Sin Matters

Oct 8, 2017: 27th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Isaiah 5:1-7
Psalms 80:9, 12-16
Philippians 4:6-9
Matthew 21:33-43

Because we live in a fallen world, we get used to sin.

We get so used to sin, in fact, that we can easily forget just how evil and destructive it is. Sin is rebellion against God, who is our Creator and Savior. Sin is wishing that God did not exist so that we would be free to rebuild the universe in accordance with our own selfishness and arrogance. Sin, as the crucifix shows us, is an attempt to murder God. When we purposely disobey the moral law, the order that God has built into the universe, we cut ourselves off from the very source of existence, like an astronaut on a spacewalk who cuts away his lifeline.

Sin has dire repercussions for the sinner and the world, and wounds the Heart of Christ.

This is vividly shown in today’s First Reading.

Isaiah describes a devastated vineyard, which symbolizes a sin-infested community, or a sin-infested soul.

When the soul leaves behind God, who is the owner of the vineyard, it loses His protection and is exposed to the ravages of evil and the devil — the wild beasts and the violent bandits. So, instead of bearing the good fruit of happiness, meaning, justice, loveliness, and interior peace, (all the things St Paul mentions in the Second Reading), the sin-ravaged soil yields only the bitter, wild grapes of anger, remorse, frustration, sadness, and hopelessness.

In the Gospel parable, Jesus shows how sin, when we don’t repent from it, can even obstruct God’s mercy. Repeatedly God sent messengers to the stewards of his vineyard. He showed them abundant, limitless mercy. However, they did not want it; they continued to rebel. Therefore, in the end, they lost their very source of livelihood, and maybe even their lives.

Sin matters and we must never underestimate it.

Have you ever seen a lawn that has not been cut for a couple weeks? The soul that separates itself from God ends up in a similar state, because God is the source of existence, and order, and wisdom, and purpose — all that makes a life fruitful and meaningful. Cut yourself off from the source and everything good withers, while weeds flourish.

Charles Dickens’ character, Scrooge in his famous Christmas Story is the perfect representative of what sin does to our souls and communities. His life was full of immense potential, but his self-centeredness caused it to be wasted and withered. He made himself into a miserable man, and he spread misery to all those around him, cutting off the flow of God’s goods to persons in need, all because of selfishness. Sinful attitudes and habits make us into Scrooges: shriveling up ourselves, making others suffer, choking the flow of grace and goodness that makes us and those around us happy.

Jorge Valdéz was the Founder and President of “Coming Clean Ministries.” Jorge spent his youth building up the American branch of the Colombian drug cartel. At one point, he was raking in almost 2 million dollars a month. However, it tore apart his life and family. He went through three wives, put his immigrant parents through moral torture, destroyed countless other lives through his imported drugs, and even indirectly caused the death of the few real friends he had. In prison, he began to discover that Christ is the true source of fruitfulness. He eventually converted, earned a PhD in Scripture studies, and turned his life around. Instead of wreaking havoc and destruction, his “Coming Clean Ministries” saved young people from the hell he himself experienced.

Sin matters, but with Christ, it is never the end of the story.

There are two essential steps to purifying our life from sin and its destructive repercussions.

First, we have to take responsibility for our sins and confess them; we have to come clean. God invented confession because he knows we need to go through that difficult process of facing and exposing our weakness and sin, and then of actually hearing the priest absolve us in Christ. Recently a Jewish Rabbi was asked about the difference between himself and a Catholic priest. He said, “The priest can make God’s forgiveness real, the rabbi can only talk about it.”

Second, after admitting and confessing our sins, we have to root them out, literally. The sinful and selfish actions that we commit, the good and selfless acts that we omit, these are the ugly, smelly, choking weeds in the garden of our souls. However, those weeds have roots. If we do not dig down and root them out, we will never make progress; the weeds will keep draining the soil.

How do we do that? Prayer, study, spiritual reading, reflection, asking for help from a spiritual director… When someone really wants to get in physical shape, they read books and articles on fitness, they go to aerobics classes, and they find a personal trainer. If we really want to get in spiritual shape, we should do the same thing! After all, a flabby soul is much more dangerous to our health than a flabby body.

This week let’s take some time to prepare and make a good confession. We have confession available 30 minutes before every Mass and at any time by appointment.

In the confessional, ask the priest for some advice for how to start rooting out your sinful habits.

That is what God is hoping from us, so that His vine can flourish and bear everlasting fruit for us and those around us.

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