Lesson 6: Actual Sin

Lesson 6: Actual Sin


Today we are going to begin talking about actual sin. Over the last couple of weeks, I broke open the story of creation and the fall of man, which we find in Genesis. Before beginning today's lesson, I want to jump back to one of the questions that we learned about in lesson five. What are the chief punishments of Adam, which we inherit through original sin? The chief punishments of Adam, which we inherit through original sin are death, suffering, ignorance, and a strong inclination to sin.

When God breathed life into mankind, creating man in his image and likeness, he did so in a perfect state of holiness. One of the greatest "wow" moments of the last few weeks was finding out or learning about the fact that Adam and Eve were not led by their passions and their desires. They were guided in everything they said and thought and did by their intellect, a gift from God. They didn't have to earn it. God gave them the knowledge. Remember he walked in the garden with Adam and Eve. They knew him intimately. This was the design that God had set up for all of us, but through original sin each and every day, we experience suffering, death, ignorance and a strong inclination to sin. So before we begin today, talking about what actual sin is, let us begin in prayer.

I'd like to invite you to join me as we pray together, the prayer of the sacrament of confession, the act of contrition. In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost. Amen. Oh my God. I'm heartily sorry for having offended You and I detest all my sins because I dread the loss of heaven and the pains of hell. But most of all, because they offend you. My God, who are all good and deserving of all my love, I firmly resolve with the help of your grace to confess my sins, do penance and amend my life. Amen. In the name of the Father and of the Son and of Holy Ghost. Amen.

So what is actual sin?

Actual sin is the sin we commit ourselves. In the Baltimore Catechism it says that actual sin is any willful thought, desire, word, action, or omission forbidden by the law of God.

Now I know some of you right now might be thinking, "why are we breaking open a lesson about sin? I know what sin is. Sin is all the things that I can't do. Sin is the stuff, the Church and God says is forbidden". How many times have you heard that the "rules of the Church are outdated, they're too rigid, they're too structured, they make me feel so much guilt. I thought I was a free person free to make my own decisions. If I was free, then I could do whatever I want". All of these words and these phrases really reflect our will our desire, not God's will not God's desire. You see, before we can actually begin to talk about sin, as it relates to willfully choosing not to follow the laws of God, we need to understand who we are and who God has revealed us to be in his eyes.

God has revealed to us through his Son, Jesus Christ, through sacred scripture, sacred tradition, and His Church, that He wants to be in a personal relationship with each and every one of us. That his love for us is unconditional and immeasurable. That He loves us so very much, He would rather die than risk spending eternity without us. You see when we think about our relationship with God, then thinking about not following the will of God doesn't become breaking the rules, but hurting a loving Father. Think about a human relationship you have on earth. Whether it be with a spouse, a child, a parent, a friend, when we get into a relationship with someone, we want that relationship to be healthy. We desire for it to be joy filled for there to be benefits that come from it. Whether it's hanging out with a friend, or a marriage, or the relationship that we have with a parent, or a child, we never desire for a relationship to cause hurt.

So when we think about our human relationships, for example, when I think about my relationship with my brother, (that I would never willfully cause him any hurt or harm. That I never want to offend him. That everything I do for him comes from a place of love), when we think about that type of relationship, and how it should actually mirror the relationship we have with God, when we really look at the heart of sin, sin is not simply missing the mark and not doing something we're supposed to do on a checklist. Sin is actually saying, Lord, I know what you desire for me, but this is what I want. And I'm going to choose to do what I want. Sin, simply put, is saying no to God. No to His desires. So when we're talking about God's law... And where do we see that so beautifully laid out? The 10 commandments. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, mind, and your soul, do not take the Lord's name in vain, keep holy the Sabbath, honor thy father and mother, do not kill, do not commit adultery, do not covet your neighbor's wife, do not steal, do not covet anything that belongs to your neighbor, do not bear false witness. When we look at these 10 commandments, we can recognize when we're in relationship with God. That they're not meant to restrict our freedoms, but to actually help us grow in holiness. Think about a bridge, how beautiful that bridge is, about how it can take me from one part of a piece of land to the next, what a beautiful site to be seen. But imagine if there were no guardrails. I don't know about you, but I wouldn't feel very confidently about crossing that bridge in my car without guardrails. Imagine getting to the very top and it's windy at the top and there's a gust of wind, or I have to swerve to avoid something. There's nothing keeping me from going right over the side of the bridge, into the water. Well, that wouldn't end very well.

