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Bacolod City, Philippines Monday, April 27, 2015
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Rock and Refuge
with Fr. Roy Cimagala
OPINIONS

Holiness occasioned by sin

We need to remind ourselves that holiness can be occasioned, (not caused, of course) by sin. And so we have to devise a spirituality that recognizes this very important fact and acts on it accordingly.

Just a reminder: it's God's grace and our correspondence to it that cause holiness. But anything, everything, even our problems and sins, can be and should be an occasion to attain a certain degree of sanctity. With God, everything will always work out for the good.

Let's be wary when we only develop a spirituality that restricts itself to the practice of good things and yet is helpless when faced with the ugliness and effects of sin and evil in oneself and in the world.

That would be a spirituality that is not realistic, that chooses to ignore a salient if unwelcome aspect of our human condition here on earth. It is prone to fall into self-righteousness, rash judgments and fault-finding.

It is also prone to the tricks of hypocrisy and deception if only to cover the unavoidable inconsistencies in our spiritual and moral life. It cannot help but drip of sanctimony, the caricature of holiness. Besides, it tends to turn off people especially when its flaws get widely known.

It's a pity, because with the temper of the times when a great majority of the people are saddled with all kinds of sin and anomalies, not only of the small and transitory ones but rather of the big and often persistent and vicious kind, there's a clamor for a spirituality skilled in tackling this unfortunate situation.

We need to have a plan or program of spirituality that can be attractive to sinners and people in trouble who, in spite of their predicaments, still have a longing for what is objectively true, good and beautiful. This practically refers to all of us.

It should be a spirituality that knows how to dispense mercy and the means to cure or at least give relief to our spiritual and moral predicaments. It should have a pharmacopeia that is able to attend to a great variety of spiritual and moral conditions that we can fall into as we go through life.

Let's never forget that we are all sinners, and yet God loves us still, even to the point of becoming man and offering his life on the cross, practically assuming all our sinfulness just to recover us. In a certain sense, there is something in sin and evil that attracts God to us.

Our spiritual life should capture this divine logic and behaviour that certainly sees sin as evil and yet is not scandalized by it. Rather, it should fill us with sorrow and contrition, rushing to God asking for forgiveness, instead of running away from him that would worsen our condition.

God's love is always greater than the malice behind our sin. More than that, it is capable of drawing good from evil. This truth of our faith should be spread more widely, not to spoil us by abusing the goodness of God, but rather to instil hope in us who are struggling with all kinds of sin and their consequences.

We should also not lose sight of the fact that sin, if properly reacted to and handled, can somehow expand our perspective, enrich our wisdom and make us more identified with Christ who, as St. Paul once said, made himself like sin without committing them.

Sin should be avoided at all costs. But when it comes, when we fall into it, we should not aggravate the situation by fleeing from God who is all eager to forgive and comfort us, and to give us all the means to bring us back to our original dignity.

We should avoid keeping to ourselves. With God's forgiveness, we can start the way to full recovery, going through the process of atonement and reparation for whatever damage our sin may have cause, and developing the appropriate virtues and learning how to tackle our weaknesses and temptations more effectively.

Let's remember that the Church which is holy because of its founder, its doctrine and sacraments, etc., is also a family of saints who have been sinners but who struggled all the way to the end.

Some of our great saints have been big sinners before. We can cite the example of St. Paul, for one. He was a vicious persecutor before his dramatic conversion which was an effect both of God's grace and his quick correspondence to that grace.

Let's hope that we can develop a spirituality that knows how to take advantage of our sinfulness!*

 

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