The Church understands sin to mean that someone knowingly chooses a creature over God; sin is a radical turning away from the Commands of God. It is even more, sin also means rejecting God, his reign and his kingdom of bliss; it means choosing to dwell on one’s own. Every sin, even the most private one has a community dimension, it is great wound on the body of Christ whose members we are.
All things including man owe their existence to God who himself is eternal/uncreated, they depend on him who is self-sufficient. Life is a gift of his Love. God who exists from all eternity, in his generosity, created everything to proclaim his love and man specially to share in this love. Man who was created to share had to be free to do so. No one can really enjoy if he is not free, you cannot be forced to swallow something and enjoy it at the same time. Your free choice matters a lot and determines whether you will either enjoy or loathe it.
God presents man with the choice of his love, with a promise of eternal union with himself; he says to him “the Lord who has made you out of nothing calls you to love him, I promise to make you happy for all eternity, believe in me, trust in my word. Before you were made, I was the only one you had, existing only in my heart, I loved you even when all else could neither know nor love you. Now that I have made you, all others can see and love you because I have made you, because I have given them love with which to love you; because I have myself loved you from the beginning”.
He himself came to seek out his people, to save them from their sins. The incarnation of Jesus means that the Second Person in God came to the world and assumed flesh from a woman who before hand had been prepared and made fit to house and nurture God.
GUILT AND TEMPORAL PUNISHMENT
Sin has a twofold consequence, 1. Grave sin causes separation from God, and makes one unable to attain eternal life, this is called the “eternal punishment”, 2) All sins, mortal or venial, creates an unhealthy attachment to created things (which must be cleansed either in this world or in Purgatory), this is called the “temporal punishment”.
“These two punishments must not be conceived of as a kind of vengeance inflicted by God from without, but as following from the very nature of sin. A conversion which proceeds from a fervent charity can attain the complete purification of the sinner in such a way that no punishment would remain” (CCC 1472)
Each sin is both an “aversio a Deum” and a “conversio ad creaturis”, a “turning away” from God, and a “turning to” created things. Sin results when in man’s choice, a created good is placed above the Creator. Man becomes guilty of grave sin when he rejects God in very serious decisions and chooses a created good instead. When a man turns back to God in conversion, the reverse becomes the case a “conversio ad Deum” and a concomitant “aversio a creaturis”.
Sin is an act of disobedience against God, it means following our own judgement, will, passions, instead of God’s word/invitation. It is good for one to follow his will, his passion, and his judgement, but must through them, seek what is pleasing to God first. This love would only be a response to the Sacrificial love of God towards us; which love was given us when we were still “enemies”; he sought us even when we hid from him.
God has invited man to communion with himself, he wishes to collaborate with man in making him better; in recreating and fine-tuning the world. Our acceptance of this invitation means obeying God’s simple terms, obeying the Moral Laws. Those moral laws are given for our optimal functioning, and to stay connected with God and his community the Church. When we obey him, and pursue what is good, we are saying “yes” to his call, when we sin we say “no”; we reject his place in our lives, and we are cut off from communion with him and his Community the Church. (i.e. when we sin mortally).
GOD’S ATTITUDE TOWARDS A SINFUL MAN
Our understanding of what God actually thinks of us is very vital in our spiritual journey. Many people have lost hope because of their immature understanding of God’s merciful love, which misinformation is sometimes fuelled by wrong religious imagination or the condemnation-oriented preaching of some so called pastors who sometimes capitalize on “the-wages-of-sin-is-death” kind of preaching. The love-call to conversion becomes seriously obscured in the quasi threat of death made in the Lord’s name to people who sometimes would have given their lives to God were they sure He would forgive them their many sins. The exaggeration of sin in the mind of man is justified, sin is very serious. What is unjust is the belittling of God’s mercy, which is always greater than any sin anyone can ever think of “Come now, let us reason together,” says the LORD. “Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red as crimson, they shall be like wool” – Isaiah 1:18. He is the one calling the sinner to “Come now”, he wants to make peace. He is constantly calling upon us to return, he is the one waiting to receive us with a warm hug. ”For I will be merciful toward their iniquities, and I will remember their sins no more.” Hebrews 8:12
Our personal image of God affects the way we speak of God and ultimately the way we approach him; the way we seek his mercy. Some wrongly picture God as a revengeful being who “inflicts punishment on the wicked“. Even those who suffer from very disturbing sinful habits; habits which cause them to weep and sincerely struggle to quit; even those who sincerely struggle to give themselves to God are mistakenly grouped under the “Wicked” who incur the punishment of God. We forget that God does not “have interest in the death of a sinful man” (cf. Ezekiel. 18:23, 32) , but that he “be saved and comes to the knowledge of the truth” (1 Timothy 2:4) Forgiveness is possible because of ignorance, as Fulton Sheen rightly pointed out. “Father forgive them for THEY KNOW NOT“,(Luke 23:34) were there perfect knowledge, perfect choice, and perfect foresight of the weight and implication of choice, forgiveness would be impossible and our choices irrevocable. This is why the Fallen Angels could not go back on their choices, they knew perfectly they’ll be the way they are today, and in a single act of their freewill they chose to go against God anyway. Sin is always evil, mortal sins condemn one to hell, but sincere repentance changes the situation of the sinner. As long as one keeps being sincere in their struggle to quit sin, and keeps coming to God every time they fall, God keeps forgiving and strengthening them. What God abhors is pride and trickery. When one isn’t sincere, his sins aren’t forgiven.
For us, God announces the message of Hope. Immediately man sinned, God made the promise of a Messiah “I shall put enmity between you and the woman, between your seed and her seed, he shall crush your head and you will bruise his feet” Genesis 3:15 (Some translations use “she” some “It”). However, the one ultimately envisaged here is Christ Himself, for whether we speak of Mary “crushing his head” it is because of Christ who redeems his people.
