IF many Catholics, even devout believers, haven’t been frolicking in the streets over Pope Francis’s Year of Mercy, celebrating and spreading the infinite bounties of God’s forgiveness, maybe most just forget what He’s supposed to forgive.
It’s a three-letter word that’s the mother of all four-letter ones: sin.
When was the last time you read or heard about sin outside church? Maybe it was the “sin” of breaking your diet with a sisig and crispy pata lunch.
Or the “mortal sin” of —heaven forbid—wearing pink shoes with a green dress. As for it’s now a fancy way to say sorry.
But real sin—the fire-and-brimstone kind transgressing divine will and
commandments—we don’t hear, say, or worry much about. And if we don’t have sleepless nights over sin, neither would we have cheery days for God’s mercy, even a whole year of it.
And none of the teary foot-washing and -kissing done by the woman in today’s mass Gospel. As the Lord said, “[T]he one to whom little is forgiven, loves little.” And those who see nothing needing forgiveness in their lives, love Him nil.
Sin no evil
If sin has vanished from today’s fret list, so too has God for many, if not most people. And if the Almighty is gone, ditto His dos and don’ts, plus unquenchable fire frying those who sin against Him.
Not many people these days lose sleep, let alone tremble at having broken the Sixth and Ninth Commandments, as King David did in sleeping with Uriah’s wife, or even the Fifth for having the soldier-husband dispatched to the battlefront, then abandoned to be slain.
Drug lords and other crime bosses are scared not of eternal damnation, but swift assassination at the hands of police and vigilantes spurred by P5-million bounties.
And the hoods’ response is not to beg for mercy, which spared David’s life, but to brandish P50 million apiece to take out the incoming heads of the nation and the national police.
Yup, sin and God ain’t what they used to be.
When wrong becomes right
With heaven out of the picture, earthly standards set right and wrong. Rather than a violation of immutable laws, sin is just something that a particular tradition, culture, or upbringing doesn’t like, but others may accept.
Having more than one wife is banned by Jesus, fine for Mohamed, and no issue for atheists. Women’s attire shows just the eyes in Iran, but nearly everything in the West.
Even in acts still deemed wrongful or criminal, from murder and theft to rape and graft, man is freed of guilt and accountability for having succumbed to psychosocial, economic, political, biological, and other factors purportedly constricting on human choice. Thus, no choice, no fault, no sin.
There are the great justifications for even greater transgressions. Political and pseudo-religious causes, ethnic grievances, and family or community pains have made monsters massacring innocents, well, innocent.
And there’s the righteousness of the majority. Prevailing practices make bribery nothing new, hard to stop and, therefore, easy to accept.
Even the Vatican plays the numbers game. With so many divorced Catholics remarrying without annulling their marriages, Pope Francis favors letting local bishops ease strictures on Holy Communion for such couples.
Worse, Francis recently branded as heretics those traditionalists who stick out of the mainstream by sticking to centuries-old practices and rites.
Bishops have been told not to ordain priests of conservative bent, as if the millennia of belief, worship and morals they embrace and espouse are not Christian.
Looks like a sin stops being so if enough people commit it. And what’s been believed and done for centuries could end up on the wrong side of the line if the winds of change shift it far enough.
A final dig at sin comes from psychiatry. Some practitioners see guilt, fear of the Lord, and the strict sense of right and wrong as triggers of neurosis and other mental strains and disorders.
So instead of turning to divine mercy when sin becomes too disturbing, doctors and patients just delete sin and God from their vocabulary. Modern psychotherapy trumps 3,000 years of Scripture and theology.
What did Christ die for?
As sin fades from the minds of Catholics, our very faith is at risk. For if there is no sin, what did Christ die for?
Sin lies at the core of our faith: that man is sinful, God loves us despite our sinfulness, and He has sent His only Son to save us from sin and death by living our fallen existence on earth, suffering sin’s worst consequences, and rising from the dead to open the door of eternity to all mankind.
Belief in sin is also a humble, clear-eyed acceptance of our flawed world and humanity.
People lie and cheat, hurt and kill, poison the earth, amass wealth amid destitution, and willfully do what we know is wrong and destructive.
Human progress is supposed to eradicate social and personal ills. Yet the 20th Century has seen the bloodiest wars, the most destructive weapons, the planet-wide despoilation of nature, and the enslavement of hundreds of millions through narcotics, human trafficking, state repression, organized crime, and indentured labor.
Worst of all is the killing of an estimated 125,000 unborn children by their mothers across the globe every day. That’s 40-50 million abortions a year, by the World Health Organization’s count—the equivalent of almost half of all Filipinos snuffed out before birth.
In our era of escalating worldwide sin, the Catholic faithful face what may be the final battle to hold fast to our belief in God’s love and mercy as our salvation from sub and death.
Against this 2,000-year-old dogma, the 21st Century preaches that there is neither God nor sin, and human freedom and intelligence shall eventually right all wrongs, uplift every man, woman and child to a better life, and establish the reign of peace and justice for all.
Now every soul must choose and be counted. Whatever we believe, may God have mercy on us all.