The summers of Australia are well-documented for their bush fires as the heat of the sun meets the dry, arid natural kindling of the bushland. Summer in Australia is also the time when all sorts of creepy-crawlies crawl out of the woodwork. The most annoying of all being the fly, otherwise known as the Musca vetustissima, or the bush fly (The Sydney Morning Herald, 2007) which infests the land in the millions. A theory holds that the first fly was blown on the winds several million years ago, landed on Australia and began to thrive having no natural predator to keep them in check. An explorer Ernest Giles wrote in his field notes in 1876:
“We can’t help eating, drinking, and breathing flies; they go down our throats in spite of our teeth, and we wear them all over our bodies; they creep up one’s clothes and die, and others go after them to see what they die of.” (The Sydney Morning Herald, 2007. para. 7)
In the summer of the year 2016, as I did my 5-week observership in Tarrawarra Abbey, Melbourne. I decided to take a rosary walk, to pray the rosary and to enjoy the scenic grounds of the abbey as I walked around the parameters. Despite the fact that I had my protective insect mesh on – yes the type you wear in the army to keep the sandflies out, my rosary walk was quite marred by the sudden and sneaky attack of the flies out from everywhere and anywhere, as they landed on my face and tried to wriggle and squirm up my nose.
I thought to myself – “…and that my brothers and sisters in Christ, is exactly what that is applicable to sin”. We think that we are okay and protected, but sin sneaks up to us, and attacks not just once or twice, but relentlessly and mercilessly. Sin is also everywhere. Lying in wait for us.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church (n.d) defines sin as such: Sin is the inclination or desire, action or deed, or utterance which is in direct opposition to the Eternal Law of God. It is an offense against God and is an act of rebellion and disobedience against God. Sin is also a personal act, but we also have moral culpability and responsibility for the sins of others when we behave in manners which cooperate with the sins of others – such as engaging with, participating in directly and voluntarily in them, by sanctioning and ordering them, encouraging, praising, approving, and advising them, by not disclosing them or becoming obstacles to them as we are obliged to, and by protecting doers of evil. (CCC. 1868, 1871)
St. Paul in Galatians 5: 19-23 writes extensively about the types of sins that are present and the contrasting fruit of the Spirit as antidote to the venomous effects of sin:
“Now the works of the flesh are obvious: immorality, impurity, licentiousness, idolatry, sorcery, hatreds, rivalry, jealousy, outbursts of fury, acts of selfishness, dissensions, factions, occasions of envy, drinking bouts, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. In contrast, the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law.”
For a sin to be mortal, three conditions must together be met: “Mortal sin is sin whose object is grave matter and which is also committed with full knowledge and deliberate consent.”(CCC. 1857)
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, Honour your father and your mother.” The gravity of sins is more or less great: murder is graver than theft. One must also take into account who is wronged: violence against parents is in itself graver than violence against a stranger. (CCC. 1858)
Mortal sin requires full knowledge and complete consent. It presupposes knowledge of the sinful character of the act, of its opposition to God’s law. It also implies a 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. (CCC. 1859)
On the other hand, venial sin while weakening charity does not deprive the sinner from the sanctifying Grace of God. One commits venial sin when, in a less serious matter, he does not observe the standard prescribed by the moral law, or when he disobeys the moral law in a grave matter, but without full knowledge or without complete consent (CCC. 1826).
Some sins however, are so grave that they would warrant excommunication and can only be absolved by the Holy See or the Bishop.
According to the 1983 Code of Canon Law, these sins are:
- Apostasy – total rejection of the Christian Faith
- Heresy – obstinate doubt or denial, after Baptism of a defined Catholic doctrine or dogma
- Schism – the refusal of submission to the authority of the Roman Pontiff, or the refusal to be in union with the members of the Church who are in communion to the Pope.
- Violating the Sacred Species of the Body and Blood of Christ – throwing away, or desecrating, or taking or retaining the consecrated Sacred Species for the use of sacrilegious purpose.
- Physically attacking the Pope or any member of the Clergy.
- Sacramentally absolving an accomplice in a sexual sin.
- Consecrating a bishop without authorisation from the Holy See – akin to schism.
- Directly violating the Seal of Confession.
- A cleric or religious who attempts marriage, even on civil grounds.
- Abortion – for those who have commited this sin in full knowledge and those who were accomplices in aiding this act of abortion.
Back to the analogy of sin as a relentlessly attacking fly. The battles and the struggles are very real and sometimes can be very intense. Recently, I have found myself struggling with habitual sin – lust, idols, impatience, ingratitude. In my struggle, I see very clearly that I am a sinner in need of the Grace of God, and that I for sure cannot win this battle on my own. One also has to be vigilant, because like that annoying fly, sin sneaks in and attacks unexpectedly.
For example, I was going through a phase of mobile gaming and had downloaded some puzzle and zombie survival games to find to my horror that these games were not as innocent as they appeared. What I can say is this. Be very vigilant.
Some games encouraged conniving and deceit, while others glorified vice and inordinate sensuality, and some others encouraged immoral life choices such as sexual promiscuity and adultery. The zombie survival game had the most excellent game play, until I was given insight into the storyboard and plot – the zombies had been churned out by a possessed priest living in a graveyard. More unsettling was how symbols of the occult were interwoven into the game – this “priest” was geared in vestments similar to a pope or bishop, but would cast spells which would then present the Satanic symbol of the pentagram – an upside-down five pointed star enclosed in a circle.
Even more unsettling is how sin is interwoven almost seamlessly to corrupt the good. For example, I was trying to download some Whatsapp Catholic and Christian stickers that I could use to edify my contacts, only to be greeted with advertisements of scantily-clad buxomly ladies before I was even allowed to download the Scriptural sticker pack.
While we may not be outright supporters of lies, we often find ourselves as purveyors of half-truths. Sin sneaks in with such fallacies – “I am Catholic, but you know what I think it is okay to find out what my zodiac sign has to say today”; “I am a Catholic parent and I have the moral obligation to bring my child up as Catholic, but you know what, I think it is okay to practise the superstitions of my culture, like allowing my child to pick up from a pile of items what may possibly foretell his future”; “Who is to know what I am under the cover of darkness?”
Nevertheless, in a turbulent world fraught with the perils of sins – the flies of darkness, the Light of Christ triumphs.
As Christ himself assures us:
“I have told you this so that you might have peace in me. In the world you will have trouble, but take courage, I have conquered the world.” John 16:33
By the Grace of God,
Brian Bartholomew Tan
Catechism of the Catholic Church. (n.d.) Libreria Editrice Vaticana.
Code of Canon Law (1983). Libreria Editrice Vaticana
The Sydney Morning Herald. (2007, December 27). The blow-ins. The Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved May 13, 2021 from https://www.smh.com.au/national/the-blow-ins-20071227-gdrukg.html