The Mystery of Sin and Saint Paul
Part II - The interior struggle
Of this I am certain, that no principle of good dwells in me, that is, in my natural self; praiseworthy intentions are always ready at hand, but I cannot find my way to perform them; it is not the good my will prefers, but the evil my will disapproves that I find myself doing.
And if what I do is something I have not the will to do, it cannot be I that bring it about; it must be the sinful principle that dwells in me. This, then, is what I find about the Law [of God], that evil is close at my side, when my will is to do what is praiseworthy. Inwardly, I applaud God's disposition, but I observe another disposition in my lower self, which raises war against the disposition of my [heart], and so I am handed over as a captive to that disposition towards sin which my lower self contains" (Rm 7:15-23).
The biological life, with its sensory attractions and physical appetites, drew Saint Paul in one direction. The moral life, complicated by selfish desires, disorderly affections, and unstable emotions, had him struggle in a second direction. The loftier movements of his mind and the innate desire to live according to God's truthful love set him off in a third direction.
This turmoil within convinced Saint Paul that there is the universal experience of concupiscence. So, when some forbidden fruit becomes appealing to a person, it is concupiscence at work within him or her.
The Catechism defines concupiscence: "Etymologically, 'concupiscence' can refer to any intense form of human desire. Christian theology has given it a particular meaning: the movement of the sensitive appetite contrary to the operation of the human reason. The Apostle, Saint Paul, identifies it with the rebellion of the 'flesh' against the 'spirit.' Concupiscence stems from the disobedience of [Original] Sin. It unsettles man's moral faculties and, without being in itself an offense, inclines man to commit sin" (Catechism, no. 2515).
Scripturally speaking, concupiscence arouses selfish loves: "For all that is in the world is concupiscence of the flesh, concupiscence of the eyes, and pride of life" (1 Jn 2:16).
Saint Paul gave this graphic description of lived concupiscence: "And so now they are steeped in all sorts of injustice, rottenness, greed, and malice; full of envy, murder, wrangling, treachery, and spite; libelers, slanderers, enemies of God, rude, arrogant and boastful, enterprising in evil, rebellious to parents, without brains, honor, love, or pity. They are well aware of God's ordinance: that those who behave like this deserve to die - yet they not only do it, but even applaud others who do the same" (Rm 1:29-32).
Nonetheless, sacred scripture speaks of a truth more powerful than sin: "Gracious is the Lord, eternal his merciful love" (Ps 100:5).
Jesus of Nazareth confirmed the truth of this profound gift of God, which is the third and final element of salvation history - redemption: And afterwards, when he was taking a meal in the house, many publicans and sinners were to be found at table with him and his disciples.
"The Pharisees saw this, and asked his disciples, 'How comes it that your master eats with publicans and sinners?' Jesus heard it, and said, 'It is not those who are in health that have need of the physician, it is those who are sick. Go home and find out what the words mean, 'It is mercy that wins favor with me, not sacrifice.' I have come to call the sinner, not the just" (Mt 9:10-13).
With a divine order and a declaration, Jesus of Nazareth put a human face on and gave a human voice to the merciful love of God. This changed forever both the love-relationship of Creation and the justice-relationship of the Fall. By his redemptive act of self-sacrifice on a Roman Cross at Mount Calvary, the God-man, changed forever the relationship between the Creator and his human creatures.
Now, the "name of the game," so to speak, is merciful love: "The Lord is compassionate and merciful, slow to anger and rich in merciful love; he will not always be angry, nor his resentment remain for all time.
He does not treat us as our sins deserve, nor does he reward us according to our iniquities. As the height of heaven is above the earth, so strong is his merciful love for those who fear him. As far as the east is from the west, so far does he remove our iniquities from us. As a father has compassion on his children, so has the Lord compassion on those that fear him; he knows of what we are made, he remembers that we are dust" (Ps 103: 8-12).
John D. Meehan has been involved in the lay apostolate of the Catholic Church since the close of the Second Vatican Council. He resides in New Hampshire with his lovely wife Elizabeth.
© 2014 - Distributed by THE NEWS CONSORTIUM
Pope Francis Prayer Intentions for March 2014
Respect for Women: That all cultures may respect the rights and dignity of women.
Vocations: That many young people may accept the Lord’s invitation to consecrate their lives to proclaiming the Gospel.
Rate This Article
Leave a Comment
More Year of Faith News
- Reflection on the Catholic Catechism: Understanding the Bible
- Christ the King, the Year of Faith and the Catholic Counterculture
- The Bones of Peter, the Successor of Peter: Close of the Year of Faith
- Fr Randy Sly on Becoming a House of Prayer
- Jesus Weeps and Offers the Path to Peace
- The Kingdom of God is Among You. What Did Jesus Mean?
- Year of Faith: Bringing the Feast of the Presentation of Mary to Life
- WEDNESDAY HOMILY: Our Lady's Encouragement
- Tuesday Homily: Conversion and Perseverance in the Life of Faith
- Fr. Paul Schenck: Finding Living Faith on Catechetical Sunday
- The Movie Yellow: Incest as 'Normal' and Cassavates's Slides Into the World of Woes
- The Chicago School Teachers Strike Reveals the Need For School Choice
- The Sexual Barbarians and the Dissolution of Culture
- The Happy Priest Challenges Us to Ask: Who is Jesus to Me?
- Michael Coren on Canadian Public Schools: Teachers, leave those kids alone
- We Cannot Ignore Our Consciences: Cardinal Dolan On Religious Liberty
- In the Face of Danger, Successor of Peter Travels to Lebanon as a Messenger of Peace
- Reflections on the Dignity and Vocation of Women: Who or What?
New breed of dinosaur identified; roamed Europe
Cut it out!
U.N. recommends lowering sugar dosage
Cardinal denounces 'grand gestures' of charity
Calls Panama a 'lackey'
Venezuelan president says nation is in cahoots
Will soon join top leaders of mortality in U.S.
See how they built the ark for 'Noah'
Death throes in space
Dramatic photos show galaxy imploding on self
Listens to her heart
Mom ignores doctor's diagnosis -- child was alive
Wages of sin
Pakistan riddled with addiction, AIDS
Opening the gardens
Pope Francis to open papal retreat to the public
Protein -- IS BAD FOR YOU
Diet rich in red meat poses cancer risk
Booty could be hidden off of Irish Coast
Shilling found by retiree has historical value