Sin and Freedom


Sin and Freedom

We stand at a greater or lesser approach to a vast anoxic mudflat, the stench of which is an assault on Heaven itself. Some stand at the very edge of this flat, constantly deciding not to step onto it. Others have already taken the first steps and are discovering the difficulty of a mud flat--once you step out into, the mud itself works to keep you there. Still others, through habitual sin have waded far out into the mudflat and discovered the unstable thixotropic center. (A brief digression--a thixotropic fluid is thick like a solid but flows when a lateral pressure is applied. These solids also have the property of liquefying when a sudden shock such as an earth tremor is applied. The most famous natural example is quicksand, but quickmud while less common is even more dead.)

Once we are entangled in that center, through habitual sin, we find ourselves gradually drawn down until we struggle to move even a little from the pattern. We find that the habit takes over and the motion of the will is at best feeble and weak--deprived of any intensity of purpose. We don't really want to leave the center of sin. It has grown comfortable and familiar.

Sin is paralyzing. This is one of the reasons, I suppose, that so much mention is made of Jesus healing those lame and paralyzed. Sometimes the physical paralysis was seen as punishment for personal or inherited sin. But the paralysis is also a metaphor for what sin does to us in a spiritual way. When Jesus heals a paralytic the injunction is to "go and sin no more." The paralysis has been lifted--it is possible to choose once again.

Many of us need this radical power of Jesus in our lives. Many of us are paralyzed by our sins. Worse, many do not even see that they sin, habitually, frequently, and in defiance of clear injunctions that tell us what we are doing is wrong. We are paralyzed and blind.

The amazing thing is that one simple turning to Jesus, one motion, one indication that we have come to realize our plight, and we can be healed. Admittedly, it is difficult, sin has so dulled our senses and so balked our motion that any turning, any recognition is a trial--but it is a trial that can be endured. More--looking at the face of Jesus, adoring Christ in the Eucharist, being present to Christ in the Scripture, taking one moment to serve Christ in the persons of our oppressed brothers and sisters, can burst all bonds asunder, can drive away all darkness, and can clear the way to making a good confession and being transformed from a paralytic to a functional member of the Kingdom of Heaven.

If you cannot pray, know that the Holy Spirit prays within you, and choose to act in a way that recognizes that God is sovereign and present. Then prayer can start. Look at Jesus, reach out to Him and say, "Lord, if thou willest, I shall be healed." And then be prepared to accept the healing and the joyful mission that comes with it. The Kingdom of Heaven is ever active--never passive. It strides forcefully, joyfully, powerfully out in to the world of men and transforms that world forever. It leaves in its wake powerful eddies and currents that draw many invisibly closer to God. They may not be aware of His presence, but they are subtly transformed and prepared to accept His existence and His glory as a reality. When we are freed from sin and declare that triumph to the world, the world responds joyfully. We may fall back--it is always possible, but we gradually learn through practice how to avoid those places that lead most directly into the center of sin. In each of us one of the seven capital sins tends to predominate, and provides the most direct path to the center of the mire. When Jesus frees us, we proclaim freedom to the world, we transcend the powers of this world and draw some part of it with us into redemption. This is part of what St. Paul meant when he talked of the fallen world groaning for release--when Jesus frees us, He frees us with the purpose of freeing all. We are to proclaim release to the captives with full knowledge that we once were one of them, and we know the shape and the smell of captivity. We also know that it is not our destiny, nor the destiny of any of God's people.

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This page contains a single entry by Steven Riddle published on July 18, 2003 8:01 AM.

Another Carmelite Celebration was the previous entry in this blog.

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