Carvajal: The bigger sin

Carvajal: The bigger sin

Holy Week’s core message to Christians is to die to sin with the crucified Christ on Good Friday and rise with Him to new life on Easter Sunday. Most of us Catholic Christians practice dying to sin by going to confession and doing the penance prescribed by the priest to start a new life away from sin.

However, because most of us also have nothing more than a superficial grasp of what constitutes sin, in addition to a perfunctory confession and an even more perfunctory compliance with the prescribed penance we usually respond to this message with such other “Christianisms” as giving up a favorite food or drink and participating in Holy Thursday and Good Friday rituals in their original medieval-colonial Catholic form and meaning.

But what is sin really and essentially? The Greek Bible’s word for sin is Hamartia. The imagery behind the word is that of a hunter missing her/his target with her/his bow and arrow. Thus, to sin is essentially to miss the mark or target.

For baptized Christians the target is God whom we are to love with all our mind and with all our heart. However, there’s a catch to this. We can only love Him through our neighbor whom accordingly He tells us to love as ourselves. “Whoever claims to love God yet hates a brother or sister is a liar. For whoever does not love their brother and sister, whom they have seen, cannot love God whom they have not seen.” 1 John 4:20

Thus, one big way Catholics miss their target is to aim their love-arrows directly at God. Many of us find it more convenient to throw devotional and religious arrows at God to show Him we love Him instead of understanding, sympathizing and helping a neighbor in need or suffering from injustice as is the only way to love God.

Yet bigger still is the sin of having no target at all. This happens when we don’t know who we are and why we are alive. Without a meaning or purpose in life, we can only aim at nothing and hit nothing whichever way we shoot our physical, mental, and emotional arrows. We roam aimlessly in today’s world of fear, hatred and violence until we run out of proverbial arrows and die a meaningless death.

After Hamartia comes Metanoia, Greek for conversion or change of heart. After a miss we ought to adjust our aim so as to hit our target the next time around. This is the conversion or spiritual rebirth that should happen after confession, not just the facile seven or so Our Fathers the priest asks us to pray nor the alcoholic drink or whatever we are encouraged to forego as penance.

In the end, Christian or Muslim or Buddhist or Atheist, black or white or a shade in between, male or female or LGBTQ etc., what matters is that our life has meaning, that we know what it means to be fully human and we continually adjust our aim to become one for the sake of the overall health of the living organism, the earth, we are all part of.

A soul-searching Holy Week and an Easter rebirth to all.


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