In the early 60s the proponents of the “there’s no God,” “God-is-Dead” and the more cautious but also anti-religion “leave us alone to define what God is” mentalities had not yet won the print and broadcast mass media, There were discussions then about the “sense of shame” and “the sense of sin.”
These discussions were in radio and TV talk shows and on the pages of The Manila Times. Young people don’t know that this paper was the largest-circulation and most-respected newspaper before it was destroyed by the Marcos Martial Law dictatorship. Many of the present college students don’t even quite know what the Marcos Martial Law regime was all about.
In those days, to be publicly called “walang hiya” (shameless) not just by a political enemy but by a writer for a serious publication like The Manila Times—names like should-be-Nobel awardee Frankie Sionil Jose, Philippine Star Founder Max Soliven, Inquirer Founder Eggie Apostol among others—made the corrupt break into paroxysms of guilt that made them come out and point to their accomplices.
More painful was to be asked “Don’t you have a sense of sin? How could you have done that?”
Exposure of the grasping schemes of Napoles and the congressmen and senators to take away food from the mouths of the poorest of the poor babies, inventing non-existent humanitarian NGOs to get money budgeted for indigents, would have made the politician-officials of the 50s and early 60s run to the nearest confessional and then disappear from public view.
But some of them have thick-skinnedly survived. They lead the pack in the Napoles PDAF scam and the Benigno Cojuangco Aquino DAP scam.
These have neither sense of shame nor sense of sin.
They should shudder to hear Pope Francis about the “sense of sin.” But they wouldn’t because they know that they are very much like the majority of the Filipino population—we Filipinos have generally lost the sense of sin. And that’s why we can easily forgive ourselves and those among us who commit incest against their own daughters and nieces and steal milk from the mouth of indigent babies! But I’m using that inclusive “we” rhetorically. I am proud to say that I have an acute sense of sin and go to confession as often as I can, as every Catholic should.
Pope Francis revives the issue
Last week, in his homily at Casa Santa Marta in Rome, Pope Francis brought up that very crucial matter to Christianity. You can’t be a proper Christian but only a mediocre Christian if you don’t have a sense of sin. We are Christians because we believe in the teachings of our Lord Jesus Christ—who died for our sins.
The Holy Father was talking to people at Santa Marta who he knew were mostly correct Catholics. So the worst he could say about not having the sense of sin is that it leads others to pay for our “Christian mediocrity.”
This is what the Zenit News Agency report said under the headline
“Pope Francis: Loss of the Sense of Sin Leads to ‘Christian Mediocrity’—Reflects on Those Who Suffer the Consequences of Other’s Sins.”
“VATICAN CITY, January 31, 2014 (Zenit.org)—Losing the sense of sin causes others to pay for our “Christian mediocrity.” This was the central point of Pope Francis’ homily today at Casa Santa Marta.
“The Holy Father reflected today on the first reading which spoke of David’s sin of adultery with Bathsheba which led to the murder of her husband, Uriah. David, he said, rather than seeing his adultery as a grave sin, sees it as a problem that needs to be resolved.
“This thing can happen to all of us,” he said. “We are all sinners and we are all tempted and temptation is our daily bread. If one of us said: ‘I never had a temptation’, either you’re a cherubim or a bit stupid, no?”
“Struggle is normal in life and the devil is never calm, he wants his victory. But the problem – the most serious problem in this passage – is not so much temptation and the sin against the 9th commandment, but how David behaves. And David here does not speak of sin, he speaks of a problem that he needs to resolve. This is a sign! When the Kingdom of God is lessened, when the Kingdom of God decreases, one of the signs is that the sense of sin is lost.”
“The Holy Father went on to say that in praying the Our Father, we pray for God’s kingdom to come, meaning ‘thy Kingdom grow.’ When the sense of sin is lost, so is the sense of the Kingdom of God lost. In its place, he said, ‘emerges a very powerful anthropological vision, in which ‘I can do anything.’ “
“The power of man in place of the glory of God! This is the daily bread. For this [reason]the everyday prayer to God ‘Your kingdom come, your kingdom grow’ [is important], because salvation does not come from our cleverness, our astuteness, in our intelligence in doing business. Salvation comes from the grace of God and from the daily training that we do with this grace in Christian life.”
The Pope also cited Pius XII’s assertion that “the sin of the century is the loss of the sense of sin.” He was the Holy Father from March 2, 1959 to October 9, 1958. Pope Francis reflected on Uriah, who represents the innocent victims who suffer as consequence of our sins.
“I must confess, when I see these injustices, this human pride, also when I see the danger that would happen to me, the danger of losing the sense of sin, it does me well to think of the many Uriahs in history, the many Uriahs who even today suffer from our Christian mediocrity, when we lose the sense of sin, when we let the Kingdom of God fall.”
St. Josemaria Escriva’s words
Almost half a century ago, St. Josemaria Escriva said in a letter to priests:
“Revival of the practice of sacramental confession is one of the greatest challenges for the present day world, which needs to rediscover the sense of sin and experience the joy of God’s mercy. A priest, by making himself available to celebrate the sacrament of Reconciliation, and in such a way that – through prayer and study— his ideas are in harmony with the doctrine of the Church, is absolutely irreplaceable.”
Why, many people, Filipinos and foreigners, ask: Why are the Filipinos so self-destructive, so unable to get their acts together, so undisciplined and chaotic?
James Fallows, probably thinking of Filipinos as people who should be guided to greatness by their Christian faith, gave the answer in the 1980s: They have a damaged culture.
Well, yes. We have lost the sense of sin.