Christ taught about the forgiveness of sins in the parable of the Prodigal Son (1). He instituted the Sacrament of Penance for the forgiveness of sins when He said to the Apostles: (4) “Whose sins you shall forgive, they are forgiven them: and whose sins you shall retain they are retained.”
What is meant in the Apostles’ Creed by “the forgiveness of sins”? –By “the forgiveness of sins” in the Apostles’ Creed is meant that God has given to the Church, through Jesus Christ, the power to forgive sins, no matter how great or how many they are, if sinners truly repent.
- In the Old Law, sins were forgiven through the merits of the Redeemer that was to come. In the New Law they are forgiven through the merits of the Redeemer Who has come.Pointing to Christ, St. John the Baptist said: “Behold the lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!”
- We can obtain forgiveness of sin, because Christ the Redeemer merited forgiveness for us by His death. The Church has power to remit sins through the merits of Jesus Christ, “in whom we have our redemption, the remission of our sins” (Col. 1:14).During life, Christ actually forgave sin. For example, He forgave Mary Magdalen, the paralytic, and the good thief. In curing the paralytic, He said, “But that you may know that the Son of Man has power on earth to forgive sins -then he said to the paralytic –“Arise, take up thy pallet and go to thy house” (Matt. 9:6).
- Christ gave to His Apostles and disciples and their successors power to forgive sins. He said: “Receive the Holy Spirit; whose sins you shall forgive, they are forgiven them; and whose sins you shall retain, they are retained” (John 20:22-23).This power to forgive sins was not given to the Apostles alone, since men of later ages would need forgiveness as much as men of Apostolic times. The power, therefore, must also remain in the successors of the Apostles.
- It is true, as the enemies of the Church assert, that man cannot forgive sins. Man, by his own individual power, can never forgive the smallest sin. But he can forgive all sins, with the power and authority God gave him, as minister of God, acting in God’s place. Or is God limited because man is sinful? “These things I write to you in order that you may not sin. But if anyone sins, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the just” (1 John 2:1).From the very beginning the Church has exercised this power, through the sacraments of Penance and Baptism, and even through Extreme Unction.
How may sins be remitted or forgiven? –Sins may be remitted or forgiven by various means, according to the kind and gravity of the sin: by Baptism, by Penance, and by good works.
- Original sin is remitted through Baptism. When we are baptized, we become children of God, and heirs of heaven.None but children of God, the baptized, can have a pass to God’s eternal home.
- Actual sin is remitted by Baptism, by Penance, by Extreme Unction, and by good works. Such good works are: prayer, fasting, and alms-deeds.Good works cannot remit grave or mortal sin; they can only dispose a person to the state of mind which leads him to the Sacrament of Penance.
- The guilt of forgiven sins never returns. Once forgiven, a sin is forgiven forever. If after our sins have been forgiven we commit a new sin, or sins like the ones already forgiven, we are guilty of new sins.A man tells five lies. He repents and confessing his sin, obtains forgiveness. After a month he tells five lies again. He is guilty of having told only five lies, not ten.
What is vice? –Vice is a habit of sin formed by repeated acts of sin.
- One who makes a practice of stealing has the vice of theft. One who habitually drinks to intoxication has the vice of drunkenness. One who frequently sins against chastity has the vice of impurity.If one commits robbery and ever after avoids that sin, he has committed the mortal sin of robbery, but he has no vice. Similarly one may be completely intoxicated once, but if he resolves never again to drink, and sticks to his resolution, he has no vice.
- A vice is easily acquired. This is one reason why we must be very careful not to commit sin. If we should be so unhappy as to fall into sin, we must at once cut off the possibility of forming vice by contrition, penance, and a resolution not to sin again.After the first fall, one more readily yields to the next temptation. Each yielding weakens the will for the next. Thus step by step one who starts a sin will soon find himself the slave of a vicious habit. “He that contemneth small things shall fall by little and little” (Ecclus 19:1).
- A vice is easy to break off in the beginning, difficult to break when fully formed, but always capable of being overcome by a resolute will with God’s grace.It is easy enough to uproot a very young tree. But when it has grown into a mighty tree, it becomes extremely difficult. The vice having been firmly formed, it becomes a necessity and is impossible to break without extraordinary grace. This impossibility often leads many vicious persons to despair and to final impenitence. But God can do all things. One therefore who has contracted a habit of sin must have recourse to God, who will strengthen him, so that he can conquer his vice, by patient acts of virtue and a constant exertion of the will.
