The Problem in Recognizing Our Sins

We build skyscrapers, split the atom, design computers, and send men to the moon, but the most difficult and most important task remains undone, namely acknowledging our personal sins.  Pride, the most deceptive of the Seven Deadly Sins, creates the illusion that we are better than we are and therefore renders critical self-examination unnecessary.“ I don’t want criticism,” insisted Mussolini, “I want applause.”

How can those who favor abortion acknowledge its iniquity? Abortion is the deliberate killing of an innocent human being.  It is robbing that human being of ever knowing love, liberty, or life.  It is an evil of such enormity that it is too painful to acknowledge and much easier to repress. The self-justification of an evil must close itself off from self-realization. As a consequence, the person who represses his complicity in evil acts must war against anyone who seeks to liberate him from his delusions. Nothing is more horrifying to a person than the sudden realization of his repressed iniquities.

The story of King David offers us the first of four examples concerning individuals who could not acknowledge their sins, but through the grace of God and the help of others, experienced an epiphany which led to their conversions and to a far better life. David, despite his many wives and concubines, lusted after Bathsheba, arranged the death of her husband, and took her for his wife.  He had adjusted to his iniquities and remained unrepentant. God, however, sent Nathan to him who spoke of a rich man who had “very many flocks and herds” and a poor man who had “but one little ewe lamb. When a traveler arrived, the rich man refused to offer one of his flock, but took the poor man’s lamb and prepared it for him. Infuriated by this tale, David, said, “As the Lord lives, the man who has done this deserves to die.” Then, Nathan said to David, “You are the man.”  It was a painful moment of self-realization for David.  “I have sinned against the Lord,” said David, in an act of contrition. God was forgiving, but David did not escape punishment (2 Samuel, 12).

Saul, whose name was later changed to Paul, was on his way to Damascus seeking to imprison whatever Christians he might encounter. Suddenly a brilliant flash of light from heaven struck him, knocking him to the ground.  He heard the voice of Jesus speak to him: “Saul. Saul, why do you persecute me?” “Who are you, Lord?” Saul asked. “I am Jesus,” He replied, “whom you are persecuting.”  Saul was blinded by the light, but after three days of fasting and praying, something like scales fell from his eyes and he could see again. But Saul, now Paul and later St. Paul, saw things in a different light. He could now recognize his former sins and the redeeming power of Christ (9: 1-19). He was liberated from the darkness of his sins and entered the light of Truth.

Aurelius Augustinus, by his own admission, was the most learned and the most dissolute student at the University of Carthage.  Lust of the flesh had been his undoing.  He was in his garden one day and in an agitated state.  He was reading the Letters of St. Paul when he heard a child’s voice saying “tolle lege, tolle lege” (take up and read).  What Augustine read was a turning point in his life and led to his baptism.  He opened the Bible at random and his eyes fell on Romans 13:13–14 which read: “Let us walk properly as in the daytime, not in orgies and drunkenness, not in sexual immorality and sensuality, not in quarreling and jealousy. But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires.” Augustine abandoned his own sensuous ways and became a Christian, a bishop and a saint.

Ebenezer Scrooge is the central character of Charles Dickens’ immortal classic, A Christmas Carol.  His sin was that of avarice, more specifically described in the story as miserliness. He thought of nothing other than how much money he could save. He cared little for his employees and less for their families. In a harrowing sequence of events, he is visited by Jacob Marley, his former partner, and the ghosts of Christmas past, present and future. He is finally awakened to the fact that his miserliness is the cause of his misery and that life is to be enjoyed and happily shared with others. His conversion was a full 180 degrees. Early in the tale, he declared that  “If I had my way, every idiot who goes around with Merry Christmas on his lips, would be boiled with his own pudding, and buried with a stake of holly through his heart. Merry Christmas? Bah humbug!” By the end of the story, he says “I will honor Christmas in my heart, and try to keep it all the year. I will live in the Past, the Present, and the Future. The Spirits of all three shall strive within me. I will not shut out the lessons that they teach.”

The examples from the Old Testament (King David), the New Testament (St. Paul), the Fourth Century (St. Augustine), and from the world of literature (Ebenezer Scrooge) offer hope to those who have difficulty coming to terms with their own sins. Conversions, with the help of God and good friends, are possible.  Several doctors who performed abortions finally recognized the horror of that they were doing and became pro-life Christians. Sins need not be a permanent feature of one’s character. Grace is available and hope is always on the horizon.

By

Dr. Donald DeMarco is Professor Emeritus, St. Jerome’s University and Adjunct Professor at Holy Apostles College.  He is a regular columnist for St. Austin Review and is the author of forty books.He is a former corresponding member of the Pontifical Academy of Life.  Some of his latest books, The 12 Supporting Pillars of the Culture of Life and Why They Are Crumbling, and Glimmers of Hope in a Darkening World, Restoring Philosophy and Returning to Common Sense and Let Us not Despair are posted on amazon.com.  He and his wife, Mary, have 5 children and 13 grandchildren.  

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