The following are excerpts from Scott Hahn’s brilliant exploration of the nature of sin, punishment, confession, and penance. If you think you already know everything there is to know about sin and the sacrament of confession, you will be pleasantly surprised by the Biblical depths Scott Hahn illuminates. The great thing about our beautiful faith is that it’s mysteries are inexhaustible and despite the wealth of knowledge and understanding you may possess, you can continuously experience newly found wonders.
“Adam feared the beast [the word for snake in the Bible can also be translated as dragon] . . . he feared for his life more than he feared for his wife; for he did not step forward to protect her . . .
Why would God subject Adam and Eve to such a trial? Because something greater lay on the other side of it. Adam and Eve were given the life of grace, but that was only penultimate. God had intended that grace to be a seed of glory. Adam was made in paradise, but made for heaven. God wanted Adam to share the inner life of the Trinity, which is complete self-giving: The Father pours Himself out in love for the Son; the Son returns that love completely with the gift of His own life; and that love shared by the Father and the Son is itself a divine person, the Holy Spirit. In order for Adam to share that life, he would have to begin living it on earth, in paradise. He would have to offer himself completely in sacrifice.
And that is what he failed to do. Adam was unwilling to lay down his life for the sake of his love for God, or to save the life of his beloved. That refusal to sacrifice was Adam’s original sin.”
“When people choose a forbidden pleasure, the punishment for sin becomes the pleasure they experience illicitly, because once they experience it, they want it more. If God abandons us to our illicit pleasures, we find we can no longer resist them at all…
Once we’re hooked on sin, our values are turned upside down . . . At that point, repentance becomes almost impossible, because repentance is, by definition, a turning away from evil and toward the good; but, by now, the sinner has thoroughly redefined both good and evil. Isaiah said of such sinners: ‘Woe to those who call evil good and good evil’ (Is 5:20).
. . . We render ourselves almost incapable of repenting, apart from some divine intervention–a car wreck, abandonment by our family, eviction from our home, the loss of a job. When disaster strikes, the sinner usually thinks God is finally waking up and beginning to punish him. But that is not divine wrath; it’s divine mercy, saving the sinner from a worse and everlasting fate.
What we see . . . are really the flashes of sudden, brilliant light that God sends to illumine a soul darkened by concupiscence and sin.”
“… His punishments are never vindictive . . . they are the inevitable consequences of our free choices . . . If we did not have the option of choosing sin and hell, we could not have the freedom of truly choosing and loving God. If God did not permit us to say no to Him, our yes would be worthless, the programmed response of a machine.”
“We can begin to overcome concupiscence through self-mastery and self-denial . . . but even that is not enough. We need the help that only God can give: the grace He dispenses freely in the sacrament of penance. That grace . . . creates anew the heart that sin has disordered, disfigured, and disgraced.”
“… [Jesus says] ‘Blessed are you poor . . . Blessed are you that hunger . . . Blessed are you that weep . . . Blessed are you when men hate you, and when they exclude you and revile you, and cast out your name as evil’ (Lk 6:20-23). All of these calamities, He said, are cause for rejoicing . . . the Beatitudes represent a ‘normative inversion’; they turn our expectations upside down . . . Suffering teaches us detachment from the goods of this world, and it so frees us to attach ourselves to the goods of heaven.”
“Jesus said… ‘Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after Me, cannot be My disciple’ (Lk 14:27). Self-denial, clearly, is not optional…”
“Christians sacrifice the best things not because they think the world is evil… but because they know the world is very good–so good that it can distract us from what’s far better, thus detouring us on our way home to the Father . . . Love requires that we make sacrifices for the sake of our beloved . . . A man in love will redouble his heroic efforts if he has somehow offended his beloved.”
“Acts of self-denial… heal us by offsetting our many acts of self-indulgence.”
“We must offer our efforts not only for our own sake, but for the sake of others, our friends, neighbors, family members, and even people we don’t know, because they are our cocombatants… Saint Paul said: ‘Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I complete what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions for the sake of His body, that is, the Church’ (Col 1:24).”
“Whenever we choose to do good, we build up our fellow fighters, because there is a mystical solidarity that unites us . . . when we choose to do evil, we do not sin in isolation, but we weaken our side in the battle . . . Every time we sin, we diminish not only ourselves, but also the Church. That is one reason why Christ has us confess our sins to the Church.”