Friday, October 21, 2005

A Forecast of Sin

By Mitchell

Friday's Epistle and Gospel readings once again work in tandem to bring home the message that our hope is in the name of the Lord. It's not always easy to see the linkage between the readings, but in today's homily, Fr. Tiffany was able to show how the two compliment each other by giving us another way of looking at what they say.

In the Gospel, we see Christ once again pointing to the contradictions held by the multitudes:

He also said to the multitudes, "When you see a cloud rising in the west, you say at once, `A shower is coming'; and so it happens. And when you see the south wind blowing, you say, `There will be scorching heat'; and it happens. You hypocrites! You know how to interpret the appearance of earth and sky; but why do you not know how to interpret the present time? (Luke 12:54-56)

You're not stupid, He tells us. You're able to study the conditions and make observations about the weather, and based on this you're able to predict with some degree of accuracy what the weather will be. And yet, as Fr. Tiffany pointed out, we fail to do this with our own lives; for every sin leaves behind it a trail, and through the same observation and study we can follow that trail and find the conditions in our own behavior which can produce sin.

In theological terms we speak of the "proximate causes of sin," those things which, though they may not be sinful in and of themselves, put us in a condition or frame of mind which may lead us to sinful behavior. Given a study of our own weaknesses and strengths, we should be able to recognize those circumstances and causes; and our goal must be to avoid those situations. As St. Thomas tells us in the Summa:

That which causes sin, as a power produces its act, is natural; and again, the movement of the sensitive part, from which sin follows, is natural sometimes, as, for instance, when anyone sins through appetite for food. Yet sin results in being unnatural from the very fact that the natural rule fails, which man, in accord with his nature, ought to observe.

Christ tells us this in the Gospel - you're not dumb, you should be able to figure this out. The hypocracy is in using our reason to predict the weather, but not to predict the consequences of our own behavior.

Paul understands these temptations. "For I know that nothing good dwells within me, that is, in my flesh. I can will what is right, but I cannot do it," he says in the letter to the Romans (7:18). It should be obvious by now that this is not something we can do alone. It is the weakness of which Paul speaks elsewhere when he says that in his weakness can be found the strength of Christ, and it is that strength which is our hope and salvation.

Sin happens, and sometimes there's nothing we can do about the circumstances under which we fail. But often we recognize the conditions that are present, and we must be honest with ourselves in realizing that we must act accordingly; we must turn to Jesus. Fr. Tiffany frequently reminds us that too often when we come to Jesus in prayer we seem intent on flooding Him with our words; sometimes it's good to simply be silent and listen to Him. It is particularly during those clamorous times that accompany sin for us to seek out the silence and hear not the sound of the world around us, but the words of Christ.

"Who will deliver me from this body of death?" Paul asks? For us, as for him, there is only one answer, and that answer is Jesus Christ.

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