Think about a game. any sports game that we play, baseball, basketball, soccer, whatever it may be. No one looks at a game and says, how dare they have rules for this game. It's infringing upon my rights! I should be able to steal a base if I want. And there's no rules as to why that happens. Well no. Games have rules so that we can succeed. Games, have rules so that we can win. Without rules, all we have is chaos. And yet when it comes to our lives, all of a sudden it becomes, well, we can't have rules in our lives. We can't have commands because that means I'm not free. And it's quite the opposite.. that the rules that God gives, the commands that he gives...think about his omnipotence. He knows what is best for each and every one of us.

So he gives us these commands because he knows what is good for us. He knows that this is the way that we're going to Attain Sainthood, that we get to spend eternity with him reigning in heaven. So yes, if we don't know God, if we're not in relationship with him, when we hear the 10 commandments or the teachings of the church, trying to follow them to stay in a state of grace with our Lord, some may say, well, these are just a bunch of rules. And all I ever feel is guilt. But when we're in relationship with God, when we are in communion with God, striving for holiness, they're not arbitrary rules. They provide order. They are commands from God who knows us best and has given us a pathway to heaven, a roadmap in order to attain heaven, to attain sainthood. There are things that I shouldn't be doing because they're not good for me, and they're going to draw me away from God. Away from his will for my life. Remember what the prophet Jeremiah said in chapter 29:11 "For, I know the plans I have for you says the Lord plans for peace and welfare and not for evil to give you a future and a hope." So when we talk about actual sin, the actions that we take willfully against what God's will is for us, we have two types of actual sin, mortal, which we call deadly sin, and venial sin. Let's talk about mortal sin first.

The Baltimore catechism says that mortal sin is a grievous offense against the law of God.


This sin is called mortal or deadly because it deprives the sinner of sanctifying grace, the supernatural life of the soul. Besides depriving the sinner of sanctifying grace, mortal sin makes the soul an enemy of God, takes away the merit of all its good actions deprives it of the right to everlasting happiness in heaven, and makes it deserving of everlasting punishment in hell.

So a mortal sin makes the soul an enemy of God, taking away the right to everlasting happiness in heaven, and making it deserving of eternal punishment in hell. Even more, it takes away the sanctifying grace. That grace, that gift, that helps me to grow in holiness towards sainthood. And how often have we heard good people go to heaven? They say, "If I'm good, if I do good things on earth, I'm going to heaven." Good people don't go to heaven, holy people go to heaven. When we hear the words that mortal sin takes away, the merit of all, its good actions...if I'm a good person, but I'm living in a state of mortal sin, there are no merits for my good actions. Being a good person doesn't help me to get to heaven. A mortal sin takes away the right of everlasting happiness. These are very serious sins.



But let's understand what is the criteria for a mortal sin?

There are three:
The first is it has to be of grave matter. The second, I have to know, I have to have full knowledge, full reflection that what I'm doing is of grave matter. And the third is I have to fully consent to do it anyway. So in short, it has to be serious, I have to know its serious, and I have to fully choose to do it anyway. If those three criteria are met, I have committed a mortal sin. And again, remember that a mortal sin cuts off or breaks my relationship with God. Making my soul the enemy of God.

When we talk about sin, sin is very personal. There are circumstances to everyone's life and to each and every sin. So my sin is not going to look like yours, nor yours like anyone else's. And it's important to remember that God's love for us is not conditional. God does not love me anymore or any less for what I do or don't do. God's love is perfect. So when we're making decisions and we're making choices, remember mortal sin is not an accident, mortal sin is not an "oops" at its core. Mortal sin is saying, Lord, I know what you desire for me. This is what I desire and I'm going to choose what I want. If those three criteria are not met, then it is not a mortal sin that you commit. Remember again, a mortal sin has to be of grave matter, you have to know it's of grave matter, and you have to willfully choose to do it anyway.


The second type of actual sin is venial sin.

The Baltimore Catechism says that venial sin is a less serious offense against the law of God, which does not deprive the soul of sanctifying grace, and which can be pardoned even without sacramental confession. However, we need to remember that venial sin is a disease in the life of grace in the soul. It is less serious than a mortal sin, but much more serious than a physical illness of the body that could cause death.

