The Holy Spirit takes that phrase and it becomes a launching pad for a meditation on the mystery of this world.
The phrase I read in passing was “the ugliness of mortal sin”.
I thought immediately of that scene in Brideshead Re-Visited in which Julia suddenly gets a glimpse of what her adultery really means. She weeps because she realizes that although there is love within her love for Charles she has set up an alternative good and she realizes that this is the true ugliness beneath the superficial beauty and attraction.
It was then that I began to think what it would be like if we could see the true effects of all our mortal sins. How would we crumble in shame and tremble in fear if we could see what effects mortal sin has. It is called “mortal sin” because it leads to death. We often imagine that this only means the eternal death of hell, but the more I work with people the more I see the ugliness of mortal sin in this world as well as imagining what it must be like in the next.
Let me give you an example. I was dealing some time ago with a boy who was born to a drug addicted prostitute mother. He own life was ravaged by mortal sin and she died at a young age, her body riddled with disease and the effects of years of every sort of abuse. But it is when you see the effects of the mortal sin on a child that you begin to see the true ugliness of mortal sin.
The child was born with fetal addiction syndrome. He had learning disabilities and socialization disabilities. He was going nowhere fast. Poor child. He was the victim of mortal sin. Death and suffering came to him through no fault of his own through mortal sin, and this is what mortal sin does: it not only destroys the sinner, but it spreads death like a disease to everyone they touch. The man who fathered that child, the poor prostitute mother and worst of all the child himself–all destroyed by mortal sin.
That is an easy example. There it is easy to see the ugliness of mortal sin because the people involved were physically unattractive and difficult to love. The ugliness of mortal sin was easy to see in their lives.
But there are many more who are not locked in physical or social ugliness of mortal sin. Most of us commit mortal sin or even live in mortal sin like Julia–never seeing it for what it is. Never being spiritually sensitive enough to see the ugliness beneath the acceptable facade, the quiet justification of our sin, the easy excuse or the lovely exterior. Continue Reading