About The Parish
Parish History
Parish Churches
Parish Newsletter
Parish Staff
Parish Council
Parish Areas
Pastoral Letters
West Essex Deanery
Brentwood Diocese
Twin Parish
Harlow Parishes

Pastoral Letters

'Sin Makes You Sad Rather Than Bad'

To be read at all Masses on the First Sunday of Lent 2006

'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 us glad.


+ Thomas McMahon

Bishop of Brentwood

Pastoral Letter 22th May 2005 on the Eucharist