Brandon and I are working our way through the Seven Deadly Sins on our weekly podcasts, but the list always kind of gets me thinking about the different types of sins and their severity. I know the Seven Deadly Sins have earned their place as the sins which tend to lead to us damaging our relationship with God over and over again, but I do worry at times that we can underestimate the effect of our more common place, every day sins.
In the Catholic Church, we classify the sins into the two larger categories of mortal sins and venial sins. While the details of what qualifies for each would certainly be a worthwhile blog, it isn’t really my main concern here. In the shortest, simplest terms, a venial sin damages our relationship with God, while a mortal sin breaks the relationship. Neither of these need to be permanent harms, but the general idea is that venial sins are still a problem, but mortal sins are the ones that really put our eternal souls in jeopardy.
While I completely agree with the Church’s teaching on these sins, I know that many of the students I teach, and I as well, can sometimes get a false sense of security born out of these types of sins. We can treat these smaller, venial sins as if they’re not a big deal. I haven’t done anything THAT bad, so I’m fine. This is a dangerous mistake in a couple of ways.
First of all, it shows a misunderstanding of the basic reality of our relationship with God. If we are ok with the damage to our relationship with God, it shows that, on some level, we believe our relationship with God can be “close enough.” God is perfect, and desires to have us with Him perfectly and completely. It isn’t about jumping through hoops, or scoring a certain percentage “sin free” in our life, it’s about moving closer and closer to the very heart of the loving God who offers the only satisfaction we can really find.
Secondly, it shows a confusion about the impact of untreated, small damages. Sure, none of us are perfect, and we don’t want to be overly obsessed with our each and every mistake, but we also can’t afford to ignore the small damages and the way that repeated small damages can become major problems. If we continue to ignore small illnesses, they can develop into far more serious ones. In the same way, our small, habitual venial sins can lay the groundwork for us to move into some of the more serious, mortal sins.
As we continue through the Easter season, let’s take the time to reflect on the sins, big and small, that Jesus died to free us from and ask His help in avoiding them moving forward.