self, our own interests, our own pleasures. We have become "sęcular", only interested in the "here and now", the earthly city. Good and evil, right and wrong, norms of human conduct, values . . . all are judged in terms what we think is our happiness and well-being. Ultimately the centre is Self. Selfishness is the root of all evils. Materialism (that is, desiring possessions as our highest good), the never-ending pursuit of animal pleasures, the thirst to rule, dominate, and enslave people all belong to the worship of this idol and false centre - Self.
Unfortunately, this general deviation is exalted and promoted through the modern mass media - books, films, radio, television, internet - which can poison the social atmosphere and destroy the sense of God and sin. Today it seems that everything is permitted. Sin is not regarded any more as evil. The clear distinction between good and evil, virtue and vice, is blurred in many minds. This unhealthy atmosphere in which humanity lives and moves also adversely affects the lives of many Christians. The purpose of Our Lord's coming was to give a new direction to humanity, to re-orientate it, and make a return to our true centre, the God of love.
Next: Our Conversion
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