sin

The root of all sin is fear

‘The root of all sin is fear: the very deep fear that we are nothing; the compulsion, therefore, to make something of ourselves, to construct a self-flattering image of ourselves we can worship, to believe in ourselves — our fantasy selves. I think that all sins are failures in being realistic; even the simple everyday sins of the flesh, that seem to come from mere childish greed for pleasure, have their deepest origin in anxiety about whether we really matter, the anxiety that makes us desperate for self-reassurance. To sin is always to construct an illusory self that we can admire, instead of the real self that we can only love.’

– Herbert McCabe, OP, quoted in ‘Why Go To Church?’ by Timothy Radcliffe, OP (a very good book so far)

God bless!

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The Sins of Our Fathers

I believe that we are responsible for crimes and sins committed by those who went before us, and also for those done on our behalf by those in authority.

I know this is contrary to our modern ideas of justice, rooted in an individualistic worldview. But that worldview is incomplete.

I am not merely myself, I am also a member of various societies: my family, my school or workplace, my town, my country, and the Church. And each of these societies has a life of its own, living and acting as one, and so, is capable of both obeying and disobeying God. And as far as I remain a member of these societies, I participate in both its merit and guilt.

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This doesn’t mean that I take on all of the guilt of every individual in society. But I do bear the guilt of society acting as a whole, and every association I belong to, even if I wasn’t even alive when its crimes were committed.

What am I to do? How can I be saved from these sins? How can we be saved from them? I must simply repent. Then in me, my society will be repenting, and being brought to repentance member by member. We must repent, do penance, and pray for the salvation of our families, communities, nations and Church, just as we must for ourselves.

I especially think of our national sins, of wars, colonialism, slavery, exploitation, abortion, etc., and of the sins committed by leaders in the Church, especially in the sex abuse scandal. And I believe that actually, this will be crucial to re-evangelising our society.

Thank you for reading, and God bless you!

P.S. I think it would be especially good in this regard, if on the anniversary of national crimes and sins, we took it as a day of fasting and penance, especially those crimes we are persevering in. For example, the 27th of October and 27th of April for the UK’s abortion act (royal assent and commencement, respectively), and the 20th of March for Iraq war. It would be great if the national bishops conferences could promote this too.

P.P.S. I watched a documentary a while ago about the descendants of prominent Nazis, titled ‘Hitler’s Children’, I think. It showed how they were haunted, even decades later, by the guilt of their parents’ and grandparents’ crimes, with many doing penance by working to prevent such atrocities ever being repeated, and one woman moving to the desert and having herself sterilised. It seems to me, that communal and hereditary guilt is a simple psychological fact, that it would be foolish to deny or dismiss.

God bless you!

A mountain of mercy

This Sunday at mass, I was thanking God that by His grace, I have been given life in Him, so that at that very moment, I was blessed to be communing with Him, loving and being loved, genuinely touching my God. I was thanking God for every sin that by His grace I haven’t committed, and I realised I ought to thank Him for every sin I’ve ever committed being forgiven. I am with God at this moment, because every single sin, throughout my entire life, has been forgiven.

I saw that all the sins of my life would amass to a great mountain, made of all the filth, waste, and excrement of my soul. But where that mountain should have been, there was instead an even greater mountain of God’s mercy, and in my mind’s eye it was gold and precious.

I can’t just thank God for His recent mercy and forgiveness, because if He didn’t forgive my oldest sins, I’d be just as cut off as for my newest. This one moment with God, is thanks to a whole life of forgiveness.

God bless you.

Thank you Lord! 

The Sabbath

Observe the sabbath day and keep it holy, as the Lord your God commanded you… Remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt, and the Lord your God brought you out from there with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm; therefore the Lord your God commanded you to keep the sabbath day.
(Deuteronomy 5:12, 15)

One thing we need to get straight: God’s rest is not about “recharging”, “recalibrating” or “resetting” yourself like some machine. In fact, that’s the opposite of true rest. God commands us to rest for today’s sake, and today’s alone.

What does it mean for us to rest? It means to finally take the time to just be you, putting aside everything that is forced upon you by the necessities of life, and actually enjoying life for exactly what it is at this moment. When we rest, we’re not existing for some external or future purpose. We are for our own sakes.

