Mystery of Sin:
Why We Must not Despair
“ ... I am
carnal, sold under sin. ...
do not that good which I will; but the evil which I hate,
that I do. ... to will, is present with me; but
to accomplish that which is good, I find not. For the good
which I will, I do not; but the evil which I will not,
that I do ... I see another law in my members, fighting
against the law of my mind, and captivating me in the law
of sin, that is in my members. Unhappy man that I am, who
shall deliver me from the body of this death?”
that again. Carefully. Every word of it. I know
that it is a rather long citation, but it is necessary and profitable
Have you read it? Good.
Now, let's begin.
You’ve sinned ...
The very thing that you were determined never to do again ... you have
just done. You even knew it as you were doing it. And you went ahead
and did it anyway, right? It's almost like a second self, and you are
watching it abstractly, aware of what is going on, but somehow strangely
detached from it. The Siren Song of the moment seems to block out everything
else, and you know that it is, after all, “just this one time more and
In fact, it has already entered your heart — the sin — you have already
committed it in thought, in desire, in intention — and the guilt will
accrue to you even if you don't actually do it ... so ... why not? If
you're going to pay the penalty you may as well at least enjoy the sin.
I wonder who could be
whispering this so persuasively to you ...?
You’ve done it, and now you’re miserable
Could you go back, you
would undo it. You would flee the occasion, jump into the snow, hold
your tongue, stay your hand ... anything! But the deed
is done, and the lie comes crashing down upon your head. “Fool that
Yes. Fool that you are,
that I am, that we are. As Archbishop Fulton Sheen once said, whenever
we sin we make fools of ourselves. How true.
And now we hide in shame,
guilt — much like Adam and Eve in the Garden who hid from God when He
came looking for them in the cool of the evening.
It goes back a long way, doesn’t it? To the very beginning.
And now the devil has you in his grip — even more now than in your sin,
for you flee from God, hide under something selfish and false called
“regret”, rather than coming forth with something genuine called “sorrow”.
You crawl into darkness, that terrible vortex of despair that would
carry you off to death ... instead of contrition that will bring you
back to life. What a victory! For that miserable serpent. What a loss
... for God, for the Church ... for you.
The mystery of sin. The
utter ability of sin to blind! St. Paul understood this, even as he
stumbled to understand the terrible power of sin.
“For I do not that
good which I will; but the evil which I hate, that I do.”
Hello? Still with me?
That was Saint Paul ...
We must admire him tremendously! He did not put a veneer over the struggle,
nor excuse himself in his failure to vanquish it. But what answer does
St. Paul come up with to this terrible enigma? In the agony of his sin,
he cries out,
“Unhappy man that I am,
who shall deliver me from the body of this death?”
But in the next
breath he answers his own question — and ours:
“The grace of God, by Jesus Christ our Lord.”
will deliver me! His grace will deliver me. The Jesus Christ that he
proclaimed from Corinth to Galatia, that Jesus Who came to call not
the righteous but sinners, to gather the lost, to go after "the one
who strayed”, to go, not to those who are not sick, but to the sick!
Jesus Christ is
his answer! Mercy is his answer! Forgiveness is his answer!
... In other words, all the things you despair of!
They are there for you
— in abundance. Were it never required of God, how could we call Him
Merciful? Were it never required of God, how could we call Him Loving?
Were it never required of God, how would we call Him forgiving?
Why is God Loving, Merciful, Forgiving?
Because we are sinful.
Because it is needful to us ... a sinful people. To whom will He show
His mercy, if not sinners? To whom will He give His loving forgiveness,
if not to sinners? We would never be able to predicate of God, “mercy”
and “forgiveness” were we incapable of sin – in other words,
if we were perfect. But we are not. ... are we ...?
“And seeing the
multitudes, He had compassion on them: because they were distressed,
and lying like sheep that
have no shepherd” (St.
Sin remains a great mystery.
Its ugliness, its hideousness, its malignant deformity, by and large
remains hidden from us. But we do have clues. We can often see the
consequences of our sins ... and they are devastating!
Even so, we see the mere superficies, the more apparent effects that
are, even in their terrible penalty, opaque to our understanding – we
do not see the hidden effect of sin, how frightfully it affects the
entire Church, the lives of others of whom we have no inkling – how
sin, our sin, leeches into the suffering of others!
Just as our deeds that
are holy affect the entire Body of Christ, are beneficial to the Church,
and touch the lives of others in ways we never anticipate – most often
through the medium of people we do not directly know – so it is with
sin. As one Saint pleaded of God, “Mercy, O God! Let me never
see the full consequences of my sin, for I could not live in light of
what I have done, and before the enormity and evil my sins have caused.”
The Mystery of Sin is so Closely
tied up with the
Greater Mystery of
The mystery of sin
is so closely tied up with the greater mystery of forgiveness.
Ironically, we could sooner understand the mystery of sin – before we
could arrive at an understanding of the far greater mystery of forgiveness.
Yes, you've sinned. Grievously. Recognize this. Ask God's mercy and
forgiveness. Go to Confession. If your heart is sincere, He knows this,
and His forgiveness is that of a Father's to a Prodigal son. Unstinting.
Joyous. Overwhelming. Overflowing. Take! Receive! Embrace! What are
you waiting for? He loves you.
As to that fatal whisper of despair? Tell the devil to go to Hell, and
get up and move on.
You've work to do — and hitherto you have not so much as begun.
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Totally Faithful to the Sacred
Deposit of Faith entrusted to the Holy See in
opera tua ... quia modicum habes virtutem, et servasti
verbum Meum, nec non negasti Nomen Meum”
know your works ... that you have but little power,
and yet you have kept My word, and have not denied My
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