Tuesday, 10 July 2012
Sins and Consequences
Father Ignatius often attended the questions and answers sessions organized by one of the parishioners to encourage members of the congregation to learn more about their Faith.
At one of these sessions the conversation turned to sin and the consequences of sin.
Father Ignatius explained:
“Jesus recognized our sinful nature when the Pharisees brought to Him a woman caught in adultery. Of course, she had sinned. But what Jesus had to say about the situation was more significant than the sin she had committed.
"Jesus knew full well that according to the law of the time she had to be stoned to death. The law is the law and who is He to disobey it and encourage others to do so?
"Jesus was of course no stranger to challenges like these from His enemies. They wanted an opportunity to trap Him into disobeying the law and a reason to arrest Him. On a different occasion He was challenged into healing a sick man on the Sabbath and disobey the law. But Jesus saw beyond the law. His love and compassion for the man was reason enough to heal him there and then, even if it meant disobeying the law. Jesus asked whether any of them would leave their wounded animal to suffer on the Sabbath because the law did not allow them to work.
"Christ's enemies lived by the law written by their ancestors. An un-bendable un-shakeable law to be obeyed at all costs.
"But He believed in love, compassion and mercy. He was love. He came into this world because of love to redeem us and reconcile us with God our loving Creator.
"No doubt, seeing this sinful woman at His feet, Jesus remembered His mother who years previously would have been accused of a similar sin. Here was a young woman, un-married and pregnant and deserving punishment from society. What is worse, she claims that her pregnancy is Divine and she is carrying the Son of God. Blasphemy at the very least and deserving punishment according to the law.
"The law is the law ..." repeated Father Ignatius.
Then he continued in his gentle voice.
"So what is Jesus to do? Did He pick up a stone to obey the law?
"He challenged her accusers to throw the first stone if they had not sinned themselves in one way or another.
“In doing so, He pointed the finger at us to remind us that we too are sinners, in need of confession, forgiveness and redemption from our sins. There’s a veiled hint there of what He will go through for us. His arrest, false trial, torture and Crucifixion just to redeem our sins. All done because of love for us ... not love for the law.
“And when all the accusers left the scene, Christ forgave the woman and told her to sin no more.
“Sadly, in this world, forgiveness is rarely given without a price to pay. There’s often the demand for a punishment, retribution and revenge."And there's also the hidden price of sin. For every sin there is a victim who suffers the consequences."
Father Ignatius stopped again to allow his words to sink in.
“Christ never said that sin does not have any consequences. Whilst we may seek and obtain God's forgiveness the consequences of our sins are very real for others to bear and suffer.”
At this point someone asked why when someone sins God allows others to suffer the consequences; for instance when infidelity results in divorce and suffering for the innocent spouse and children. Surely consequences should befall the sinner not other victims.
The priest cleaned his glasses from imaginary dirt; a trick which he had perfected to gain him more thinking time.
“I’m not going to second-guess God and His reasonings,” he replied. “As I said just now, most often our sins have consequences not only to us but also onto others. Perhaps we should bear that in mind when we decide to sin.
“A few years ago a young lady came to see me with a problem. About a year after marrying another Catholic she discovered that he had been married before and had been divorced. He had kept that secret from her.
“She quite rightly felt totally betrayed and could no longer live with him. Yet at the same time she knew that Christ taught against divorce; and said that anyone who divorces and marries again commits adultery.
“In any case, she felt that by forgiving her husband, if that were at all possible, and remaining with him, she would be guilty of helping him commit adultery against his previous wife.
“What was she to do? She could hardly be expected to remain married to him. A catch-22 if ever there was one.
"And let us not forget the law ..." smiled Father Ignatius.
"The law is the law ..." he continued, "the law is clear about divorce and adultery. The Church is very clear about that!"
“Gosh,” said a parishioner, “what did you do?”
“Well, I passed the problem to the boss” chuckled Father Ignatius.
“Two bosses actually. First I asked God to help in prayer.
"Then I discussed the matter with the bishop. Eventually, after a lot of consideration on the part of the Church, we allowed an annulment of the marriage. We saw our way around the law ... annulments are a means for the Church to deal with very real human situations.”
“So, you ignored Christ’s teaching and divorced them all the same,” challenged a questioner.
“I can see what you’re saying; but we priests are humans just like you, and there are times when we have to consider the realities of life and try to resolve a dilemma as best we can.
"Not unlike Solomon, we are often called upon to walk a very thin line between the teachings of God's law and Church law and the very human situations you bring to us to help resolve.
“The wages of sin may well be death; but they’re also a cause of major headache to us priests everywhere, as well as having serious consequences to the innocent victims left in sin's wake! So think on before you sin.” concluded Father Ignatius with a laugh.