Brief Overview - Marshall Connolly
Understanding sin is important, because sin is the only thing that can jeopardize your salvation. But if you understand sin, you can avoid it.
Sin is any attachment, thought, statement, action, or inaction, that is contrary to God's law.
Sin entered the world with the first sin of Adam and Eve, also known as Original Sin.
Adam and Eve were given freedom to choose, just as we have the freedom to choose ourselves. They made a choice to abuse their freedom and disobey God. This first sin was so great, that it affected Adam and Eve, and all their descendants, which includes us. We call this sin, Original Sin, and each person is born with this sin, it is unavoidable.
Through baptism, we can cleanse ourselves of Original Sin and enjoy God's grace. Grace is a share in God's goodness and life.
After Original Sin, which is washed away by baptism, all sins are the result of our choices. Like Adam and Eve, we have the freedom to choose to follow God's law or not. When we choose not to follow God's law, whether on purpose or by accident, we commit sin.
The Church speaks of two kinds of sins, venial and mortal.
A venial sin is disobedience to God's law that is usually committed out of ignorance, meaning the sinner does not know or understand that their behavior is sinful. Examples of venial sin could be the use of strong language, rudeness, lack of respect or other unchristian behavior. A venial sin may be a deliberate act, but of minor consequence.
Venial sins do not jeopardize salvation, but they can lead to worse behavior. Therefore, venial sins should be avoided.
A person who dies with venial sin must be cleansed of these sins in purgatory before they can enter heaven.
For a sin to be a mortal sin, it must be of a "grave matter," that usually means it breaks one of God's Commandments. It must also be committed deliberately and with full understanding that it is wrong.
A person who dies in a state of mortal sin condemns themselves to hell by their own choices.
Fortunately, God loves us so much, He has provided a way for us to be forgiven of our mortal sins, though the Sacrament of Reconciliation. By confessing our sins with sincerity, and making every effort to avoid sin in the future, we can regain God's grace and show God that we choose to follow Him and truly desire to live in union with Him.
A Deeper Understanding - Deacon Keith Fournier
The Catechism of the Catholic Church defines sin as: an offense against reason, truth, and right conscience; it is failure in genuine love for God and neighbor caused by a perverse attachment to certain goods. It wounds the nature of man and injures human solidarity. It has been defined as "an utterance, a deed, or a desire contrary to the eternal law."
In addition, the Church, in keeping with the Bible and the Christian tradition, affirms that we are created in the Image of God and given human freedom. Our first parents abused that freedom when they chose to disobey God. That is called "Original Sin". But every sin is, in effect, an abuse of freedom.
In keeping with the teaching of the Bible, the Church recognizes degrees of sin and speaks of mortal and venial sin. As the beloved disciple John wrote in his first letter, "If any one sees his brother committing what is not a mortal sin, he will ask, and God will give him life for those whose sin is not mortal. There is sin which is mortal; I do not say that one is to pray for that. All wrongdoing is sin, but there is sin which is not mortal. (1 John 5:16-17 Revised Standard Version Catholic Edition)
Venial sin, though the less culpable of the two, still remains serious. It is an offense against God and wounds the soul. Many venial sins can "engender vices" meaning it can reinforce poor behaviors that lead to mortal sins.
Examples of venial sins include, but are not limited to: foul language, hatred of your neighbor, wishing harm on another, or the commission of a sin without understanding that the deed is a sin.
If a person dies with venial sin, they must be cleansed and freed before one can be admitted into perfect union with God. This state of purification is called Purgatory.
Mortal sin is any deed, misdeed, attachment, or offense against God and reason, committed with knowledge and intent. Examples of mortal sin can include murder, sexual immorality, theft, as well as some sins deemed lesser but committed with full knowledge of their evil, such as sins of lust, gluttony, greed, laziness, anger, jealousy, and pride.
The Catholic Catechism explains that "Mortal sin is a radical possibility of human freedom, as is love itself. It results in the loss of charity and the privation of sanctifying grace, that is, of the state of grace. If it is not redeemed by repentance and God's forgiveness, it causes exclusion from Christ's kingdom and the eternal death of hell, for our freedom has the power to make choices for ever, with no turning back. However, although we can judge that an act is in itself a grave offense, we must entrust judgment of persons to the justice and mercy of God." (Catholic Catechism #1427)
A person who dies in a state of mortal sin will be eternally separated from God and the joys of heavenly communion. They will spend eternity in hell, which the Glossary of the Catholic Catechism explains is a "state of definitive self-exclusion from communion with God and the blessed. Reserved for those who refuse by their own free choice to believe and be converted from sin, even to the end of their lives."
Fortunately for the living, all sins, both mortal and venial, can be forgiven if a person is truly sorry for them, repents and does everything necessary for forgiveness. The Sacrament of Penance and Reconciliation is a sacrament of freedom and conversion for the Baptized who commit mortal sin, and the confession of venial sin in Sacramental confession is a highly recommended practice. (Catechism #1427-1429).
This page offers only a brief description of various sins. For a complete understanding of sin, please view our encyclopedia entry here:
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- Unfailing Prayer to St. Anthony
- Litany of the Blessed Virgin Mary
- Padre Nuestro - Our Father (Lord's Prayer)
- Act of Contrition
- A Guide for Confession
- Pray the Hail Mary
- Hail, Holy Queen
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