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Liberation

When the Israelites were slaves in Egypt, they were given no rest. Even their eating, drinking and sleeping, were to make them work better for Pharaoh. Everything they did, everything they were, was a mere tool for some supposed greater good.

But when the Lord liberated Israel, He commanded them to be free. No matter what may happen, whatever worries or troubles came their way, they could never lose sight of the freedom the Lord gave them, to simply be. This rest, this freedom, is the point and purpose of the Exodus, of all of salvation history, of all life, and in fact, of all things.

True rest is so absolutely crucial, that viewed from any other perspective, it is completely pointless. That is, rest is so divine, that like God Himself, it has no cause but itself.

Creation

In God’s creating of the Heavens and the Earth, God repeatedly takes time at the end of the day to “see that it was good”. Then on the Sabbath, God rests. On the Sabbath, when all is said and done, God simply enjoys His creation.

He did not work hard for six days in order to improve His work on the seventh, and then the eighth and so on. When His “work week” was over, He didn’t want to take the fruits of His labour and reinvest it immediately for an even better creation come day eight. He made the whole of creation for its own sake:all of creation, is created to rest, with Him and in Him. 

At the burning bush, God reveals Himself to Moses as YHWH, “I AM THAT I AM”/”I SHALL BE WHAT I SHALL BE”. God thus reveals Himself to us as the One that is entirely unconditional, undefinable, and uncontrollable; the One Who simply IS; the One Who gives being to all that is. So it should not surprise us, that the One who tradition calls “Being Itself” desires above all, that all things should simply be what they are. He is not something separate, but your very being, and for you to be, is for you to do His will, to make Him present. 

If you’re wondering how anything could conceivably be anything but what it is, the answer is what we call “sin”. Sin is the denial of being/truth/life/God Himself. That is, the truth of what something is, is denied, and something else is imposed upon it from outside. Sin is to make the world, and so ourselves, empty, unreal, lifeless and Godless. Everything is reduced to the will and its power to dominate the lifeless universe it inhabits. Life is a great war fought without reason. Essentially, sin is oppression. 

So we see, that true rest is the opposite not of work, but of sin. Rest restores us to us, and in doing so, restores us to God, who is closer to us than we are to ourselves. 

Rest means dancing

To rest is to throw away every plan, every aim, and every objective, and fully live as you are. If you find within yourself singing, you must sing! If you find within yourself dancing, you must dance! However you find the life & love that are you within yourself, you must obey! Even if it will exhaust you.

This obedience is much more difficult to cultivate than you might have thought. Our modern world has us all caught up with programs and fulfilling our desires, and has no time for the utter pointlessness that is rest. At this point, chasing after desire has become a second nature to most people, and to stop can cause real stress. We can get so immersed, that we become genuinely afraid of having any truly free time, in case we miss out on something, or realise just how unfulfilled we still are, even after all our striving.

Because it’s so difficult to cultivate true rest, and especially to cultivate it across a whole society (since societies, like people, are made to rest and be free), we desperately need the Sabbath. It’s not enough to rest as a side note, or whenever we get a spare moment.

Rest needs to be recognised as the priority that it is. We need the day, which exists entirely to itself, without even the necessities of life intruding. They can wait, because today, God commands me to dance.

And yet, I cannot spend all my time dancing and never work–but then again, true rest is the opposite of sin, and so should be sought always. It is true that not every day should be treated as the Sabbath, but the Sabbath should infiltrate the whole week, training us to live our entire lives at rest. All our work, all our strivings, all our aims, should be undertaken from the love & life that is within us, and done and enjoyed for their own sakes. We must accept all as a gift from God, and do all as a gift to Him and to all.

“Work without love is slavery.”
-St. Teresa of Calcutta


Jesus

‘Come to me all you who labour and are overburdened, and I will give you rest. Shoulder my yoke and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. Yes, my yoke is easy and my burden light.’
(Matthew 11:28-30)

What rest does Jesus give? His rest is Himself, His love, His cross, His Resurrection. In Him, we find the truth of ourselves, obscured in us by sin, and we are restored to ourselves, to the world, and to God. We are united to God, through the cross and Resurrection, and rest perfectly with God Himself. 

God bless you!