Can all sins be forgiven? –Yes, all sins, however great, can be forgiven, through the infinite merits of Christ, Who is God.The repentant sinner is told in Scripture: “If your sins be as scarlet, they shall be made white as snow” (Is. 1:17)
- God is always ready to forgive our sins, no matter how great or how many they are, if we are truly sorry for them. No actual sin can be forgiven without sorrow and repentance on the part of the sinner.Our Lord said: “I say to you that, even so, there will be joy in heaven over one sinner who repents, more than over ninety-nine just who have no need of repentance” (Luke 15:7).
- The sin against the Holy Ghost which Christ warned us would not be forgiven in heaven or on earth is persistent impenitence, the sin of one who rejects conversion and dies in mortal sin. One guilty of this sin can never obtain forgiveness of God, because at the hour of death he continues to thrust God away from him.A man mortally wounded cannot have any hope of cure if he not only refuses to listen to his doctors, but shuts his mouth against all medicines, and kicks away all medical instruments and help. Even Judas would have been pardoned if he had asked for forgiveness and made a sincere act of contrition before his death.
This article has been taken from “My Catholic Faith” I am not the author merely the distributor.God Bless BJS!!
Pride makes one admire himself, in the belief that his excellence, imagined or real, is the result of his own worth. Our Lord condemned pride in the parable of the Pharisee and the Publican (1). Jesus said that the humble and repentant publican was justified in the eyes of God, while the proud Pharisee went home unjustified. Covetousness is one of the ugliest of sins. It was a sin of Judas. He loved money so much that he even betrayed Our Lord for thirty pieces of silver(2).
What is pride? –Pride is an inordinate love of one’s own excellence, an excessive self-esteem.
Our Lord is the best example of meekness and patience. Did He use His almighty power to punish those who did Him evil? For hours He hung meekly on the cross, until He died. Every day God is patient with sinners, giving them time to change their ways. God, the Supreme One, is not proud.
The proud man overestimates himself, and believes himself the source of his own excellence. The virtue of humility, which disposes us to acknowledge our limitations, is opposed to pride.
Some are proud of their appearance; others of their family, talents, position, money, and the virtues they imagine, they possess. Even if we do have excellent abilities or possessions, we should not be proud of them, remembering that they all come from God. Instead, we should be humbly thankful, and see in what way we can make a return to God for such gifts. “Every proud man is an abomination to the Lord” (Prov. 16:5).
Pride may be called the mother of all vices, for most sins can be traced to it. From pride arise ambition, vanity, presumption, disobedience, hypocrisy, obstinacy in sin.
“For pride is the beginning of all sin: he that holdeth it shall be filled with maledictions and it shall ruin him in the end” (Ecclus. 10:15). “Never suffer pride to reign in thy mind or in thy words, for from it all perdition took its beginning” (Tob. 4:14). Pride was the sin of our First Parents, who wanted to be as great as God. It was the sin of King Pharaoh; he was so proud that in spite of the miracles Moses worked, he refused to be convinced. For this God “hardened his heart” (Exod. 9:12); that is, God permitted him to close the window of his soul against the grace of the Holy Ghost, “Because thou hast rejected the word of the Lord, the Lord has rejected thee” (1 Kings 15:26).
The proud man tries to attract notice and praise, strives after honors, distinctions, and other worldly favors.
He is over-confident in himself, and despises the assistance of God. Pride was the sin of Lucifer. The proud man pretends to be greater than he is, and tries by all manner of means to attract the praise of others, even using false humility to do so.
God hates pride, and punishes it severely, He often punishes secret pride by withdrawing His assistance from the proud man. And deprived of God’s aid, the proud man often falls into grievous sins leading to his humiliation.
“The beginning of the pride of man is to fall off from God” (Ecclus. 10:14). “God resists the proud” (1 Pet. 5:5). “Everyone who exalts himself shall be humbled” (Luke 14:11). Thus the proud King Herod was eaten up by worms and died. Thus, the proud Roman Empire fell and became nothing. Our Lord pointed out the pride in the heart of the Pharisee, and praised the humble publican.
If we, however, despise sin as beneath us, that is not pride, but a virtuous self respect.
A decent regard for cleanliness and neatness is not vanity. The ambition to exceed in good things, as in studies, in order to make the best use of God’s gifts, is to be commended. God wishes us to be His excellent children.
What is covetousness? –Covetousness is the excessive love for, and seeking after, wealth and other worldly possessions.
Covetousness is also called avarice. A covetous person strives for more riches than he requires, and is never content, however much he already possesses.
He greedily clings to what he has, and is stingy and hates to give anything away. For money Judas betrayed the Lord. “There is not a more wicked thing than to love money; for such a one setteth even his own soul to sale” (Ecclus. 10:10). “Take heed and guard yourselves from all covetousness, for a man’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions” (Luke 12:15).
