THREE news items caught my attention this week. One came from an address which Kofi Annan, the secretary general of the United Nations, gave during the first AIDS conference in memory of Princess Diana. Every day, he stated, seven thousand persons between the ages of 10-24 become HIV-positive. Yes, every day! This is virtually five youth every minute. “This is a threat for a whole generation and for the whole of civilization,” Kofi Annan said. In 1998, new cases were registered in all countries. The most alarming situation is in Africa where, every year close to 1.7 million youths contract the virus. Asia and the Pacific Islands are not far behind – 700,000 youths A YEAR become HIV-positive.
The other news item came from Chile. The “Population Research Institute” is distributing a 1968 Disney video starring Donald Duck in order to encourage the use of contraception. In the video, Donald explains that the world is heavily overpopulated, but that science provides the solution – in the form of contraception. Of course, experts today reject the theory of overpopulation. But still the video is being sold in a packet of other pro-contraceptive videos. In the Philippines, one of the former Spice girls had been appointed ambassador of a United Nations financed-project to propagate contraception. The rich countries are afraid that the poor countries may overrun them with too many children.
The last news came from Nebraska. Gloria Feldt, the president of Planned Parenthood, the group which holds the highest number of abortion clinics in the US – abortion pays – announced its decision to double the capital to be invested in the election campaign of next year to assure the victory of candidates who favor abortion to the senate. It will allot more than 2.4 million dollars for this purpose. A lot of money!
This news contrasts sharply with what John Paul II is saying constantly. In a moving and sincere speech to the Bishops from Ireland this week, the Pope spoke about the need to recover the sense of sin. The Holy Father stressed how relativism “can lead to discouragement and to the belief that the Church no longer has anything of relevance to say to the men and women of our day.”
“Prevailing trends in contemporary culture weaken the sense of sin, particularly because of a diminished consciousness of God who is all holy and calls his people to holiness of life. A great pastoral effort is therefore required in order to help the faithful to recover the sense of what sin is in relation to God, and consequently to have a profound appreciation of the beauty and joy of the Sacrament of Penance.”
A man once told Mark Twain that his life’s ambition was to visit Mount Sinai where God gave the ten commandments to Moses. Mark Twain relied : Why don’t you stay at home and keep the Ten Commandments?!
The problem really is that everyone believes that sin is fun. That is why we do it! Even religious people feel kind of cheated out of the real life. In a sermon on “sin,” the pastor announced that there were seven hundred eighty-nine different sins. A few days later the mailman delivered ninety-four requests from members of his congregation for a list of the 789 sins.
The fun of being virtuous is never quite as appealing as the fun of sinning! This is sad. Very sad. We live in a society which portrays sin as something nice and beautiful. Exciting. Sin attracts us. Consciously or unconsciously.
Satan Is A Vicious Bully
The Scripture, on the contrary, is fierce in its perception of sin. It tell us very clearly – sin kills. Sin is a spiritual mutilation. ‘Spiritual’ does not mean less real. On the contrary it means more definite. More ruthless. Sin destroys our deep moral fiber. We find ourselves feeble and hopeless. Unable to cope with life and its struggles. In the hands of a vicious slave master who forces us to do what he wills. Have a look at the letter of Saint Paul to the Romans, chapter 7. He is such a cruel thug!
There is a passage in Dickens’ “Pickwick Papers” which is a good description of life. Pickwick goes to the club. He hires a cab and on the way he asks innumerable questions. Among the questions he says ‘Tell me, how is it possible that such a mean and miserable horse can drive such a big and heavy cab?’ The cabbie replies ‘It’s not a question of the horse, Sir, it’s a question of the wheels’, and Mr. Pickwick says ‘What do you mean?’ The cabbie answers ‘You see, we have a magnificent pair of wheels which are so well oiled that it is enough for the horse to stir a little for the wheels to begin to turn and then the poor horse must run for its life.’
This is the way in which we live most of the time. We are not the horse that pulls, we are the horse that runs away from the cab in fear of its life.”
Because of fear we keep sinning. The devil always comes over and offers us a simple solution to our problem. An easy way out. Want some fun? Go with a girl and do it! Feeling down? Gratify yourself – internet, movie, magazine, alcohol, ice. Too many hassles having children? Contraceptives, tubal ligation. Low on money? Be smart, cheat, steal if you can. Life is miserable? Murmur, curse. Problems in marriage? Divorce. Afraid of commitment? Shack up – why should you go through all this stuff of marriage?
The problem is that he is a liar. He deceives. His solution is always lethal. Gratification increases your depression. Contraceptives empties intimacy. Divorce creates big traumas to everyone involved. Living with a partner without being married only increases insecurity and instability. Sin always produces death. It is as simple as that.
You do not believe? Try and see for yourself!
The Eagle And The Wolf
Only one solution. As someone puts it very graphically. There is a great battle that rages inside me. One side is a soaring eagle. Everything the eagle stands for is good and true and beautiful. It soars above the clouds. Even though it dips down into the valleys, it lays its eggs on the mountain tops.
The other side of me is a howling wolf. And that raging, howling wolf represents the worst that is in me. He eats upon my downfalls and justifies himself by his presence in the pack.
Who wins this great battle? The one I feed!
BUT even the howling wolf inside us can be ultimately defeated. Perhaps you too find yourself today in a place you shouldn’t be. Perhaps you are far from God, feeling defeated, trapped, and unhappy.
Cry out to the Lord, confess your sin, and you will be restored. When I was a young girl, Catherine Doherty says, my mother said, “Catherine, it’s time for you to go to confession and be kissed by Jesus.” In a certain sense, this is what confession is. A kiss. His lips touch ours, and fire and flame enter our hearts and cleanse them.
Yes, confession is Christ’s kiss of peace, of forgiveness. It’s a simple thing, not complicated. Try it!
(c) Fr. Pius Sammut, OCD. Permission is hereby granted for any non-commercial use, provided that the content is unaltered from its original state, if this copyright notice is included.