During Lent, we do penance for our sins. It makes sense, then, to reflect on what sin is, and why we want to do penance and overcome sin.
Sin is any thought, word, action or omission which offends against God. If a sin is of itself a grave matter, carried out with full knowledge and with the full consent of the will, it is a mortal sin which kills the grace of God in the soul. Other, less serious sins are venial sins which harm our friendship with God.
Often, people who do not go regularly to confession, say that they can’t think of any sins that they have committed. They know that they haven’t committed murder or robbed a bank and perhaps feel a little aggrieved that anyone might trespass upon that feeling encouraged by our culture that we are all to be affirmed and congratulated, and woe betide anyone who suggests we are not simply wonderful human beings.
Those who examine their conscience every day and frequently use the sacrament of confession to grow in grace and the love of God are aware, humbly and positively, of the call of our Lord to “be perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect.” They are sorry for that unkind word, that piece of gossip, that failure to give time to prayer. They question whether perhaps they could have got to Mass when it was a bit difficult, whether they could have given more time to a relative who needs them to visit, whether they might have avoided that television programme they knew was going to offend against Christian chastity.
Sin is not simply the breaking of an arbitrary rule. The commandments of God are given for our good, and our holy mother, the Church, teaches us through the ages how the moral law of God is to be observed in the practical circumstances of everyday life.
God teaches us these things through His Church because He loves us and knows that sin hurts us in various ways. Sin damages our friendship with Him, weakening the life of grace that He has generously given us to grow and flourish in all that is good. Sin harms our relationships with each other, disrupting our frienships, making us less able to build others up for the good, wasting our energies that could make the world a better place. And sin injures us in our soul, disfiguring the image of God which we were given at our conception, and weakening or destroying the supernatural life of grace that was given to our soul when we were baptised.
We think of the nature of sin and its damage during Lent as we consider and ponder prayerfull the sacred passion of our Blessed Lord, which culminated in His redeeming us by His death on the cross.
Jesus Christ is the lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world: the fulfilment of the prophecies of the Old Testament down the ages, and the hope of the whole human race. By His perfect sacrifice on the cross, Our Lord makes possible the healing of all the wounds of our sins, and the sins that are committed by ourselves and others until the end of time.
Our Lord rejoiced to offer His life for us on Calvary because He loves us. He desires our happiness, both here in this world as we are formed more closely in His likeness, and in eternity where He has prepared for us to be happy with Him for ever. During Lent, we do penance for our sins so as to be more open to receive this majestic and superabundant generosity and love.