Announcing the birth of the Messiah to Joseph the Angel said “You shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins” (Matthew 26:28)
God will himself come to save his own people, he will not send another prophet, nor anoint another king, he himself will come to save and lead his people to salvation. However, without our willingness to respond to God’s love and receive this gift of salvation, his message will remain only that: a message, a possibility, accepted by the courageous, and rejected by those who lack the courage to live up to Christian standards, or who are too proud to admit personal faults.
God is not interested in keeping record of how many sins a person has committed, neither is he after punishing a man for his sins. His sole interest is in inviting the sinner to repentance, blessing his finger with the ring of Union with himself, and clothing him with the robe of salvation. He is interested in the conversion of the sinner; in his turning around from his deadly path, and turning towards he who alone is his Ultimate Good. Some people unjustly picture God as being revengeful, probably coming with a thunderous sword to wipe all sinners; smiting them with curses and plagues, etc. He is rather a loving Father who continually runs after his lost sheep, always inviting them to return to his love; to return to his fold, to yield to his authority and to recognize his place in their lives.
When someone sins, he does not then incur a fresh decree of God’s punishment from heaven. Sin has death within it just as poison, what God does is call us over and over to continual conversion from sin, and continued, progressive union of our wills with His. We should understand the fact that we are not to be scared of God like we are scared of big dogs, accidents, death, or like harmful things, we are to fear God out of love and reverence.
ARISE; DO NOT BE SCARED OF GOD’S MERCY
One of the things that eat deep into our hearts is FEAR. We are scared of very many things; even things that do not exist. One of the major obstacles to the spiritual life is this vice’s second face:Cowardice.
So many Christians are afraid of changing their lives, they do not know what life will be like if they were to live without being attached to certain things, including sins.
At one time in our lives, the Holy Spirit offers us a chance to run away from the bondage of sin, but due to this crippling fear of the “Unknown” we choose to remain in the “known” even though we are not perfectly happy in it; we choose to remain in the sin toward which we have formed strong love for. We dread the thought of living without telling a lie; how can i succeed in my business without cheating? we ask ourselves. We cannot think of the possibility of surviving a day/week without sex; we cannot imagine life without an illegitimate sex partner, we believe we might drop dead if we denied ourselves the deadly pleasure of illegitimate sexual intercourse.
However, since the mind is prone to exaggeration, this in turn affects the way we evaluate things. We believe lots of things to be this way whilst they are that way; we ascribe qualities to things we have not even seen. We decide even God’s nature, crafting our own gods in our little heads. We imagine that the spiritual life is going to be dreary, unadventurous, sad, annoying and extremely depressing. Worst of all, we reject any truth that tries to correct our many lies.
As a living testimony, i say, i have never been happier in my life than when i quit my active attachment to sin, and began a sincere journey into the Mystery of God; Jesus let me into his heart and i realized how foolish i have been all along. I believed the pleasures i enjoyed could never be equaled with anything, i believed my heart could not survive without the companionship of a lover. But then, immediately after my initial conversion, i couldn’t imagine being with any other lover but the Lord and his Mother.
Then i began to understand how impossible it is to repent, exactly because we humans DO NOT WANT TO LET GO, not because God does not grant the grace needed. We are scared to come out in the Light, preferring to hide in our darkness; the shadow of this light is mostly as far as we can go. We prefer to remain locked in a city we ourselves have built, rejecting the possibility of having any better city, even the one built by God himself is to us tiring and depressing. We run to seek out happiness, to suck it from every empty container, to scrape if from every little waste we find, feeding from every refuse dump just to sap even rotten/wasted happiness. We have been invited to soar up high like the eagle, gaining interior peace, becoming free as the children of God should be, we choose rather to remain in our own yokes; to remain slaves to our own passions, we loathe anything or anyone that advices us to change, we threaten anything that disturbs our ears with the Lord’s message to repentance, we eliminate anything that troubles our consciences; anything that threatens our little world of clay. We may accept his promises of blessings and protection, we may listen to his consoling words, but never to his summons to a true change of heart.
ARISE !! STAND FROM YOUR SINS !!! Jesus is calling you today, Jesus loves you. Come on into this love union with Jesus, nothing can be sweeter than it ! Every other thing shall begin to make more sense when you are in God. The whole of creation will serve to bring his word to your soul. Then you shall taste a love so powerful you can never sleep at night in sorrow or pain, a love so powerful you can never be afraid of even the Lord’s anger anymore since you have great confidence in his love and mercy upon you, a love so powerful you will be lost in God, lost in his immensity, become just like Jesus, and confuse even the devil himself with this new identity. A love so powerful that you will be transformed into the Living Flame of the Lord’s light, you will begin to breathe the fire of his love, spiting tiny little fires of love everywhere you go, caring for all of creation as the Lord intended, bringing light to those in darkness, announcing the message of freedom to all in captivity, raising those who have fallen asleep in sin, and bringing all men who encounter you to the God of your heart; setting all things ablaze ! Since you are already aflame with God’s Spirit, you cannot help but set everything you touch on fire with God.
YOU, yes YOU can become like Jesus. Only start right now. Not tomorrow, HERE and NOW, part ways with your sins, throw the devil away from your house, give him all his property and he will depart, but if you keep as little as a pin that belongs to him, he will always have the right into your heart.
Brethren i really wish i can make you understand the urgency of this message. I wish you can see through my heart right now, these words have made me feel like a woman in labour, i wish that in giving it out, it might be born in Your HEART; that in your heart may dwell these and similar words of God, drawing all men to salvation through repentance and adherence to God in his Church.
This article is part of a work on purgatory by GabrielMary Ken Alimba
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Read another part of the work here