The awful simplicity of sin
Isn’t it strange when something we’ve repeatedly read and/or heard in the liturgy one day seems to shout out at us?
As in STOP, PAY ATTENTION!!
Monday’s reading was from the Book of Daniel and if we listen closely, brings sorrow, if not shame.
Because we see ourselves. The Awful Simplicity of Sin
“they began to lust for her.
They suppressed their consciences;
they would not allow their eyes to look to heaven,
and did not keep in mind just judgments…”
It’s this passage that evokes the phrase, the awful simplicity of sin. These men are elders appointed as judges and teach us the three simple prerequisites on the road to sin:
- Suppress our consciences
- Refuse to look to heaven
- Decline just judgements: His Laws.
If we’ve not done something similar, we’ve thought about doing it. And so we recognize these men, the two judges, when we look in the mirror. Then we see the radical heroism of Susannah:
“I am completely trapped,” Susanna groaned.
“If I yield, it will be my death;
if I refuse, I cannot escape your power.
Yet it is better for me to fall into your power without guilt
than to sin before the Lord.”
Susannah recalls Esther
with her life and death situation and heartfelt prayer to her God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob:
“O eternal God, you know what is hidden
and are aware of all things before they come to be:
you know that they have testified falsely against me.
Here I am about to die,
though I have done none of the things
with which these wicked men have charged me.”
The Lord heard her prayer.
As she was being led to execution,
God stirred up the holy spirit of a young boy named Daniel,
and he cried aloud:
“I will have no part in the death of this woman.”
These women: Susannah and Esther, call out to us in the 21st century. Both of them were gifted with beauty and brains; gifts they kept constrained within the Mosaic Law. They make no attempt to cloak their fear. And yet, neither woman doubts the presence of God’s listening ear.
They trust. Their situations are impossible and yet they choose to blindly trust Him.
It’s a bit like Christ’s healing isn’t it?
The fervent faith must precede the healing, or it does NOT happen.
I write frequently about passages from the Old Testament and ancient Isreal. That’s because, ever since my conversion, I’ve considered America as the New Israel, although I didn’t phrase it that way. My reading Jonathan Cahn‘s hundreds, maybe thousands of parallels between America and Israel provided the phrase and strengthened my conviction.
But there is paradox here
My phrase, the awful simplicity of sin, conveys the paradox—the mystery of it. Neither Susannah nor Esther was guilty of offending the Mosaic Law. Just so, many Christians have never veered from the Commandments or the rules of our individual churches, whichever one we follow. And yet we must accept our complicitness in the darkness around us.
Seeing the enemy as us sinners, not some politician ignorantly basking in their five minutes of fame, changes our lens. For example, consider these excerpted sections of the lengthy Prayer to Heal Our Land from the Patriotic Rosary.
Lord, who are we as a people, having been given blessings
in portions as no other nation before us? What
has become of us, Father? We have spoiled your spacious
skies with buildings and cities breathing with sin. The
amber waves of grain are no longer viewed as our blessing
but as our due…
We now realize it’s because of our failings as
Christians. Father, Samuel told your people, “It is true you
have committed all this evil, still you must not turn from the
Lord, but worship Him with your whole heart. For the sake
of His own great name, the Lord will not abandon his own
We realize our nation is headed toward disaster by so many
signs You have given us. Holy, Holy, Holy God, grant Mary
Her requests that we may again be your people, not a nation
above God but one nation humbled and under God. Amen.
Is there more we can do?
We Catholics need to act more like our friends the Protestants and believing Jews: we need to speak and behave differently.
Here are just a few of a lengthy list:
- Cut out those practices and habits that harm ourselves and others
- Determine gratitude for everything: see each moment as willed by Him for us, now
- Give our idle and ‘wasted time waiting‘ to Him
- Pray In His Name
- Guard our thoughts, if they’re negative and judgemental, turn them to healthy thought
- Cease complaining or criticizing anyone or anything
- Invite a former—church goer, Catholic, synagogue attendee, to come worship with us.
- When the opportunity arises, speak to others about why we do what we do, risking rejection
- Keep in mind that holiness cannot be taught, it must be caught.
In a time of widespread indifference to faith, one dilemma in the effort to live for souls is whether to resist in a forceful manner a disdain for religious truth that we may encounter in others. It would seem that few victories take place. Even so, does the likelihood of rejection excuse us from a struggle that God may expect us to enter bravely, especially after our own conversion? Is it enough to comfort ourselves with the assurance that truth will win in the end?
Perhaps a different recognition is possible. Truth was nailed to a cross at Calvary in Jesus Christ. And it should be equally evident that the crucifixion of truth continues throughout the course of history. Should we expect otherwise in our own time? The ignominy and shame of Golgotha do not suggest great triumphs for those who defend and live Christian truths, including moral truths. The cross implies, rather, that we will be crushed at times in an unequal fight. What God asks us to accept is that, if we are worthy of it, Christ will be mocked and scourged within our own life, even in trying to love and save souls. That mystery cannot take place unless we are courageous in our witness to Christian dogmatic and moral truth. We can trust that the experience of rejection is united to his mysterious presence and, perhaps, in the long run wins more souls than we can realize. Those with eyes to see will perceive this reality. Willing to Risk Rejection/