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Sunday, March 21, 2010

Spirituality: A Short History of Sin – Part 1 of 5

Sin: A Failure to Bother to Love
(Note: This term is used by James Keenan, S.J. as a description of sin. Many of these comments are attributed to Keenan’s theological work on sin and morality.)

For centuries, Christians have held an overly simplistic view of sin. We called sin anything we did wrong. In many ways, we have “domesticated” sin. We believe sin is about wrong doing and not about bothering to love. We strive to do right, but with sin, sometimes we just don’t care. We fail to follow the Lord.

The Parable of the Good Samaritan is the classic example of simply not bothering to love. The one who loves in that story is the Samaritan. Those who fail to love are the sinners. The Gospels attribute sin to those who don’t bother to love. Most people recognize their own wrongdoing, but it is harder to recognize our failures to love.

We develop blindness to sinning. It is the nature of sin to blind us and to dull our senses. It is difficult to spot a cold and uninterested heart. The hearts of sinners have not been ‘bothered” or “unsettled” – they are content, complacent, and rest assured.

Confessing one’s sins is illuminating. It uncovers our blindness. By actually naming where we did not bother to love we begin to see how deeply we sinned. Confession of sin is “effective.” Loving people regret the harm their shortcomings cause. Repentance is a summons from the outside. It challenges us to see where we did not bother to love, and it addresses the areas of our lives where we are strong – where we could have bothered. (pride, laziness, presumption)

Too often, we associate sin with weakness. In the Gospels, sin occurs where we are strong. We try hardest where we are weakest. Christ judges not the weak heart that struggles, but the strong one that does not bother.

Our tradition has viewed a moral act to be wrong when one of the conditions are wrong:
1. motives
2. act
3. circumstances

The sin is mortal (serious) rather the venial (less serious) when the following are in place:
1. sufficient reflection
2. full consent
3. grave action

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