Why do I sin when I don’t want to?

Have you ever found yourself committing a sin, even when you know it’s not even nearly worth it? That the repercussions, guilt, and separation from God far outweigh any fleeting and empty pleasure it might give you, but you do it anyway? How can we do something so contrary to all reason?

It’s not a mere short term mentality that’s the problem, because when we observe how we actually feel mid-sin, we’ll find there’s no joy, no happiness, and whatever pleasure it has is just water off a duck’s back.

It’s because we give in to the lie that we are evil, and incapable of being saved, being good, being loved. We push God away because we believe we’re going to lose Him, because we don’t trust Him to really love us.

“He [satan] was a murderer from the beginning and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks according to his own nature, for he is a liar and the father of lies.” Jn 8:44

Satan is called the deceiver, the father of lies, the tempter, and the accuser in scripture, and these are referring to the same thing. Satan tempts us by deceiving us, by making accusations against us, our neighbours, and God, telling us that we are each others’ enemies by nature, and cannot trust each other. We are only ever enemies because of satan’s lies.

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Satan’s lies are everywhere. We’re told over and over that this, this and this is what you truly need, and then you’ll be a rich, fulfilled George Clooney lookalike with a beautiful girlfriend, or, I don’t know, J-Lo. “If you don’t have these things, you’re a nobody.” We’re told that no one can be trusted, and for that reason, we shouldn’t be trustworthy ourselves. We’re presented with a judgmental God, who begrudges us salvation.

So next time I face temptation, I plan to remind myself of the gospel I stand in. The gospel of God who delights in mercy; God loves and strengthens us; He is Our Father, and we are all brothers and sisters, and this is all that matters. Whatever lies I’m told, even if the whole world repeats them to me, I’ll listen instead to God’s truth.

In a world founded on so many lies, whose prince (Jn 16:11) is himself the father of lies (Jn 8:44), to stand in truth is an act of total rebellion. Jesus said, “Whoever is not with me is against me” (Mt 12:30), and we must all choose a side. Christians have an obligation to reject every lie the world tells us, for our salvation and the salvation of the world.

‘In this day and age unless Christians are revolutionaries they are not Christians.’
-Pope Francis

 

God bless you!

Looking sin in the eye

‘1849 Sin is an offense against reason, truth, and right conscience; it is failure in genuine love for God and neighbour 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.”

‘1850 Sin is an offense against God: “Against you, you alone, have I sinned, and done that which is evil in your sight.” Sin sets itself against God’s love for us and turns our hearts away from it. Like the first sin, it is disobedience, a revolt against God through the will to become “like gods,” knowing and determining good and evil. Sin is thus “love of oneself even to contempt of God.” In this proud self- exaltation, sin is diametrically opposed to the obedience of Jesus, which achieves our salvation.’
–Catechism of the Catholic Church 1849-50

I wanted to write about sin, so I looked it up, and I was not disappointed. The Catechism is a bit lofty and distant, but in that very way it has such beauty. I don’t say much about sin on this blog. It makes me uncomfortable. But I believe it is good to take a better look at sin, since it’s lent. Here, then, are my reflections:

Sin is separation from God; that is, sin is separation from the deepest Source of all things, and so is separation from all things. There is no harmless sin. Sin cuts us off from everything in existence, including ourselves. Sin is death.

Sin sets itself against God’s love for us and turns our hearts away from it.’ Sin blinds us to God’s love, which is in fact the truth of all things. The whole world and everyone within it look ever more dead and cold, and as such more like objects to be used for ourselves.

Sin is when our will is set against God’s will, which is Himself. God’s will is not a matter of choosing one thing over another like our wills so often are. God’s will is life and love itself. Disobeying God isn’t just proud, it’s absurd. We choose what won’t last, and wouldn’t satisfy even if it did, over life itself! We try to be “gods”, but in doing so, we make the lives we are “gods” over, as pointless and futile as our small-minded desires.

Sin is both the action of separating ourselves from God, by an act of the will, and the resulting state of being separated from Him, in our wills and our living experience. When Jesus was upon the cross, he “became sin”, by truly experiencing the separation from God that is the wages of sin. But he was also perfectly without sin, completely obedient to God, even in this separation from God. He brought righteousness to sin, and brought God to Godlessness.

