Updated: May 30
In reviewing the book Everyday Theology: for Catholic adults by Daryl Olszewski, I have come to the conclusion that too many people understand sin only in an external way. They think it means 'Doing something wrong' or 'breaking the law', or even simply 'getting caught breaking the law'. Of course, doing something wrong is part of the reality of sin; and other important factors in sinfulness are the internal quality of the deed, the intention of the person, and the person's relationship with others, especially God. To be more specific, sin is: -A deliberate choice to do something which is known to be both wrong and sinful. -It is a choice made with full knowledge that the deed is wrong, hence we must be free in our decision to sin. -The deed must weaken our love for God and for other people and impair our growth toward wholeness. Sin masks itself to look good, otherwise we would not be so attracted to it. Hence, Reconciliation can be a painful process of cutting away all the sophisticated ways we have learned to hide our weakness to be proud, selfish, dishonest, unfaithful, unjust and prejudice. In the past, we considered sins of this nature, not as mortal or serious because we viewed the Sacrament of Reconciliation in more legalistic terms such as breaking the laws of the Church like missing Mass on Sunday. However, living a good Christian life becomes a problem if we are making decisions in their legalistic context. Fr. Melvin Lloyd Farrell S.S. (1930-1986), who was the inspiration for Everyday Theology, states that the Christian life is founded on the Gospel, which is 'an invitation to freedom' and that we should go to confession not to be legally exonerated before God, but to 'trustfully ask His forgiveness and help.' In reality, sin goes beyond simply breaking a moral code. Sin is both a decision and an action that weakens our relationship with God and others. So, when we think of sin our attitude should focus more on, "What can I contributed to my relationship with God" instead of "How for a can I go before something is sinful?" Jesus, who is our model, has laid out the path for us to follow. "Everyone who knows what the right thing is to do and doesn't do it commits sin." (St. James 4:17). With this knowledge and a Gospel-centered understanding of our faith, sin can properly be understood as a part of our daily lives, not in an obsessive or guilt-ridden way, but in a hopeful way. We must always consider ourselves to be asking for mercy like the publican in Jesus's parable. In it Jesus teaches us that the only way to keep growing is to realize that we often 'fall short of the mark', and that we need to be healed by a merciful God who is always ready to once again help us become whole. Fortunately, the Church provides a Rite or 'act of celebrating' our need to be healed through the Sacrament of Reconciliation. Thus, we come to learn that Conversion is more than a recitation of sins. I agree with both Father Farrell and Mr. Olszewski, when they state the Sacrament of Reconciliation is 'essential to our life of faith' and the human need to experience the 'act of forgiveness' in a very tangible, visible, real way. Confessing our sins to God privately would not satisfy our earnest desire to hear the words spoken and the signs given (absolution) thereby giving us the knowledge we are truly forgiven for our sins. Olszewski calls attention to the fact that by celebrating Reconciliation, we move from a numerical listing of offences over to a process of conversion and the celebration of that very conversion, (Pg. 70) and that the conversion process itself ( words spoken & signs given) lead us to reconciliation. I agree wholeheartedly with the author that the Sacrament of Reconciliation should not become a private affair between us and God. Confessing our sins to God in private is not the best means of bringing about sincere conversion. We must Confess our sins to a Priest who will reinforce and support God's calling for us to turn away from sin and be faithful to the Gospel.
Amen This Post was originally presented in my First Year for the Adult Faith Formation Program (1993-1997) of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Antigonish Published on April 26th, 1993. For Source for this article: Everyday Theology: for Catholic adults Chapter 13: The Sacrament of Penance-do we need it? pages 69-73 Chapter 14: The Sacrament of Penance-what do I say? pages 74-78 Written by Daryl Olszewski Hi-Time Publishing Corp. P.O. Box 13337, Milwaukee, WI 53213-0337
© Dr. Charles Warner 2021