On the one hand there are folks who don’t seem to have much of an idea at all. They come to confession and don’t have an idea how to examine their conscience and make a good confession. When they do confess it seems like their idea of sin is “anything that nice people shouldn’t do.” In other words, their conscience has been formed solely by a set of social manners and they feel guilty for anything that might be embarrassing or “yucky.”
On the other hand we have those who are either scrupulous or legalistic or both. They get caught up in the minutiae of individual wrong actions, thoughts and decisions. Missing the bigger issue, they become almost obsessed with particular misdeeds and sinful choices and they often spend more time blaming and condemning others than themselves. When they do blame themselves they invariably are too hard on themselves–often in a way that doesn’t ring true.
It’s important to remember the big picture and to have an objective and realistic assessment of what sin is and who we are.
We are not sinners because we sin. We sin because we’re sinners.
It’s a good thing to confess the particular sins, but they are simply the leaves on the weeds. The weed has deep roots that go down into the depth of our soul, and the point of confession and the Catholic faith is to open our hearts and lives to the healing and forgiveness that we need at the depth of our being. St Augustine teaches that original sin wounds the image of God in us, and it is this wound that needs healing.
St Paul, in the Epistle to the Romans has the best definition of sin. He says, “All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.” and St Irenaeus famously wrote, “The glory of God is a human being fully alive.”
Therefore “sin” is anything that keeps us from achieving our full potential which is the glory of God which is to be a human being fully alive. Continue Reading