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December 4, 1970     Arkansas Catholic
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December 4, 1970

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THE GUARDIAN, DECEMBER 4, 1970 PAGE 7 Development Freedom aking Mortal Sin Seriously nvolves Understanding Grace, Sin By Fr. Carl J. Pfelfer, S. J. ago I was teach- a boys' high school. One of g duties was to take of the school chapel and re- services. Each school day With compulsory attendance of the general under- of mortal sin at the time, careful to provide sever- Drlests each morning before to hear confessions so that could freely go to Corn- It was obvious to all Some boys went to conies- almost every morning, notout but because they they were guilty of mortal confided to me their tty and guilt and how much they the fact that confession so readily available before A QU ESTION the time, fifteen years ago, l)uzzled by what I observed in and heard from the boys. Urnably some of these boys gUilty of mortal sin almost day, were sorry for their were restored to the state through the sacrament of morning. But I asked did this make sense? Is to jump in and out of sin and the state of grace Y day or two? aPared to me that something Vrong. Either we were not mortal sin seriously or we too lightly considering the of penance. I had no way to resolve the fifteen years ago. I had in school and heard per- in sermons that a mortal s a violation of God's law serious'matter, with suf- reflection and full consent Will. I knew that such a ser- was punishable by eternal from God in the fires This, too, I had learned as a child from the cate- NO RESOLUTION was a sacrament that the sinner to the state of if he had at least imperfect That was the theology Which the practice in our chapel -- and in chapelsall world -- was built. I had to resolve my common observation that something tong with the practice. at that time still tended as a thing that Mortal sin, the loss tended also to be consid- a thing. If grace is one and mortal sin an opposite then there is no reason in why each day one could one for the other, grace through sin and remove by regaining grace through my experiences in the in 1955, the whole of grace and sin has been rethinking and the has gradually developed a eaningful understanding of and sin. More recent ap- to religious instruction this development in the Church's insight into the mystery of God's grace and the mystery of man's sinfulness. Instead of thinking of grace and sin as things that affectone's soul, religious educators understand both grace and sin in terms of the personal relations between God and man. This change of context from the realm of thingsandquan- tity to the world of persons and relationships has serious practical consequences. Like most of the recent developments in the Church, this understanding of mortal sin as the rupture of a relationship is really a rediscovery of the rich biblical and theological tradition of earlier centuries. As we said in anearlier column, grace is understood in the Scrip- tures, many of the Fathers of the Church, and the great theologians of the Middle Ages in terms of a personal relationship with God, begun and made possible wholly through His love. God's love en- ables man to enter into intimate relationship with Him. That love is constant. Man is able to close Himself off from God's love, reject it, and seriously rupture the graced re- lationship. Man can lock himself in on himself, clutching his God- given gifts to himself, forgetful of others, forgetful even of His God. Scripture and traditional the- elegy consider mortal sin as the free, deliberate breaking off of friendship with God. A moving description of serious sin is found in Ezechiel, Chapter 16. NO LIGHT MATTER Now this is no light matter, but something to be taken far more seriously than we have done in the recent past. It means immediately that mortal sin is something only a person with a certain maturity and freedom can be guilty of. Certainly the average child before teen-age is hardly mature enough to freely and fully rupture his rela- tionship with God or, for that mat- tel with any one. Parents and educators with a lit- tle experience and common sense know this when it is put in these terms. What parent would consider the tantrum of a second grader, the sulking silence or angry hostility of the adolescent as a definitive, free, mature rejec- tion? How many parents would throw such youngsters out of their homes for good? Even with adults, between Panel to Explore Sisters' P roblems Little Rock-- The Sisters' Sen- ate has completed plans for a workshop to explore and explain the problems facing Religious as individuals. It will be held at St. John's Catholic Center tomorrow, Dec. 5, from 1 to 3:30 P.M. It will be open to all Religious Sisters in the Diocese of Little Rock. The discussion panel will con- sist of Dr. John V. Busby, a a psychiatrist; Sister Alice Mary Cassidy, clinical psycholo- gist from Mercy Hospital, Springfield, Ill.; and Mrs. Sam Warren, a psychiatric nurse. II friends, between husband andwife, how often is it possible to mature- ly reject fully the bond thatexists? Is it possible to radically break the bond of love one day, radi- cally reaffirm it the next day, radically break it a day later, etc.? Surely it is possible to repeatedly fail, repeatedly hurt one another, and just as often make up, only to fail again. But neither the failure nor the making up touches the deep bond that makes the repetition of forgiveness possible. That bond can indeed be broken, but not so lightly that it can be restored and rebroken every other day. When mortal sin is seen as the free, serious rupture of one's re- lationship with God, a full break- ing off of the friendship, then it is truly serious. We parents and re- ligious educators have no right to allow our young children to think they are in such a serious state. We need to take mortal sin more seriously than in the recent past. DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: 1. What is meant by "the state of grace?" 2. How is our relationship with God broken? 1970 NC News Service CONTINUED FROM PAGE 6 were created, and through whom we live." Paul's attitude is that all food, whether offered to idols or not, is morally neutral. But he adds right away: "Be care- ful, however, and do not let your freedom of action make those who are weak in the faith fall into sin" (8:9). He means that some Christians, perhaps new converts from paganism, may think it is sinful to eat meat that had been offered to idols, but they may go ahead and eat it, even though they still think it sinful, if they see well-instructed and prominent members of the Christian com- munity doing it. Then, Paul says to the well-instructed andpromi- nent, "you will be sinning against Christ by sinning against your brothers and wounding theirweak consciences." He drives the point home (8:13) to underline the importance of fraternal charity. PAUL SUMMARIZED You can summarzie in abstract terms what Paul says: meat sac- rificed to idols may be bought in the market and eaten pri- vately or when you are invited to pagans' homes. But it should not be eaten, however, in the tem- ple where it would be part of the sacrifice. Such food is not polluted, but eating such food may be wrong because of a false conscience or because you give scandal. BUt Paul always thinks of Christ and our union with Christ. For him, therefore, the thing to avoid is "sinningagainst Christ." Look at 10:23-32. It is as if Paul says: All right, really you are free in this matter, and you don't even have to ask in the market if the meat came from a pagan temple (an interesting development since the days of the Council of Jerusalem, Chap- ter 15, Acts of the Apostles, which had decided to prohibit eating of food from pagan tem- ples), but have regard for the weaker brethren. And if you insist on pushing the difficulty about why your freedom to act should be limited by another person's conscience, my answer is simply: "Whatever you do, whet- her you eat or drink, do it all for God's glory .... which means you will do what is right, and that includes thinking of others, not just you and God, and the effect of what you do on other members of Christ. The libera- tion of the Christian from sin, death, and the burden of the Mo- saic Law, does not dispense him from this. DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: 1. What is the source of Paul's authority for giving commands and counsel? 2. What does Paul say about the eating of meat? 1970 NC News Service More than just a gift For millions of Christ's poor suffering with leprosy your special sacrifice for the Christmas Leprosy Appeal means the chance for health, education, rehabilitation, faith, and hope. It means missionaries can bring all that Christ means to those in greatest need. Please make your Christmas Giving more meaningful. Send a family sacrifice for the missions today-- where Christ needs to .... : be born anew... because of you! THE SOCIETY FOR THE PROPAGATION OF THE FAITH SEND YOUR GIFT TO 'rim lira,. Idr. K,ud T. O'lalm I( iilam mmclor ,M Filth Am NOW Ycr k, IV York 10001 OR s n Mr.  g. 8ms DIomsm lill lid "lllr IIn  Ito ArkallJ no7 m I