Let’s Talk About Sin; Everybody’s Doing It
“All sins are despised by God, especially pride. My beloved, rebuke yourselves and confess your own sins, so that God may elevate you.” ~ Saint Anthony of Egypt
On a day when the Church pauses to memorialize and celebrate Saint Anthony of Egypt, the sage Abbot and hermit generally considered to be the founder and father of Christian Monasticism, it allows us to reflect upon the virtues of obedience, self-control and wisdom.
Saint Anthony was a prolific writer, spurred on by his brilliant and lucid mind, made so no doubt through the discipline of prayer, solitude, and stillness, which served to foster within him the clarity with which he spoke and taught. Choosing but one of his quotes to lead off today’s reflection was no easy task. I have a hunch I may be referring back to him again before this essay is complete.
In our Gospel today (Mark 2:1-12) Jesus teaches the scribes on hand in rather spectacular fashion they he does indeed have the authority to forgive sins through the healing of the paralytic. This authority is of course given to him through God the Father, as Jesus is one in the Father as God the Father is one in Him. (John 10:30). The men who lowered the paralytic through the roof showed dogged persistence, resourcefulness and faith, for they knew the power of Jesus’ healing power, both of the physical and spiritual variety.
The elders of Israel in our 1st Reading (1 Samuel 8:4-7, 10-22) on the other hand chose to reject God, instead clinging to their same old ways, old ways which will of course reap the same old results. One can’t help but draw a parallel to the decision of these elders and the decision of those who reject God in the year 2020, choosing instead to genuflect to the unjust and corrupt politicians of our times. Samuel explained to the elders in painstaking detail what they could expect if they chose a worldly king. Here’s what he had to say:
The rights of the king who will rule you will be as follows: He will take your sons and assign them to his chariots and horses, and they will run before his chariot. He will also appoint from among them his commanders of groups of a thousand and of a hundred soldiers. He will set them to do his plowing and his harvesting, and to make his implements of war and the equipment of his chariots. He will use your daughters as ointment makers, as cooks, and as bakers. He will take the best of your fields, vineyards, and olive groves, and give them to his officials. He will tithe your crops and your vineyards, and give the revenue to his eunuchs and his slaves. He will take your male and female servants, as well as your best oxen and your asses, and use them to do his work. He will tithe your flocks and you yourselves will become his slaves. When this takes place, you will complain against the king whom you have chosen, but on that day the Lord will not answer you.”
This would be their fate unless they instead opted for the freedom that came with appointing the Lord God as their leader and King. Those were the choices: tyranny, oppression and slavery or life under the umbrella of God’s unending ocean of mercy, grace and love.
They opted for Curtain #1.
This in a nutshell is sin. This is why sin is such a severely disordered act. Sin has of course become so commonplace today that many don’t even recognize it. Of this sad phenomenon, Saint Anthony of Egypt long ago remarked “a time is coming when men will go mad, and when they see someone who is not mad they will attack him, saying “You are mad; you are not like us.”
The misalignment of our disordered wills with God’s divine will for us and our lives is at the root of this. We must center our will to God’s will so that we may grow in grace. For as Saint Augustine once said “Free will without grace has the power to do nothing but sin.” It becomes misguided, irrational, self-centered and intrinsically disordered.
Repentance is the first order of business as it relates to sin, and as we saw in today’s Gospel, Jesus waits for us with open arms. Our God is one who desires for us to return to him, one who cherishes tending to our every need. He will never abandon us, he never quit on us.
Or to quote yet again the great Saint Anthony of Egypt, “to say that God turns away from the sinful is like saying that the sun hides from the blind.”
Saint Anthony of Egypt, pray for us.