Pope John Paul II said that modern society has lost a sense of sin and it is so true. We live in a time where sin is continually denied. What is evil is considered good and no one is allowed to say otherwise, or they are considered hateful. Through the prophet Isaiah, the Lord says, ‘Woe to those who call evil good and good evil… Woe to those who are wise in their own eyes and clever in their own sight’ (Is 5:20). That is exactly what we see around us at this time, even within the Church. I read recently that the German bishops are on the verge of breaking with Rome. They disagree with some of the moral teachings of the Church and believe that they know better, thanks to modern developments in science and psychology. ‘Woe to those who are wise in their own eyes…’ They are basically saying, we know better than God’s word.
Much of what was considered sinful in the past is now accepted as normal. If you go back a few decades, sex was only considered to be acceptable within marriage. Now look where we are. Largely because of TV and music videos, we have come to accept it as normal for any relationship, any time. Yet in the Scriptures, it is called fornication and it is a sin, which means it is offensive to God. While that might be considered old-fashioned, there is great wisdom in it for many reasons. If intimate relations are kept only for marriage, that would stop most sexually transmitted diseases instantly. It would also drastically reduce the amount of abortions. Research shows that teens who sleep around experience a higher rate of anxiety and depression. God in his wisdom knows what works best for us, just like any parent looking out for their children and He shows us what will work best, what will bring the greatest joy and peace, but we have to listen.
As we try and be faithful to the laws of God, we must also pass this teaching on to the next generation. If we don’t teach them what is respectful in church, what is morally right and wrong, who will? TV and internet are probably the biggest sources of influence for most people, especially the younger generation. We must not be afraid to point out what is right and wrong, even if everyone else is saying it is acceptable.
It is interesting that people who are considered holy, are referred to as God-fearing people, rather than God-loving people. Of course, God-fearing also implies God-loving. There is a healthy fear of God, just as there is a healthy fear of our parents. ‘I would never do that, because my mother would kill me!’ That is a healthy fear. ‘Fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom’ (Prov 9:10). We tend to focus more on the importance of knowledge, which is good, but knowledge without wisdom can be dangerous. In Nazi Germany, the people were well educated and had all the information and knowledge they needed, but there was no wisdom, which led to terrible evil. A very important thing to pray for, is wisdom, knowing what is important and what is acceptable to God. It is an ongoing choice for us to keep asking what God wants us to do and the answers are in the Scriptures, which is why we keep going back to them. If we want to negotiate all the obstacles we are facing, we have to keep asking God to guide us.
One of the central teachings throughout the Bible, is repentance for the forgiveness of sins. It is mentioned in the first reading and the Gospel today. Jesus sends the Apostles out to preach repentance for the forgiveness of sins. John the Baptist preached a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. When the Apostles started preaching, Peter said, ‘Repent therefore and be converted, that your sins may be wiped away’ (Acts 3:19). The blood of Jesus was shed for the forgiveness of sins. Throughout the Old Testament God continually called the people to repent of their sins, not just individually, but also as a society. God calls us to do the same. That is something that we have also lost sight of to a large degree. ‘It is several years since my last confession, but I haven’t really sinned.’ In St. John’s first letter he says, ‘If we claim we have not sinned, we make God out to be a liar’ (1 Jn 1:10). If sin is not real, the crucifixion is meaningless and there was no need for Jesus to come among us.
Scripture says, ‘Though the righteous falls seven time, he gets up again.’ In other words, we continually fall, but we also continually get up again, repent.
One of the lines that strikes me repeatedly is where Jesus says, ‘Not everyone who says to me “Lord, Lord”, will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father in heaven.’ (Matt 7:21). It is easy to say I am a Christian and I love God, but Jesus says that is not enough. We must do the will of the Father in heaven. He is saying that if we want to go to heaven, we must do the will of the Father in heaven.
Recently I read an article where a young lady was saying that she wasn’t going to let her Christian faith stop her from putting pictures of herself on one of these adult websites, where she could make money from it, as if the two were compatible. They are not. It is not those who say, ‘Lord, Lord, who will enter the kingdom of heaven, but those who do the will of my Father in heaven.’
Everything that God commands us and shows us, is to help us, because He loves us. Even when He punishes the people for the sinfulness, it is out of love for them so that they might repent and come back to him.
One of the consequences of Original Sin, is that we are not convinced that God is good, that God has our best interests at heart. Remember how it says that after Adam and Eve sinned, they hid from God. ‘Then the man and his wife heard the sound of the Lord God… and they hid from the Lord God among the trees’ (Gen 3:8). Suddenly they were afraid of God, although they hadn’t been up to that point. They were no longer convinced that God was good and that He had their best interests at heart. The effects of their sin has carried through to us and as a result we are not always convinced that what God tells us is sinful, is really that bad. I need to accept God’s word as truth, because it comes from God, even if I don’t understand it. If you are questioning whether something is no longer sinful, read the Scriptures and the Catechism, because what is sinful rarely changes.
It is not those who say to me ‘Lord, Lord, who will enter the kingdom of heaven, but those who do the will of my Father in heaven.’