My Dear Brothers and Sisters,
As we continue through our Lenten Journey, many people have asked me for a good definition of Sin.
The Baltimore Catechism defines sin as any willful thought, word, deed or omission contrary to the law of God. There are two kinds of sin: mortal and venial. Mortal sin is a grievous offense against the law of God. Venial sin is a slight offense against the law of God in matters of less importance; or in matters of great importance it is an offence committed without sufficient reflection or full consent of the will.
The New Catechism of the Catholic Church gives us a bit more depth to understanding our participation in sin. It defines sin as an offense against God by which we sets ourselves against God's love for us and turns our hearts away from it. Sin is disobedience, a revolt against God.
Mortal sin destroys charity in our heart by a grave violation of God's law; it turns us away from God, who is our ultimate end, by preferring an inferior experience to goodness of God. For a sin to be mortal, three conditions must together be met: the object or action of the sin is a grave matter; the sin is committed with full knowledge that it is a sin; the sin is committed with deliberate consent.
The condition for
Grave matter is specified by the Ten Commandments, corresponding to the answer of Jesus to the rich young man: "Do not kill, Do not commit adultery, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Do not defraud, Honor your father and your mother." Mortal sin presupposes full knowledge of the sinful character of the act, of its opposition to God's law. It also implies consent sufficiently deliberate to be a personal choice. Feigned ignorance and hardness of heart do not diminish, but rather increase, the voluntary character of a sin.
First Commandment: "I am the LORD your God. You shall have no other gods before me”.
Prohibits: idolatry, power, pleasure, race, ancestors, the state and money
Second Commandment: "You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain."
Prohibits: voicing words of hatred or defiance against God are considered sins of blasphemy
Third Commandment: "Remember to keep the Sabbath day holy”.
Requires: attendance Mass on Sundays and holy days of obligation
Fourth Commandment: "Honor your father and your mother”
Requires: obedience to parents by a child when it is for his good or the good of the family, grown children to offer material and moral support for their aging parents, particularly at times of illness, loneliness, or distress
Fifth Commandment: "You shall not kill."
Prohibits: Abortion, birth control, euthanasia, capital punishment, abuse of food, alcohol, medicines, illegal drugs, kidnapping, terrorism, torture, mutilations that are not for therapeutic medical reasons
Sixth Commandment: "You shall not commit adultery."
Prohibits: lust, masturbation, fornication (the sexual union with a person outside of
marriage) pornography, prostitution, rape, incest
Seventh Commandment: "You shall not steal."
Prohibits: unjustly taking, using or damaging those that belong to someone else
Eighth Commandment: "You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor."
Prohibits: False witness and perjury made publicly in court, rash judgment: believing, without sufficient evidence, statements that accuse another of moral faults, detraction: the disclosure of another's faults without a valid reason, calumny: lying to harm a person's reputation and providing opportunity to others to make false judgments concerning them, flattery: speech to deceive others for our benefit, bragging, boasting, or mocking: speech which either only honors oneself or dishonors others
Ninth Commandment: "You shall not covet your neighbor's wife.”
Prohibits: having sexual desire for another's spouse
Tenth Commandment: "You shall not covet your neighbor's goods”
Prohibits: covetousness for another's worldly goods
Venial sin weakens our relationship with God; it manifests a disordered affection for created goods; it impedes the soul's progress in the exercise of the virtues and the practice of the moral good; it merits temporal punishment. Deliberate and un-repented venial sin disposes us little by little to commit mortal sin. However venial sin does not break the covenant with God. With God's grace it is humanly reparable.
Venial sin is a less serious matter as it does not meet the standard prescribed for Mortal Sin. They do not break our friendship with God, although they injure it. They involve disobedience of the law of God in slight (venial) matters. If we gossip and destroy a person's reputation it would be a mortal sin. However, normally gossip is about trivial matters and only venially sinful. Additionally, something that is otherwise a mortal sin (e.g. slander) may be in a particular case only a venial sin. The person may have acted without reflection or under force of habit. Thus, not fully intending the action their guilt before God is reduced.
While there is so much more that could be written, I hope this brief description gives us all more to contemplate when we examine our conscience and our loving relation with God.
Yours in Christ,