We meet with covetous persons among both rich and poor. Often among the rich there is money without avarice, and among the poor, avarice without money.
From covetousness arise hard-heartedness towards the poor, lying, cheating, usury, defrauding laborers of wages, and other sins.
“Those who seek to become rich fall into temptation and a snare . . . For covetousness is the root of all evils” (1 Tim. 6:9-10). It destroys faith, for the avaricious are so absorbed in money-getting that they have no time for their spiritual welfare.
To provide for one’s future and that of one’s family is praiseworthy. To avoid waste and extravagance is a virtue.
To accumulate even considerable wealth, by proper means, is not wrong. The rich, however, must remember their obligation to use their wealth for the glory of God, not for their own pride.
Liberality, which disposes us rightly to use worldly goods, is opposed to covetousness.
The avaricious man is very foolish. He works hard all his life and becomes hated by men: he earns besides eternal damnation after death and all for nothing. When he dies all he has are a few feet of earth for his grave; his money is left to heirs who most probably ridicule his miserliness or waste the money to gain which he lost his soul. “For when he shall die, he shall take nothing away; nor shall his glory descend with him” (Ps. 48:18).
What is lust? –Lust is the inordinate seeking of the pleasures of the flesh.
Lust defiles a man as no other sin does. It degrades man to the level of the beast. Pride is the sin commited by Lucifer, avarice by Judas, and lust by the brute.
Of all vices, lust is most severely punished on earth. It leads to loss of health and reason. It was the cause of the Deluge. It was the cause for the destruction with fire and brimstone of Sodom and Gomorrha. “But immorality and every uncleanness or covetousness, let it not even be named among you, as becomes saints” (Ephes. 5:3).
Those tempted to lust should remember that man was made to the image and likeness of God. Will they so rashly destroy that image, to make themselves like to beasts? In fact, beasts are better than lustful men, for beasts act in that manner from instinct; they have no soul like God.
Impurity weakens the will and darkens the understanding. For this reason amendment is very difficult, and the sinner falls into many other sins. So Solomon, who yielded to lust, finally lost all his wisdom and turned to worship false gods.
From lust spring jealousy, hatred, murder, loss of faith, despair, instability, worldliness, selfishness, and other sins.
The consequences of lust are seen in the case of Henry VIII. It was the cause of his apostasy, and his apostasy dragged an entire nation into similar apostasy. “For know this and understand, that no fornicator, or unclean person, or covetous one (for that is idolatry) has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God” (Ephes. 5:5)
Sodomy, or sins against purity by persons of the same sex, is a form of lust.
This article has been taken from “My Catholic Faith” I am not the author merely the distributor.
God Bless BJS!!
Vice is easily formed, but requires great struggle to overcome it. The longer a man indulges in vice, the harder is the struggle. He becomes its slave. He is completely carried away by his passions. Only the great grace of God, coupled with a resolute will, can eradicate vice, once it is strongly rooted in a man’s nature. This is one reason why we must be most careful to avoid sin, in order not to become victims of vice. If we are so unfortunate as to fall into sin, we must at once repent and resolve to avoid it in the future.
What are the near occasions of sin? –The near occasions of sin are all persons, places, or things that may easily lead us into sin.
Most common occasions are:
Bad companions. One who provokes or leads us into sin is not our friend. We must stop going with that companion.
One rotten apple in a basket of good apples quickly rots the rest. The same is true of human beings. Sin is a contagious disease. If we do not wish to he infected, we must go far away from it.
Dance halls. Not every dance is sinful. But many dances are occasions of sin; and public dances without the presence of respectable adults are extremely dangerous. A safe rule to follow is never to go to any place where you would be ashamed to take your virtuous mother or sister.
In many dances, the women tend to dress with extravagance and immodesty, just to “follow the fashion”. Sometimes, too, dances are an occasion for the taking of liberties, due to late hours, and the spirit of unrestrained pleasure.
Bars and liquor saloons. These are very proximate occasions of sin, leading to intemperance, and worse evils.
Those who frequent saloons are likely to be not only habitual drunkards, but constant gamblers, who neglect their homes and duties, become involved in disputes, and finally end badly even in the temporal sense.
Obscene literature. Bad newspapers and magazines are no less dangerous because their wickedness is often not apparent, many hiding their evil under the guise of cleverness, science, art, etc.
Bad periodicals gradually undermine faith and make one insensitive to evil. It is the duty of every Catholic to subscribe to a Catholic periodical, and never to favor a wicked press.