A sin can be venial in two ways.

First when the evil done is not seriously wrong, or second when the evil done is seriously wrong, but the sinner sincerely believes that it was slightly wrong.

So if we don't meet those three criterias of the mortal sin, that sin is a venial sin, until we learn about the fact that it's a mortal sin. Then we're responsible for it. Because now we have the full knowledge.

Venial sins, as the catechism states, do not need to be forgiven through sacramental confession. As a matter of fact, when we go to mass, we have an opportunity to actually call to mind our venial sins and ask for forgiveness for those. And those are forgiven during the mass. So we actually have the opportunity to present ourselves in a state of grace to receive holy communion. This is a reminder as well that we should never present ourselves for holy communion if we are in a state of mortal sin. That of course does not mean that we shouldn't go to mass if we're in a state of mortal sin. But we should not present ourselves for holy communion until we've had an opportunity to go to confession.

Now some of you may be thinking, okay, so what is the point of knowing about venial sin? If it's not so serious, does it really affect anything? Think about what the catechism says. Again, it would be better for you to have a physical illness and die than to live in habitual venial sin, right? To live in what we call a life of vice versus virtue.

Think back to Adam and Eve, their perfect holiness, the order in which God gave them. Think about the three faculties or powers of the soul, the intellect, our ability to think, and to reason. Our will, our ability to choose and make decisions. And our passions, our strong emotions like love, hate lust, et cetera. When we think about these faculties in the state of original holiness, all of these were in order. But in our fallen state, since the fall of man, we have disordered desires or as we heard in the last lesson, an inclination to sin. The purpose of our faith is to grow in holiness, to grow in habitual virtue versus the vice.

Think about an avalanche, right? When it begins, the snow ball is really small. And as the ball of snow is cycling down the mountain. It gets larger and larger and larger until it's insurmountable. If we live in a habit of a little sin, an habitual sin, venial sins, vice,... to live that way will soon become an insurmountable obstacle to live in holiness, because we're constantly rolling and falling deeper and deeper into sin. And eventually that sin is going to lead us into mortal sin.

Our goal is to strive to live by the spirit, not by our passions and our desires of the flesh. So every time that we give into sin or make bad decisions we grow in vice, vice is choosing the bad, which will become habitual. Virtue is choosing the true, the good and the beautiful over and over until it becomes habit and helps us to grow in holiness.

As we conclude this part of lesson six on actual sin, mortal sin versus venial sin, let's review a couple of the key points. Mortal sin is very serious sin. It cuts us off from the sanctifying grace of God and makes us an enemy of God, takes away our right to eternal happiness in heaven and makes us deserving of punishment in hell for all eternity. We do not want to live in a state of mortal sin. If you are in a state of mortal sin right now, don't walk, run to the confessional.

Think again about that relationship. We never want to harm or break a relationship with a loved one. If we've done something wrong, we run to them. We say, we're sorry. We ask for forgiveness. There needs to be healing that takes place. The same is true for our relationship with God, with our heavenly father, there is no sin that he will not forgive you for except the ones you don't ask forgiveness for. God's love is unfathomable. His mercy is endless. Run to the confessional. Remember because of original sin, we have a strong inclination to sin. Each and every day we are going to be faced with temptations. And each and every day we have to choose the good. And by God's grace, we can. Think about that temptation you last said no to. That's God's grace that is working within you to say no to that temptation.

Remember that by living in sin, even in venial sin, by living in vice, our intellect is darkened, our will is weakened, and our passions and desires are disordered. They are not how God intended them to be. We don't see the things we should. We're kind of in a fog. We don't have the strength to do what we ought. And we find ourselves being run by our passions and our desires. Think about some of the most frequent times we sin. It's usually out of a reaction of how we feel.... those strong emotions or desires. But know also, that even in a state of mortal sin, God never stops loving us. God never stops pursuing us. In fact, our desire to go to confession is because of God's grace, because God calls us back to himself over and over and over again. Anything that we do in faith is never of our own initiative. Faith from us is always a response to God's love to God's move first.

I look forward to spending time with you next time, as we talk about the capital sins or what we call the deadly sins and the near occasion of sin and how to avoid that. So until then, be well be holy and God bless you as you study your faith.


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