During my studies in the Master Catechist program over the past few years, I took a course called, Conscience. One of the weekly discussion questions was: How would you define sin for your students or in a conversation with another Catholic?
My answer: Sin is the human failing or weakness to uphold what is right, good, and responsible. Sin is a choice that can be made with or without emotional involvement, but may have a severe emotional aftermath. Sin is a wall that is continually built up between the individual and God that can only be broken down by forgiveness. Sin is the opposite of virtue. Sin without relief by forgiveness and mercy is terminal for the individual’s soul. Sin can be categorized in degrees of intensity, but sin is still bad and adverse.
Sin does not involve just one person, it affects those around the person and has even farther ramifications, it is almost never an isolated situation. Sin hurts society and left unaided builds and proliferates making sin easier and easier to both commit and excuse.
When we discussed sin in our homeschool catechesis studies, I took to the chalkboard in our kitchen and made a dot in the middle of the board and described sin like throwing a pebble in a pond and watching the ripples grow away from it. I asked the girls to tell me a sin to get started. They said, doing something wrong and telling a lie about it. We would make up a scenario where one of the girls would lie about taking something or not doing something when confronted. The deed was the dot, and telling the first lie was the first ripple around the dot. Then the cover up begins and another lie is told to someone else, the second ripple forms, then their conscience starts to nag at them and they get moody and hurt someone’s feelings, the third ripple, then the person who got their feelings hurt gets mad at someone else, the fourth ripple, this stage can go on. But then the lie gets discovered which disappoints us and we lose trust in the person, the family is hurt, and the cycle continues. One bad deed ends up affecting more people than just the one or two directly involved.
Unfortunately, in the present time, the concept of right and wrong has given way to having individual rights of freedom to do as we please. “If it doesn’t hurt someone else, just do it” I’ve heard some say. Loud music with the bass on all the way in a car in traffic, neighbors with noisy parties late into the night, spreading gossip/judgments about others, inappropriate attire at the grocery store, just to name a few ‘innocent’ rights that really do affect others in adverse ways. Our world is getting smaller and smaller with the internet proliferating everywhere, mobile phones in everyone’s hands, and statuses changing by the minute on social networks. Sin, then, must be making new strides in new ways that many of us cannot control much less at times realize.
Confession is not utilized as it should, we should be packing the Church every Saturday with as many times as we have infringed on our neighbor, hurt someone, said something wrongful or hurtful. We do these things without even realizing we have sinned. Here is a helpful was to evaluate how we are doing each day:
General Examination of Conscience
The general examination of conscience is a simple form of prayer directed toward developing a spiritual sensitivity to the special ways God approaches, invites and calls.
It may be done at the end of each day, though it can be done more frequently as the person feels drawn. The more frequently performed, however, the more natural it becomes and more a way of growing into an ever-closer relationship with God. It can take anywhere between five and fifteen minutes, although it does not matter how long one spends. The important thing is to open oneself to recognizing and responding to God’s movement in your heart.
St. Ignatius' General Examination of Conscience
1. Give thanks to God our Lord for the favors received
2. Ask for the grace to know your sins
3. Examine how you have lived this day
4. Ask forgiveness for any faults
5. Resolve to amend with the grace of God
Sin, we commit one at least every day and we need forgiveness. Confession is a beautiful sacrament and opportunity to see our sins as they are and start over with a clean slate. Consider taking a trip to your local Catholic Church this weekend, or call the office and make a special appointment to talk with a priest.