'Sin Makes You Sad Rather Than Bad'
To be read at all Masses on the First Sunday of Lent
'Sin makes you sad rather than bad'. These words, written by Fr.
Rolheiser arrested my attention some weeks ago. I thought it was
a deep insight into human nature and into the heart of the lift
itself. In the Church we tend to associate sin with badness rather
than sadness and therefore lose somehting in that equation. Sin
actually makes us more sad than it makes us bad. Sin can, of course,
make us bad because we can cover up; lie; blame others - as happened
in the first sin: "the serpent tempted me and I ate" (Gen
3.13) Our first parents felt guilty and attempted to hide. In our
sin we can deny., rationalise, excuse ourselves and accuse others.
That is what hardens and harms the soul.
As we see in today's Gospel, the devil deceives and makes sin
attractive. But God has written His law deep in our hearts, so that
we know right from wrong. To the degree that we sin we begin to
lose our capacity for simple jow, delight and freshness Like Adam
and Eve we walk out of the garden of innocence and joy with our
eyes more open but with our hearts more heavy and less capable of
being delighted or inspired.
Lent is an invitation to turn away from sin and our assertion
of human independence and self-will to conversion. Conversion is
a daily taks since at each moment we have to make choices to follow
God's way or our own. Conversion implies a radical change inside
ourselves which then alters the way we relate to God and others.
This involves a change of heart wich affects our lives, attitudes,
choices, priorities. Happily for us, as the second Reading for today
from the First letter of Peter reminds us, conversion and renewal
are not attributed primarily to our own efforts but to God's grace
and mercy. Grace is St. Paul's language for the unconditional love
of God represented in Christ Jesus. It is through God's gift of
the Holy Spirit that we are converted again to His ways and renewed
in the likeness of His Son.
When the rich young man walked away from Jesus' invitation to radical
discipleship, the Gospel does not say that he walked away bad, only
that he walked away sad. No doubt he reminded good and sincere -
but sad. If it is true, then, that 'sin makes us sad rather than
bad' may our journey towards conversion and Easter serve to make
+ Thomas McMahon
Bishop of Brentwood
Pastoral Letter 22th May 2005 on