The Elixir of Egoism And Its Antidote
Let us treasure the Gospel in our hearts, presented in its fullness by the Catholic Church
"To acknowledge one's sin, indeed -- penetrating still more deeply into the consideration of one's own personhood -- to recognize oneself as being a sinner, capable of sin and inclined to commit sin, is the essential first step in returning to God" -- Blessed John Paul II
Further, drinking deeply from the elixir of egoism, many often view themselves as "good" provided that they are simply tolerant of others and that they avoid what are deemed as really "big" sins, such as murder or burglary and so forth. Consequently, the first three commands of the Decalogue are often largely ignored, while the latter seven are given only superficial treatment. Hence, to be "good" entails little more than performing daily tasks in a manner that is free from obvious malice toward neighbor, generally abiding by civil law, and following the motto "mind your own business."
Clearly something is seriously and dangerously wrong. Things are topsy-turvy. While the natural moral law is engraved in the soul of each man by God, present in the human heart and established by reason, universal in its precepts and its authority (see Catechism of the Catholic Church 1954 ff.), it is clear that large numbers of Christians and others of good will are displaying an impediment in their ability to discern what is good and what is evil. What has happened?
The situation is both simple and complex. The roots of our predicament can be easily traced to Original Sin and its effects upon Adam and Eve's posterity. On that day, at the dawn of human history, man lost original innocence, holiness and justice: the intellect and the will were darkened by sin; harmony between man and creation was broken; the death of man became a reality. Thus man has fallen prey, by his own actions, to concupiscence and a proclivity to sin. That Original Sin explains much of the present darkness in which man resides is true. Nevertheless, we freely choose to sin; we are responsible for our actions.
If more Christians were familiar with the dogma of Original Sin (see CCC 385 ff.), which is transmitted in its fullness by the Catholic Church, a great deal of progress could be made. The importance of seeking the truth would become more apparent; the necessity of the Magisterium (teaching authority of the Catholic Church) would more easily be recognized; and the need for sound catechesis and study would be more fully embraced. Yet here we arrive at the complexity of the situation. A simple familiarization with the theology of man's history is not enough, nor is the mere recognition of the importance of study in this area. Something more is required.
Father, I Have Sinned. I No Longer Deserve To Be Called Your Son
It is necessary to enter into a deeply repentant experience of self-knowledge. We begin by confronting ourselves. Blessed John Paul II explains: "To acknowledge one's sin, indeed -- penetrating still more deeply into the consideration of one's own personhood -- to recognize oneself as being a sinner, capable of sin and inclined to commit sin, is the essential first step in returning to God. . . .
"In effect, to become reconciled with God presupposes and includes detaching oneself consciously and with determination from the sin into which one has fallen. It presupposes and includes, therefore, doing penance in the fullest sense of the term: repenting, showing this repentance, adopting a real attitude of repentance -- which is the attitude of the person who starts out on the road of return to the Father" (Reconciliation and Penance 13).
Fervent repentance and conversion are necessary in order to cut through the darkness and begin to walk the path of light and truth which is found in Jesus Christ. It is not a matter of believing only, nor is it even a matter of prayer only, but rather one must actively and concretely engage in a wholly new way of life -- we must die to ourselves. In this new way, moved by the grace of God, we realize our baseness, inadequacy, fallibility, contingency and dependence on the Other who is our origin and source. It is a return to the Father in humility, submission and love. In this love is found our freedom: the fatted calf is slaughtered, the ring is put on our finger, the celebration ...
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