You’ve heard the phrase in the title. I bet you have even formed a little catalog in your head of what is included. There are probably things in your list that include a lot of “forgetting”. You know: I forgot to; make my bed, hang up my clothes, increase my donation, visit grandma, fast on Friday, go to Mass. We tend to group our omissions into all the categories that we control. There’s a perspective, though, that focuses the concept with a different view that could be important to your personal spiritual life and the way it impacts others.
Omission is something we tend to minimize as ”not so much” and put it a notch below things like murder and adultery on our sin scale. It’s almost like we have a sin ranking list in our head. We make an executive decision that we are O.K. if we haven’t done any of the biggies. Maybe we should take another look at the real definition of sin. I guess there is a certain kind of comfort in believing that we are the only ones that our omissions effect and that we can always square up the little stuff with God, later. The classic definition of sin comes from the Catechism:
1849 Sin is an offense against reason, truth, and right conscience; it is failure in genuine love for God and neighbor caused by a perverse attachment to certain goods. It wounds the nature of man and injures human solidarity. It has been defined as “an utterance, a deed, or a desire contrary to the eternal law.” (Note: the Catechism uses numbered paragraphs to reference topics. 1849 is not a year citation.)
It seems logical enough to think of sin as a “me and God” thing. You’ll notice that this quote mentions nothing about doing something to God. Rather it points to love and what happens to others when we sin, couched in terms of love. People are wounded, they are made to think of themselves as “less than” and it breaks the human spirit. In other words, love is denied. With a focus on that idea, then, when do you sin? Every time you blame, whenever you direct anger at someone, when you ignore someone, don’t greet someone, cheat someone, ridicule someone whether they are present or not, steal from others, deny the presence of others. Basically, whenever we do anything that omits someone else’s humanity is sin.
No more hiding behind the idea that since you haven’t murdered, committed adultery, coveted, you haven’t really sinned. Maybe it’s time to rethink your attitude about life. Sin wounds others as much as it wounds the sinner. Could it be time for you to be kinder, move loving, more generous, more patient? Maybe even strangers deserve these gestures from you? What would happen if you lived even one day with a keen awareness of what sin is in the eyes of God? Would that have the power to change your life, circumstances, relationships? Could it be that all the teachings on sin, repentance, and confession are even more on target than you ever believed? Does the teaching of our Church really have the solution to woundedness that can’t be healed any other way? Go and sin no more!
Copyright© 2017, Kathryn M. Cunningham