“Forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us. Do not bring us to the test but deliver us from evil. Amen” reads the Lord’s prayer (Matthew 6:9-13). Over two billion Catholics, Eastern Orthodox Christians and Protestants recited this prayer just last Easter (Kang 2007). This prayer unites all Christian denominations in the belief that we are sinful and by showing genuine atonement for our Sin, we shall be forgiven. Our main concern then is what is Sin and how does one atone for it?
Sin, as defined in Wikipedia, is the term used is a term used mainly in a religious context to describe an act that violates a moral rule, or the state of having committed such a violation (Wikipedia). For Catholics Sin, despite its complexity, can be divided into two themes. The first theme is turning away or rejecting God’s love and the second is thinking only of oneself. In the book of Genesis, God created man in his image and likeness (1:27) therefore, closest to God of all incarnate things and most beloved of all his creations. Alone among animals are we able to reason and think.
Man was granted the gift of free will. In fact, for God so loved the world he gave us his only begotten son (John 3:16) Jesus Christ. Yet for all his love and grace man, as the Bible tells us, will show his gratitude by rejecting his love and violating his proscriptions. It did not take long for man to misuse his free will. Original Sin, which stains all men, even unto birth, was started practically the moment right after Creation. The fall of man as told in the book of Genesis, tells us of man rejecting God in favor of the temptation of wisdom and knowledge (3:1-13).
Yet this wisdom did him ill, for their disobedience Adam and Eve were severely punished, Man would win the fruits of the earth only through much toil and hardship while Woman would suffer many woes in childbirth. They were exiled from the Garden and we too bear the consequences of their actions. Thus, was Original Sin begun. Doctrine of Original Sin is essentially, the reverse side of the good news that Jesus is the Savior of all men, that all need salvation and salvation to all through Christ. The Church which has the mind of Christ knows that we can not tamper with the revelation of original sin without undermining the mystery of Christ.
(Catechism of the Catholic Church [CCC] 389) It is from our descent from Adam that is the wellspring of our Sins. Just as Jesus is the bridge by which can seek Atonement and hope of Salvation. We all remain tainted by his actions. Jesus taught us that the commandments and the laws of Mosses can be summarized into just one sentence “Love thy neighbor as you love God. ” By committing Sin Lest, we wash our hands and claim Original Sin is our only sin let us remember that Jesus once said “Let he who is without Sin cast the first stone”.
Besides Original Sin we all bear the mark of our own person sins. Both moral and venial sins weigh heavily upon our collective consciences. A mortal is committed when there is grave or serious matter and the sinner is fully aware that it is both a sin and grave matter. He must also be doing it with full consent. Such sins are the most grievous before God because of two things. First, the utter misuse of his gift of Freewill by willfully and deliberately consenting to commit the sin. Second because of the sheer misuse of reason it committing sin despite knowing the gravity of the act.
It is these mortal sins that lead so many souls to eternal damnation. An excellent example is the Original Sin of Adam and Eve. Both knew full well that God himself decreed that they must not eat the fruit from the tree of good and evil. Meaning they knew it was wrong and God himself proclaimed it as wrong. Neither were under any duress that might have vitiated their consent so they willingly ate of the fruit. A venial sin is quite basically any sin that is not mortal. Meaning it lacks one of the three elements of Mortal sin.
For example, a person may commit murder because his family is being held hostage because he did not do it with full consent. Another example would be littering, even with full consent and knowledge it would not be a mortal sin because it does not constitute grave matter. Of course, mortal or not any sin will erode our relationship with God and lessen our chances of Salvation. “At the heart of Sin is I” goes the often repeated adage. In truth it Is I, the self, that is the heart of sin. The very first sin committed by Eve, was the sin of pride.
Her desire to be better than what she already was brought her to that unfortunate end. Even Lucifer’s pride and disobedience can be summarized with one sentence “I will not bow before man”. “I”, Lucifer refused to lower himself before a lesser being despite God’s command. For our part many of our sins also carry “I” at the core. Our decision to put of pleasures ahead of a greater good will often lead us into Sin. For instance going on a hedonistic all-night barhop with friends on Saturday resulting in being too drunk and hung-over to attend mass on Sunday. It doesn’t even have to be that complex.
For instance, I can cut in front of the subway line because “I” am in a hurry or I want to have premarital sex because “I” want to feel good. We many bury the truth with rationalization and reasoning but the truth will always remain painfully clear, we commit sin because we chose to put ourselves ahead before God or the greater good. A quick listing of the Ten Commandments (Exodus 2:1-17) will show how sinful the world has become. First Commandment, devil-worshipers and those who worship power and money, or worse themselves, over God. Second, false preachers who use God’s name for monetary gain.
Third, the scarcity of church goers, Fourth, the prevalence of nursing homes for the elderly and the refusal of children to care for their parents in their own homes. Fifth, the disturbing abortion rates. Sixth, the prevalence of divorce. Seventh, corruption scandals involving billions of dollars by multinational corporations. Eighth, politicians making false statements to discredit their opposition. The list goes on. With so much sham, drudgery and disenchants met is the world doomed? It is not. The gospels are one in saying, Jesus came to earth for the salvation of man.
