Saturday, February 11, 2012

Sin: You Just Don't Understand!

While driving the two hours to visit my friend in the hospital, the local radio talk droned on about the Superbowl ads and election promises (borrrrrinnng) and so I turned on the CD “Awesome God”. It is a lively collection of songs as sung at Franciscan University’s summer conferences. The music and words, coupled with my somber mission, set the mood of my heart, and even as I joined in singing praises to God, I reflected on my last post here, and thought that many of us, myself included, can easily praise God, even as we sin. And then I thought: How can this be?

I thought about the recent liberal newspaper commentary: “Most Catholics practice contraception anyway; a law now saying they must pay for it will be no big thing to them.” And I am sure this might be true for many Catholics, but why? I needed a deeper understanding.

Oh I know why those who don’t care about Catholic teaching would pass such laws. They see that some Catholics question whether something is a sin, like contraception, sterilization, or abortion, and they say “Let’s codify a permissibility for that into law; let’s ease the conscience of Catholics that these things are sin” --- but they don’t do this to help Catholics. For they then move on to the next thing that “some Catholics” question as sin, and legalize that also. Soon, they’ll turn all sins into good things in the law. They’ll outlaw sin, and the Catholic Church. They’ll show Christians they needed no Savior to forgive their sins; “We’ll forgive them!”

Such is the mindset of those who will pass laws against the teachings of the Catholic Church, against the revelation of God, on what sin is.

And many Catholics will step by step, law by law, think that this is no big thing. But, why is that? Why don’t they stand up for the Church? I think it has to do with our understanding (or lack of understanding) of sin, and the Church’s explanation. I don’t think we know what sin is. It is not just a “teaching” of the Church. Nor is sin something we can reason over and come to understand, to justify the evil of sin in our mind by our understanding of it --- or justify the good of some “claimed” sins by our logic. But that is where the answer to my question “Why do some Catholics think some sin is no big thing” begins. Some Catholics seek to justify standing up to the Church, and God, by saying: “That doesn’t logically make sense to me, that this thing is a sin.” They rate their understanding over the Church’s understanding, but they don’t see the real picture of what sin is.

I think the easiest way to see the impact of this kind of thinking is by looking at a similar situation we are all likely to have faced: when our spouse or child misunderstands the intention of our words or actions.

It has happened to me (let’s just say more than once) that I say or do something and then look at my spouse and see in response “The Look”. You know what I mean. It’s the look that SCREAMS at you: “WHAT!!!!!!!!!” --- without ever saying a word. It’s the look that tells you that you’ve said or done something wrong, big time. And you better not ignore it. It’s the look that says there is a good possibility that someone will be sleeping in the doghouse tonight or, if the look came from your child, there will soon be a very loud slamming of their bedroom door.

How you respond to “The Look” is critical.

There are only two responses to “The Look”. The first response is an instinctive one. It is short, like: “What?” or the longer version, where we seek to clarify our statement or action by saying “Let me explain to you what I said or did which seems to have made you mad, and why it is no big deal. Logically, you should not be upset over this.” Either of these responses just worsens the situation, and is likely to be met by words explaining “The Look” further, words like: “Oh!! You just don’t understand.” And this then is usually followed by tears, or said slamming of the bedroom door.

To receive “The Look” is no small thing, and seeking to minimize the other’s hurt by saying “I didn’t mean it” or “You don’t understand” does not ease the hurt. It’s saying to the one hurting: “I did something, but you’re the one who is wrong.” But pain is a very real thing. You cannot explain to someone that they do not hurt. They do.

This is why the second alternative response to “The Look” is the better one. In this case, upon seeing “The Look” you respond with “I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to hurt you. I love you.” (Note: preceding this response with “I don’t know what I did wrong, but …” negates its value.)

The difference between the two responses to “The Look” is that one seeks to justify our actions, applying OUR logic or reasoning to explain them, while the second humbly admits (while we may think what we did was logical) that we won’t do that again, because we know it hurts the one we love.

We avoid actions which hurt the ones we love, even if we don’t understand fully why the actions cause this hurt.

Sin causes God to give us “The Look”.

Seeking to justify our sins or trying to explain how logically they aren’t a bad thing is, in effect, explaining to God why He is wrong. Looking at sin this way, does that sound like a logical thing to do? Yet that is what those seeking to justify contraception or sterilization or abortion are attempting to do, explain to God why this should not be a sin. A far better thing to do is the second alternative above, if we should fall into such sins: “I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to hurt You. I love You.” Then (and only then) if our logical minds still wish to try to understand WHY God is hurt by these sins, then it is up to US to research Church teachings on these matters, Church documents, the writing of the saints, and yes, even prayer, asking God to help us understand His mind ---- or recognizing the futility of such a prayer, praying for the grace to be able to accept His will. Thy will, not mine, be done, Oh Lord.

Even if I don’t understand.

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