Oh Lord, purify me, make me a chalice in which you dwell, offer your sacrifice in me and spread your love through me. Let me shine like gold, adorn me with the jewels of virtue that I may always be open to you. Fill me. Overflow me. Let me be like that most perfect vessel, the Singular Vessel of Devotion, She to whom I cry for protection against the Evil One. I ask this for your glory, for the vessel is nothing without the sustenance inside, the cup nothing unless it is filled. Oh Lord, purify me.

Give me a word, Abba

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Does Mortal Sin exist?

Once upon a time, there were two people who ate an apple. At least that's how the story goes. The result was that the whole human race was cursed to die and burn in Hell. It may sound extreme, but that's the story. Anyway, a Man came along and said that He was God and that He would save the world from the power of that curse. He was killed. I don't know why people would kill someone would save them from burning in Hell, but people do strange things. It may have been the curse. Unfortunately for them (or fortunately, depending on your reading of the story), the Man's followers claimed he was Back and had conquered death. An exciting end to an exciting tale.

Whether it's true or not, and I believe it is, one part of the story seems strange: Eating an apple got the whole human race damned. I don't know about you, but I eat apples all the time and it's under the assumption that I will not damn the human race to Hell. So what is it about this apple that makes it so serious?

The answer is the reason for eating the apple. Admit to yourself that you would be more offended if someone said "If I eat an apple, I will be intending to insult you" and then eats it than if they just left that first part out. The reason the two people ate the apple was that they got it into their minds that God didn't know what the heck he was talking about (he had mentioned offhand that they would die if they ate it). They thought they would become like gods. Well, the jury's out on that one, eh?

Why do I bring this up? Because some people doubt that mortal sin exists. After all, no one would willfully choose to do something that would cause them damnation (this is what mortal sin that is not forgiven can do). This is not talking into consideration the weakness of the human will.

God told Adam and Eve that they would die if they ate the apple. God was who they knew who they trusted, who had made them for goodness sake. Yet they decided to listen to the devil. Why? Because the fruit looked good to eat. It wasn't a matter of practicality. Eve wasn't hungry because there was a garden full of food surrounding her. She and her husband ate the fruit because they wanted to be like gods and because it was attractive fruit. In other words, they wanted to set themselves against God and using the beauty of creation to do it.

This is of course what mortal sin does. It either sets us against God or our neighbor in a serious way. Let us take some examples:

a) Contraception. A whole blog could be dedicated to this topic (and probably has been). However, the reasons it is a mortal sin are pretty simple: Because of the creative function of sex, by contracepting, we are "playing god" by deciding not to create through a process of creation. It's kind of like what the devil tried to do: "No, I know you say you love these things, these humans, but creating them is a mistake and will only cause harm for them later on in life. They will grow up in a hard environment and will suffer greatly. Don't make them." He was jealous, in fact. There are ways to not bring children into a world of suffering, but cutting creation short is not the way to do it. Simply put, we can not be God and we should not try to be. This is a sin of pride and it is a mortal one: trying to be God.

Of course, it is also pretty nasty to your partner cause you're saying "I don't trust you" or "I don't want your complete self donation." I don't think such a spit in the face is something to take lightly.

b) Abortion. Killing. Trying to control life. God's job. 'nuff said.

c) Premarital sex. Once again, it says something to the partner. it says "I don't trust you to wait for me" and "I don't trust myself". You may not trust yourself or the other, but if that's the case, it's not very charitable to stay nearby. If I was a maniac who like to slice things with knives, I would not want to be near anyone just in case. This is a pretty big sin against charity (and all sins against charity are sins against God who is Charity Himself) and so it's kind of a big deal.

Those are three examples. To find more, look to the Catechism of the Catholic Church.

Now, here are three examples of mortal sins, but do people really do them knowingly? Do people seriously know that contracepting can take them outside God's Grace and into the circle of Hell? Probably not a lot of them. But there are some who have been told quite openly how wrong it is and the reasons and claim to still be Catholic and yet they contracept. The same goes for the other two and a whole score of others. I know from experience that sinning is not something that you just kind of do. Yeah, there are external forces at play (and internal) that can reduce your culpability for the sin, but the sin is committed.

What to do? Go to confession. If you aren't culpable for your sin, then everything is ok. But it is impossible to know what your exact culpability is and so to be safe, go to confession. If nothing else, it will expose you to regular graces that God intended for his silly little creatures to experience.

We can't make up for the eating of the apple, it's true. Only God can do that, and he did. But we can, before eating an apple, say "God, this is for you." If we can say this before all our actions, then we have come a long way.


thisjourneyofmylife said...

I posted a comment, but I don't know where it went to ...
So, a recap: I love how you made the link between Adam and Eve eating the apple and our sinning. That by sinning we force ourselves out of 'the garden of Eden', the presence of God. It's so beautiful that we have the chance to get back in by going to confession!
Reading your post, I realised Adam and Eve are now venerated as saints, but they must have been in Hell because of their sinning. I assume they rose to Heaven when Jesus descended into Hell, but to people now still get a 'last chance' after they die?

Nate said...

They were not in "hell" proper. They were not in heaven though until Jesus "descended into Hell". Hell in this case is called the "limbo of the just". It is a place where the righteous before the coming of Christ went after they died. There is a really sophisticated theology about this that I'm not an expert on. What I know is that there was some place where they went that wasn't the place of eternal damnation.