Bad books. Many novels are harmless; some are very helpful, but many are positively wicked. We must be very careful in the selection of the books we read. There are national book clubs under Catholic auspices. Among them may be mentioned the Catholic Book Club, and the Pro Parvulis Book Club, headquarters of both of which are in New York City.
These book clubs send members lists of books of merit according to literary standards, and not offensive to Catholic morals. They publish reviews of current fiction most useful for the general reader. We must remember that poisonous food will only kill the body, but poisonous reading kills the soul.
Indecent pictures and shows. Today many moving pictures and theatrical shows are not decent. We must be careful to choose only the good, those approved by the National Legion of Decency. This Legion, working under the hierarchy, each week issues a list giving the moral evaluation of current films; it reviews and classifies. It asks every Catholic to take a pledge not to patronize lewd pictures.
This pledge is nothing extraordinary for any decent person, Catholic or non-Catholic; it merely puts down clearly something that any upright person is obliged in conscience to do.
The Legion of Decency was formed in order to unite the laity with the hierarchy in a persistent drive to prevent the showing of lewd pictures. If every decent person kept away from such obscene shows, the producers would surely make better pictures. Supply is according to the demand; we get what we ask for.
How should we act towards occasions of sin? –We should never seek, and always try to avoid, occasions of sin.
It is wrong voluntarily to seek the occasions of sin.
“He that loveth the danger shall perish in it” (Ecclus. 3:27). However, those who by their calling or other necessity are continually exposed to such dangerous occasions, as priests, officials, doctors, and others, must put their trust in God, Who will give them grace and protect them.
We must avoid occasions of sin as soon as we perceive them.
If one goes to the theatre and sees that the play is an indecent play, he must stand up and leave at once. Otherwise he commits a sin. He will fall into further sin, and commit besides the sin of not avoiding the occasion.
What are the chief sources of actual sin? –The chief sources of actual sin are: pride, covetousness, lust, anger, gluttony, envy, and sloth, and these are commonly called capital sins.
They are called capital, from the Latin caput (which means head), because they are the heads or sources of all sins. Thus they originate sins of luxury, gossip, excessive ambition, etc.
They are called capital sins, not because they are the greatest sins in themselves, but because they are the chief reasons why men commit sin. They are the origin of every sin, all other sins arising from them as from their fountainhead.
These sins are termed deadly, because they are either mortal of their own nature, or may easily become mortal. They may be mortal or venial according as the matter is serious or less serious.
These sins are called vices, because they produce permanent disorders in the soul. They are the seven fatal diseases of the soul, which end in death.
He who will be a friend of God must divest himself of these vices. Before we can plant the beautiful garden of virtues, we must root up the thorns and weeds growing out of these deadly sins.
Does God punish sin? –Yes, God punishes sin, partly in this life, but chiefly after death.
In this life sinners suffer from remorse of conscience, fear, and unhappiness. Their sin often brings upon them disease or death, the hatred and scorn of their fellow-men, and other temporal punishments. Even on earth, “the wages of sin is death”.
Thus a robber or murderer is ever afraid his crime will be detected. If it is discovered, he is sent to prison or to the electric chair.
The punishment of the sinner is fully meted out to him only after death. Then the unrepentant sinner is punished in hell. Justice is not always done in this world, where the wicked often prosper and the just are made to suffer.
On earth, God rewards the sinner for whatever good he may do. It is only in the next life that the evil he does is given its full and just punishment
This article has been taken from “My Catholic Faith” I am not the author merely the distributor.
God Bless BJS!!
We are prone to look upon venial sin as of no consequence, and to be careless about guarding against it, forgetting that it is second only in evil consequences to mortal sin. In Holy Scripture we see from many examples how God regards venial sin; even in this life He has punished it most severely. For only a slight doubt about God’s mercy, because of the wickedness of his people, Moses was punished: he was not permitted to lead the Israelites into the Promised Land.
What is venial sin? –Venial sin is a less serious offense against the law of God, which does not deprive the soul of sanctifying grace, and which can be pardoned even without sacramental confession.
A sin can be venial in two ways:
When the evil done is not seriously wrong. If we sin against God in matters of slight importance, we commit venial sin.
Grumbling when told by Your mother to open the window is not gravely wrong; it is a venial sin.
When the evil done is seriously wrong, but the sinner sincerely believes it is only slightly wrong, or does it on the spur of the moment, without sufficient reflection, or without full consent of the will.
