Responding to Sin

Father Geiermann explains what is happening when a person commits a sin: “When we commit sin we inconsiderately prefer a finite good to God, the infinite Good. If our sin is mortal our minds despise God to that extent that they judge that finite good worthy of being our god, and as such decree it to be the final object of our existence. If our sin is venial our minds scorn the friendship of God to the extent we gratify our self-love.”

Then, he explains what the sinner experiences after committing a sin: “The human mind is naturally just. . . . The human will necessarily seeks what is good. Hence, as soon as it learns from the mind that it has chosen the greatest possible evil by committing sin, it is filled with grief. When considered in relation to the loss occasioned by sin, this grief is called remorse; when viewed as a pain we endure, it is called compunction; when viewed in its bearing on our sinful transgression, it is called penitence or repentance; and when viewed in its bearing on the future, it is called purpose of amendment.”

“Amendment is the fruit of true repentance—’By their fruits you shall know them.’ To bring forth fruit worthy of repentance we must reduce our purpose of repentance to practice.”

Purpose of amendment “embraces a fivefold determination: (1) the general resolution to avoid evil and to do good; (2) to avoid at least every mortal sin, and every venial sin that we have just confessed; (3) to uproot any bad habit we may have contracted, and to guard against contracting it again; (4) to avoid the proximate, voluntary occasion of every mortal sin, as well as of those venial sins we have just confessed; (5) to use the means of grace necessary to ensure fidelity to our determination. We can ensure the stability of our purpose of amendment: (1) by mistrusting ourselves and placing our confidence in God; (2) by renewing it as often as we kneel in prayer; (3) by keeping the Christian ideal ever before our minds.”

“The motives which prompt us to regret our sin, fill us with aversion for it, and spur us on to penance and perseverance are: the fear of the torments of hell, the desire of heaven, and the love of God. These three motive powers of the spiritual life are kept alive within us by frequent reflection on the eternal truths. Hence the Holy Ghost exhorts us: ‘In all thy works remember thy last end and thou shalt never sin’ (Sir 7:36).”

Quotations from Peter Geiermann, The Narrow Way (New York: Benziger, 1914).

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Sayings of Catholic saints and sages: spiritual food for meditation and reflection.
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