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Browsing Fr. Joel Hastings

More on Mortal Sin

Name some mortal sins other than killing, missing Mass on Sundays and Holy Days (Part 2:  Examining your conscience more effectively and confessing your sins).

           Last week, I began an answer to this question of naming mortal sins beyond those listed in the initial question by reminding all of us of the reality of sin and of the definitions of mortal and venial sins – pointing to the face value meaning of the Ten Commandments and the Precepts of the Church as a good foundation for knowing mortal sins.  Today, I want to build upon these definitions toward helping all to examine themselves more effectively and to make regular use of the sacrament of penance to confess our sins.

When making an examination of our conscience, it is always necessary to become aware of any serious or “mortal” sins that we may have committed, that we can rightly confess them and be forgiven of them and reconciled with God and His Church through the sacrament of penance.  Thus, the first thing we ought to do is ask the Holy Spirit to aid us in examining ourselves by a simple prayer to the Holy Spirit to come into our hearts, helping us to know our sins.  To the act of examining, recalling that mortal sins are 1- of serious or “grave” matter; 2-committed with full knowledge of their seriousness; and 3 – freely committed by our own choice; a very basic but effective examination of

our conscience can be carried out by going through each of the Ten Commandments and the Precepts of the Church and asking first “have we sinned against them in the most literal way.”  For example, in reflecting on the first commandment, to ask ourselves in a straight forward way “have I placed anything ahead of God” is a very literal way to approach the commandment.  As we begin in this very literal way, know that each commandment goes far deeper.  Case in point:  the fifth commandment:  “thou shall not kill” goes far deeper than murdering; it also includes self-preservation and upholding the life of others (by not risking our lives or those of other in reckless decisions – such as driving under the influence of alcohol, texting and driving, etc.).  Similarly, the sixth commandment, “thou shall not commit adultery,” is far deeper, encompassing any and every unchaste act (even in viewing such on the internet/movies) – (note here:  “chastity” is the “proper expression of love according to one’s state in life;” thus, married people are to be chaste in their exclusive and mutual love for one another and openness to life; distinct from the chastity of one who is not married; different from the chastity of one who promises to be celibate; etc.).

Thus, in examining, we are to go to the proper depth of each commandment and precept.  If we are ever unsure whether a sin committed is truly a mortal sin, realize that our ability to confess it in confession will only help us to let God forgive us and to strengthen us in both our resolve against committing sins and in further knowledge of actual sins we may have committed.  Such recourse to confessing in right depth of detail of the commandments is not to be “scrupulous,” such as thinking even the littlest mistakes are mortal sins; it is to be humble, to confess all sins that we know, trusting that even if the sins that come to mind are only venial, our heart is freed from them by giving them over to the Lord for Him to take as He sees them.  Such “freedom” is why regular confession is encouraged:  that by regularly going to confession, we are sure to grow by God’s grace in knowledge of any mortal sins that we have committed and in our desire to be forgiven of these sins.  Finally, regular confession aids us in becoming more sensitive to temptation and sin – that we would trust in God and avoid sin.

If you are looking for a good guide to examine your conscience that rightly weighs sin, check out the following link:  http://www.kofc.org/en/resources/cis/devotionals/2075.pdf



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