 

‘1851 It is precisely in the Passion, when the mercy of Christ is about to vanquish it, that sin most clearly manifests its violence and its many forms: unbelief, murderous hatred, shunning and mockery by the leaders and the people, Pilate’s cowardice and the cruelty of the soldiers, Judas’ betrayal – so bitter to Jesus, Peter’s denial and the disciples’ flight. However, at the very hour of darkness, the hour of the prince of this world, the sacrifice of Christ secretly becomes the source from which the forgiveness of our sins will pour forth inexhaustibly.’
–Catechism of the Catholic Church 1851

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This lent, let us turn ever more fully from sin in all its forms, to the Lord Jesus Christ our redeemer. Amen

God bless you!

A season of Penance

What’s the point of lent? Lent is our penitential season. We look at where we’ve been going wrong, and we begin, with the help of God’s mercy, to make it right. We take a long, hard look at ourselves, see our wretchedness, and turn to God.

Leo Tolstoy said,

“Everyone thinks of changing the world, but no one thinks of changing himself.”

Lent is the time when we must commit to changing ourselves, and allowing God to change us.

Lent is the season for making a comeback. It is preparation for us to unite ourselves to the resurrection, the greatest comeback of all time. So if we sin, make a comeback- it’s lent. If we fail at our fasts, prayers or good deeds, make a comeback- it’s lent. If you haven’t been up to scratch in any way, now is the time to make your big comeback.

The best way, of course, is by confession. Walking straight up to God, and submitting ourselves to His mercy, to His plan, to His salvation.

lent

So why do we fast? I think the benefits of prayer and good deeds are obvious, but the point of fasting and self-denial is a bit tougher. We don’t give up anything because pleasure is bad, or discomfort is good. We do it to learn to depend upon God.

‘He humbled you by letting you hunger, then by feeding you with manna, with which neither you nor your ancestors were acquainted, in order to make you understand that one does not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of the LORD.’
Deuteronomy 8:3

By fasting, we turn our backs on our old ways. We confess that the world gives neither security nor satisfaction, and as long as we look for them in the world, we don’t look for them in God.

When revolutionaries were making headway across the world, they would outlaw whatever they considered too “bourgeois” for their new life. Suits and ties, golf, various artworks, and more, had to be cut off. To make a new world, and with it a new man, the world would have to be aggressively purged of its old ways.

Make no mistake: Christianity is a greater revolution than Marxism. Marxism was a revolt against capitalism, on the basis of economics; Christianity is a revolt against death in all its forms, on the basis of Divine love.

In lent we are called especially, to take up our crosses and follow Jesus, in the firm faith that at the end there will be Easter, resurrection and glory! We join ourselves to his love, sufferings and death, knowing that in these we find the true, absolute, eternal life.

Anyway, that’s enough from me. I’ve got some repenting to do!

God bless you!

The Fear of Repenting

That terrible fear. When you know you have done something awful. And you know you must repent; that it’s the only way out. But you’re scared to. You consider if you could do it later… Or maybe never. Perhaps you could just live with what you’ve done…

Why is repentance so terrifying? Because it involves two terrifying things: judgment, and death. It involves judgment, because it requires revealing ourselves, with all our injustices, and acknowledging God as the just judge. He is the one with the right to judge all transgressions against Him.

It involves death, because it is our lives that we place before Him, and whatever He might do, we are acknowledging our life as being His to deal with, however He chooses. We are giving up our lives.

Why? For Jesus’ sake. We repent, laying our lives at Jesus’ feet, for love of him. Why do we love Jesus? Because he is merciful, because he is loving, and he has taught us love. We go like St. Mary Magdalene to cry on Jesus’ feet [Lk 7:36-50], because we are unworthy, but we love him, and hope that he will show us love too.

The most remarkable thing about our fear of repenting, is that afterwards it seems so absurd. To be so afraid, of what has brought such great liberty! But that is simply how death looks from the perspective of the resurrected. To repent is no less than to lay down our whole lives before Jesus and with Jesus, and so be raised to true life in him.

We must always remember what Pope Francis says:

“The Lord never tires of forgiving, it is we who tire of asking for forgiveness.”

God bless you