Stealing an expensive diamond ring is seriously wrong, but if the sinner took it in the belief that it was only a cheap imitation, the sin had not full consent, and is venial. If one eats meat on a day of abstinence, thinking it only a slight sin to do so; or if one in a sudden outburst of anger insults a companion seriously, he commits a venial sin for lack of sufficient reflection and consent.
Examples of venial sin are impatience, slight faultfinding, lies that harm nobody.
The word “venial” comes from the Latin venialis, meaning easily pardonable. Even the most just of mortals falls into venial sin again and again. God permits this to keep us humble. The most imperfect of mortals attains a very high degree of perfection as soon as he can avoid all deliberate venial sin: as soon as he does not commit any sin deliberately, with full advertence and consent.
If a person is in the state of grace, venial sins are forgiven in many ways without necessity of confession.
Provided one has sorrow and a sincere resolution not to commit the sins again, they are forgiven not only by Confession, but also by Holy Communion, by acts of contrition, prayer, good works, etc.
A distinction exists between venial sins and imperfections. Imperfections are faults that arise from ignorance or weakness, not from a bad will.
For instance involuntary distractions in prayer, “white lies” told while telling a story or in exagerations or jokes, bad manners that hurt no one much, are imperfections. We should, however, try to avoid all imperfections, for they are not praiseworthy, are often a cause of irritation to others, and make us accustomed to doing what is not correct.
How does venial sin harm us? –Venial sin harms us by making us less fervent in the service of God, by weakening our power to resist mortal sin, and by making us deserving of God’s punishments in this life or in purgatory.
Although venial sin is not a grievous offense against God, it is nevertheless a great moral evil, next alone to mortal sin.
It is like a drop of ink in a glassful of clear water; the ink, however little, takes away the clearness.
If often committed, venial sin weakens the will, lessens our power to resist evil, and makes it easier for us to fall into mortal sin.
“He that contemneth small things shall fall by little and little” (Ecclus. 19:1). “He who is faithful in a very little thing is faithful also in much; and he who is unjust in a very little thing is unjust also in much” (Luke 16:10). A great fire is started by a tiny breeze. Venial sin, by weakening the will, makes us indisposed for good, and lukewarm in God’s service.
Venial sin deprives us of many actual graces we need for resisting temptation.
When a mirror is dusty, it cannot reflect the image clearly; similarly the mirror of the soul, when dusty with venial sin, cannot reflect the light of grace and justice. God will not bestow his blessings and graces on one whose soul is disfigured by venial sin, as a distinguished personage is not expected to embrace a man who is disfigured by a skin disease.
Venial sin deprives us of heaven for a time.
If we die with venial sins on our souls, or without fully satisfying for them, we have to expiate for them in purgatory.
A great desire not to offend God in the least is the best proof of love and loyalty towards our heavenly Father.
Holy Scripture shows many instances of God’s hatred for venial sin, which He punishes severely even on earth. For her curiosity, Lot’s wife was turned into a pillar of salt. “But I tell you, that of every idle word men speak, they shall give account on the day of judgment” (Matt. 12:36).
How can we keep from committing sin? –We can keep from committing sin by praying and by receiving the sacraments; by remembering that God is always with us; by recalling that our bodies are temples of the Holy Ghost; by keeping occupied with work or play; by promptly resisting the sources of sin within us; by avoiding the near occasions of sin.
Prayer and the sacraments protect us from sin. They are like a strong fortress against which the enemy strikes in vain, and within which the soul remains safe in the grace of God.
When the Apostles were in danger on the lake of Genessareth, they had recourse to prayer. We are ever in danger from sin while we live; let us build up around us a rampart of prayer. God will protect us, as He protected the Apostles; He will answer.our prayer. The soul nourished by the sacraments is strong, and will not easily succumb to sin; as a healthy body does not easily succumb to disease.
Even good people fall into sins, frequently because they forget God’s presence. Let us remember that the eye of God is always upon us, every single moment. Then, if we love Him, we would never sin, never insult His presence by sin.
If we had a distinguished personage before us, would we commit indecent acts? Would we steal, or use bad language? But is not God the most distinguished of all persons, and is He not always looking on us?
When we are in the state of grace, our body is the temple of the Holy Ghost.
God dwells in it as Jesus Christ lives in the tabernacle. If we remember this always, we shall be greatly helped in avoiding sin.
The most practical way of avoiding sin is to keep occupied with work or play. Man must do something; if he does not do something good, he will do something evil.
A busy instrument cannot be used in doing mischief. Robbers will hesitate to enter a house where the occupants are busy. If we are occupied in doing good, we have no time to sit idly and wag our tongues in gossip.
This article has been taken from “My Catholic Faith” I am not the author merely the distributor.
God Bless BJS!!