I remember when I was a child being perplexed by the term “7 deadly sins.” Hearing the term you expect to see this list of really bad sins but instead you get these general sins like pride, gluttony, sloth, etc. . . It didn’t seem to fit cleanly with my concept that deadly sins are “mortal sins” or really grave sins.
Having developed a healthy habit of regular confession; we should become aware of some interior attitudes that can get in the way of our spiritual growth.
In this regard it is important to point out that we are forgiven through contrition of sin, of which the fervent intention to confess is an essential part. Confession and signs of penance fulfill what we intend by our interior act of contrition. At Mass we make a general “confession” of our sinfulness which is sufficient for our daily brokenness; it concludes our our intention to confess our contrition at the earliest opportunity. We are forgiven in our contrition and firm purpose of amendment which is brought to completion through the confession of sin and the fulfillment of our sign of penance.
Therefore, as I said above, Confession for minor faults, does not spring out of a type of necessity. Our sin, even our mortal sin, is not hanging over our head ready to slay us until we confess them. If we have true contrition and the intention to confess then we are forgiven of sin. Therefore, in all cases, our Confession of sin is about healing a relationship, being held accountable, fulfilling the demands of true contrition, and growing in self knowledge.
Related to this is the instinct to diminish our sin. The statement, “I just have venial sins;” needs to be stricken from our vocabulary. We don’t go up to our friends and close relations and say, “I hurt you, but it was only a small hurt.” The terms “mortal and venial sin” might be good for organizing our thoughts but terrible for expressing contrition.
Another great challenge to over coming our smaller imperfections is the force of the group, or peer pressure. Human respect has been called the guillotine of Saints. However, living in community is also the source of our greatest virtue. This is important to recognize. Most of our sin comes from our interactions with others, but so does our virtue, and the formation of virtue is what we are striving for, not necessarily the removal of sin. We can put someone on a desert island and they would have very few sins to confess, but that would miss the point. Therefore, in all of this it is important to realize that we are called to grow in virtue together, to raise the whole of society. This often comes into play with couples. Often times one of the spouses is motivated and zealous to change all sorts of things in the their lives but they soon discover that it is creating friction in their relationship. They often think that they would be “holier” if they didn’t have to wrestle with their spouse. Other times parishioners will go to another parish because they think they will be “holier” in a parish that is disposed to their preferences. Most of the times this is self delusion.
Virtue is about learning how to communicate well; which only springs out of wrestling with others. In this dialogue we are communicating boundaries; and boundaries are the foundations of all beauty. Through virtue we are making something beautiful. However, in this dialogue there are times when firm boundaries must be established. Sometimes we must separate ways; but we must be careful that we are not running away from the work of community life.
In conclusion, this is not a death march; but a hike up the mountain. At each level in this spiritual journey we stop and enjoy the view, take it all in, celebrate where we have come from. Then, after our little break, God turns to us and says, “O, but let me show you this next vista; it’s even more spectacular!” And so we trudge on in the spiritual life, not exasperated that we haven’t “arrived” and not perplexed that the path is so hard; but looking forward to the deeper visions that God has in store for us. This is dynamism, this is a youthful spirit that is full of vitality; not hiding our treasure because we believe that the Lord is a demanding master.