Saturday, April 4, 2009

Surprised by sin

To capture the breadth, depth, and pervasiveness of sin, I propose that sin is simply the failure to bother to love".
- James F. Keenan, SJ

In his book "Moral Wisdom - Lessons and texts from the Catholic tradition", Jesuit theologian Fr James Keenan has the above interesting proposition.
He cites biblical support as he further expounds.
As the medieval theologians understood well, every narrative in the Gospel is not about sinners sinning out of their weaknesses, but out of their strengths.
When the publican and the Pharisee are praying in the temple, the sin of the Pharisee is in his strength (Luke 18:9-14). He specifically considers what he has. When the rich man steps over Lazarus and ignores Lazarus at the gate and in need, the rich man's sin is not in his weakness, but in his strength (Luke 16:19-31). He could have done something, he did not - he sinned, precisely out of his strength. The steward who asked forgiveness for his debt is forgiven, but he is punished because he does not forgive the minor debt by his own employee. Out of his strength, the steward is convicted (Mat 18:21-35). Think of the parable of the Good Samaritan: Where is the sin? Even the robbers who committed the crime of beating the poor man on the road to Jericho are ignored: the focus is on the Levite and the priest: they could have acted but they did not (Luke 10:25-37). They sinned precisely out of their strength. Or think of the Last Judgment. Note that the sheep and the goats are separated by what they could have done, and whether they did it. The goats ask: "but when did we not feed you? when did we not visit you?" (Mat 25:31-46)...

Our sin is usually not in what we did, not in what we could not avoid, not in what we tried not to do. Our sin is usually where you and I are comfortable, where we do not feel the need to bother, where, like the Pharisee...we have found complacency, a complacency not where we rest in being loved but where we rest in our delusional understanding of how much better we are than others. It is at that point of self-satisfaction that - like Speer, the Pharisee, the prodigal's older brother, or the rich man - we usually do not bother to love.
Some food for thought in this period of Lent.

No comments: