The Loss of the Sense of Sin...
In his address to Canadian bishops on their visit in October, Pope Benedict observed that there is a disturbing loss of the sense of sin in the world today. This is a logical result of God being ignored more and more in the public forum as well as privately. "Where God is excluded from the public forum," the Pope said, "the sense of offense against God -- the true sense of sin -- dissipates, just as when the absolute value of moral norms is relativized the categories of good or evil vanish, along with individual responsibility." Moreover, he pointed out that the refusal to admit sin leads to the practice of blaming others and increase in litigation. One can naturally see this correlation between the elimination of the possibility of sin and the proliferation of lawsuits.
Sin is the result of a personal free will decision to refuse to obey God's moral law. One, knowing the Commandments, chooses to do, say, or think something that is contrary to God's Commandments. One may also fail to do something for which he has a grave responsibility, like going to Mass on Sundays and Holy Days of Obligation. Once the sense of sin is no longer admitted into the realm of human conduct, there cannot be self incrimination. One does not have to accuse himself. Now, if something goes wrong, if I see evil, it cannot be my fault; rather, it must be someone else's. So, we end up in a society very prone to obtaining legal judgments against one another. Just look at the increased number of TV, radio and newspaper ads from law firms enticing the public to sue. As a result there is more and more fear of being vulnerable to litigation. I would not be surprised if there is an increase in paranoia in our society. Are we comfortable in a world like this? Do we not long for a place of brotherly love?
The first remedy for this is first a recovery of the sense of God. There is a need for Him in every person. That need is too often suppressed today. We are called to be a leaven in society by the authentic example of our faithfulness to Him and to his Church. Hopefully, our lives can be a textbook on faith.
The next remedy to this loss of the sense of sin obviously is the Sacrament of Reconciliation -- Confession. Ignoring one's sins is most unhealthy; not only is it unhealthy in the spiritual life but also in terms of mental health. More than 30 years ago, psychiatrist Karl Meninger wrote a book called Whatever Became of Sin. In it, he observed that the decrease in the use of the confessional led to an increase in the use of the psychiatrist's couch. Going to Confession is part of a healthy life. Essentially, it involves the following: I have sinned; I wish I had not; I am sorry; I promise to amend my life; I confess to the priest; I am forgiven (absolved) by Jesus Christ in the person of the priest. My confession, sorrow, and amendment leads to a better and stronger life with the grace of God in this Sacrament.
Pope Benedict said: "While this sacrament is often considered with indifference, what it effects is precisely the fullness of healing for which we long. A newfound appreciation of this sacrament will confirm that time spent in the confessional draws good from evil, restores life from death, and reveals anew the merciful face of the Father."
Now, we are entering the third week of Advent, let each of us resolve to make a good, thorough Confession. But, let's not leave this only for Advent, but also regularly throughout the year.