The passion death and resurrection, as told by the gospels and as portrayed by Mel Gibson’s movie The Passion of the Christ was the story of great suffering and pain of a sinless man condemned to die. It was the story of Jesus who died on the cross to redeem the world and atone for Our sins. From a Catholic perspective, if Jesus had not come down to earth, died for our sins and returned on the third day our faith would be pointless. It was this opportunity for Atonement and the hope of Salvation that is one of the central dogma’s of the Catholic Faith.
Both the Nicene creed and Apostle creed, recited and affirmed at every Catholic and most Christian masses, say “We acknowledge one baptism for the forgiveness of sins. ” Affirming our hope of gaining forgiveness by showing genuine repentance and atonement. Atonement then is a doctrine closely associate with Sin. It is the doctrine by which our manifold sins can be forgiven by God. As mentioned earlier Jesus’ sacrifice was made in atonement for our sins. Through Christ the doors of salvation were opened to us all. Like sin, Atonement can be divided into two theories.
The Ransom theory and more modern Healing theory. The first theory was popularized by fourth century theologian Gregory of Nyssa and is often called the “Ranson to Satan” theory. It is based on Mark 10:45; “For even the son of man did not come to be served; he came to serve and to give his life to redeem many people”. Gregory proposed that Jesus came down to earth to liberate man from his slavery to Satan and the death, eternal damnation, it brings. He liberates us by giving his life as ransom for our sins. The Ransom Theory was and remains a popular theory to describe the atonement of sins.
The more modern view as propounded by Paul Tillich, presents a picture of Jesus’ death on the cross to demonstrate the extent of God’s love for us. Moved by this great act of love man responds and is transformed by the power of the Holy Spirit. This view draws its support John 3:16-21 and is affirmed in the Nicene creed thus; We believe in one God, The Father, the Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth, Of all that is seen and unseen. We believe in one Lord, Jesus Christ, The only Son of God, Eternally begotten of the Father, God from God, Light from light True God from true God,
Begotten, not made, One in Being with the Father, Through Him all things were made For us men and for our salvation He came down from Heaven: By the power of the Holy Spirit He was born of the Virgin Mary, And became man. For our sake he was crucified under Pontius Pilate; he suffered died and was buried. On the third day he rose again in fulfillment of the Scriptures; he ascended into heaven and is seated at the right hand of the Father. He will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead, and his kingdom will have no end. We believe in the Holy Spirit,
The Lord, the giver of life, Who proceeds from the Father and the Son. With the Father and the Son He is worshipped and glorified. He has spoken through the prophets. We believe in one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church. We acknowledge one baptism for the forgiveness of sins. We look for the resurrection of the dead And the life of the world to come. Amen. I ran into this creed during my research, it summarizes the Catholic faith in four short paragraphs. The creed has remained essentially the same since the ecumenical council of Nicea some Seventeen centuries ago.
Among other dogmas written here are that Jesus became man and sacrificed himself for the forgiveness of our sins. Begotten not made, God from God he descended and sacrificed himself in other words, God himself was crucified for us his creations. That Christ died to redeem the world is the shocking manifestation of the extent of God’s love. However, it is not enough to save us. Christ opens the door to salvation but it is up to us to pass through the door and enter his Kingdom. To do this we must atone for our sins. For Catholics this means we avail of the Sacrament of Reconciliation and attend confession.
Confession entails entering the confession box with a contrite heart, speak to the priest as if he were God’s mediator upon the earth, which he is. Confess your sins however manifold or few they may be. Accept God’s loving forgiveness and say prayers for atonement. Finally, commit to be detached from sin and to live a life grace. Atonement does not require scourging at the pillar, self-flagellation or bare-foot pilgrimages over the Himalayas. In fact, one Jesuit is famous for prescribing one Our Father, Five Hail Marys and One Glory be to those who came to him for confession.
Regardless if he was a Murderer, a Prostitute or he merely leered at woman the wrong way. However, comical that sounds he is acting within the bounds of the Magisterium because the amount or severity of penance no longer matters. All that ultimately matters is that the person comes to confession, admits his sins and commits to never do them again. In my personal experience, I humbly accept that my sins have tainted me. My constant struggle for the good has resulted in many defeats. My worldly sins are burdens that deny me the state of Grace that all Catholics must aspire for.
Yet I am comforted in the knowledge that if I come to God with a contrite heart and commit to follow his example, I will have the hope of salvation and eternal life. To summarize, Sin is part of human nature, courtesy of the Original Sin of Adam and Even as well as the Man’s nature as a being with free will. Sin is the rejection of God’s love for the sake of evil or at best a lesser good. Christ died to atone for our Sins and he has opened the doors to salvation. His life is an inspiration to us, his death the ultimate expression of Divine love. Through him, and him alone, we can atone for our sins and hope for salvation.
Kang, K. Connie. “Across the globe, Christians are united by Lord’s Prayer. ” Los Angeles Times, in Houston Chronicle, p. A13, April 8, 2007 The Book of Matthew in The New American Bible (Catholic Bible Press ) The Book of Mark in The New American Bible (Catholic Bible Press ) Genesis in The New American Bible (Catholic Bible Press ) Exodus in The New American Bible (Catholic Bible Press ) The Nicene Creed. The Book of John in The New American Bible (Catholic Bible Press ) Sin Wikipedia available at http://en. wikipedia. org/wiki/Sin (La