What Does Sin Look Like?
Yesterday, I was preparing for confession.
As always, temptations and distractions multiplied. A hundred other things suddenly seemed more important than the miraculous sacrament I was about to receive. Excuses abounded in my brain. I’ve always struggled with temptations to minimize my sins in my mind, or make excuses for them, and probably to some degree everyone has. It takes a real effort to turn to God through all this noise.
There’s one thing that always helps in this situation for me, and that’s meditating on sin, and how horrible it really is.
I’ve found St. Theresa of Avila has one of the best descriptions of sin and its effects in the second chapter of The Interior Castle. Check out what she says.
Mortal Sin: “While the soul is in mortal sin nothing can profit it; none of its good works merit an eternal reward, since they do not proceed from God as their first principle, and by Him alone is our virtue real virtue. The soul separated from Him is no longer pleasing in His eyes, because by committing a mortal sin, instead of seeking to please God, it prefers to gratify the devil, the prince of darkness, and so comes to share his blackness.”
“O souls, redeemed by the Blood of Jesus Christ, take these things to heart; have mercy on yourselves! If you realize your pitiable condition, how can you refrain from trying to remove the darkness from the crystal of your souls? Remember, if death should take you now, you would never again enjoy the light of this Sun. O Jesus! how sad a sight must be a soul deprived of light! …this is what we must dread and pray God to deliver us from, for we are weakness itself, and unless He guards the city, in vain shall we labour to defend it.”
Venial Sin: “Always fear when some fault you commit does not grieve you. For in regard to sin, even venial, you know that the soul must feel great sorrow… For the love of God, take care never to grow careless about venial sin, however small… There is nothing small if it goes against so great a sovereign.”
Now, these passages can actually be quite disturbing, and I think they’re meant to be. But the intention is not so much to fear sin, or divine punishment, as to be disgusted and repulsed by sin. We should be horrified by the idea of turning away from God in any way, and horrified by the idea of our souls in this darkness. I know when I imagine my own soul in darkness, and realize the danger is real and often close at hand, it really cuts through a lot of my sorry excuses. Even if we sometimes lack the piety to run to confession purely out of love for God, the desire to preserve ourselves from this awful fate can fill in the gaps in our resolve (though we should always strive for the higher reason).
“We are weakness itself…” This could not be more true. Praise God for the sacrament of confession.