We don't think of doing wrong things as sinning. Indeed, we may not be sinning, subjectively speaking - for we may have the best of intentions; we may not even know - or admit - the wrongness of our acts.
And how many people are really "at fault"? I mean, look around you. Everybody has the best of intentions. No one chooses evil. How many times, for example, has someone deeply hurt you and failed to apologize? That happens to everybody all the time. Why is there no apology? Because we never accept blame; we never admit fault; we always mean well and do ill; we always mean the best - and do the worst.
We all do evil - and pursue Wrong Things with vigor and determination! We all sin! But we're never at fault - for we always mean well, and we always have a reason; or at least an excuse.
And so we rationalize. We tell ourselves the rules don't apply to us. The Commandments are suggestions. The Church is nosy and needs to stay out of my business. The Catechism teaches optional things. Mitigating circumstances and all that.
And I'm not talking about you, I'm talking about me. I love to tell myself the rules don't apply to me. I'm way too smart or talented or gifted or religious for the rules to apply to me. That's obvious, right?
And when you start to become an Old Guy - well, who wants to admit that we're starting to hear that bell tolling, and it's not as far off as it once was? Hell, we never even used to hear it.
Ha! When we were young! When we were young we saw old guys do foolish things all the time - leave their wives for hot young babes, eat and drink themselves to a coronary, waste away in front of the TV, become crabby and hateful - we'd say, "Well, don't you know you can't live like that, you old fool?" But when you're an old fool yourself - well, that hot babe kind of likes me, and my arteries can handle another hot dog, let's see what's on tonight, I sure don't feel like getting out of this chair. Where's the remote control? And so forth.
We know it's wrong. Our conscience tells us it's wrong. It's wearing a neon sign that says, "I'm wrong", but we do it anyway. And we do it with gusto. And we spend our waking hours pursuing it with gusto - no matter how wrong it is.
After all, we don't mean wrong when we do wrong. So it's all right, you see?
And so, we can call ourselves Devout Catholics and we can live like this ...
- We lie when it's convenient to lie (I mean, come on - who would lie when it's inconvenient?)
- We gaze on naked women because we've achieved "mature purity" (we say as we read Playboy)
- That fudging we did regarding money last week - well, everybody does that, and I've got to meet my overhead.
- It's not an internet affair - it's a deep friendship.
- It's OK to have sex if you love each other - whoever and whatever "each other" may be.
- I do drugs, but I'm not an addict!
- When my guy attacks your guy, it's fine; when your guy defends himself and comes after my guy, I say, "Why can't we all just get along?" and I accuse you and your guy of factionalism.
- Sure, we're compromising our integrity, but we've got to win this thing! What good is integrity to losers?
- The Church is wrong here and I'm right and God understands and He's with me on this.
In other words, we're a mess, folks. We're a mess.
Our capacity for self-delusion is infinite.
I think the best prayer we can pray every night is something like this ...
Holy Spirit, show me my sins. Tear away the gauze I wrap around my dark heart and my selfish intentions. Show me how selfish I am. I know down deep when I'm doing something that's objectively wrong, even if I've convinced myself that it's subjectively right. But I lie to myself and I believe my lies. Don't let me get away with this. Convict me, that I may repent and be acquitted by the Blood of Jesus. Deliver me, Lord, from slavery to sin, as you have always delivered Your people from slavery of all kinds. Even if I mourn for the fleshpots of Egypt, keep me in Your Way, the narrow Way to redemption. In Christ's name, amen.