Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
June 7, 2010
Sin, no matter what the reason, is still sin
All sorts of excuses can be given for breaking God's law: they don't wash
My Glass is Half Full
By MARK PICKUP
Lately I have been dogged by renewed bouts of envy. The last of the Ten Commandments given to Moses by God was not to covet. More precisely the Commandment states: "You shall not covet your neighbour's house. You shall not covet your neighbour's wife, nor his male or female slave, nor his ox or ass, nor anything else that belongs to him."
The Hebrew word for covet is hamad and means "to have a strong desire for." Coveting is an internal sin.
One Bible commentary states, "Coveting was not merely an appreciation of something from a distance, but an uncontrolled, inordinate, selfish desire. This tenth command governed an internal matter: the sin of coveting occurred in the mind. This demonstrated that God intended the Israelites not only to avoid the actions named in the previous commands, but also to turn away from the evil thoughts that led to those actions" (Nelson's New Illustrated Bible Commentary, 1999).
Let me explain how I have violated this commandment. It has been a long time since I coveted or envied other people's houses or cars - but I often find myself jealous of other men's health and physical abilities.
When I became disabled with multiple sclerosis in 1984, my children were only five and seven years old. During those early years with the disease there were such wild fluctuations between attacks and remissions that I was either too horrified by what was happening to me or too afraid to be envious. Looking back at the first years with my disease, I don't remember jealousy being an issue (although I'm sure there must have been times when it was).
The issue of envy, coveting or jealousy really became a spiritual issue for me later when I had longer periods of remissions from the MS to contemplate my predicament and losses.
My sin became particularly acute after I became a grandfather. By that time, my MS had changed to one of slow degeneration and I found myself stewing internally. To see other grandfathers swimming, skiing, bicycling or rough-housing with their grandchildren made me jealous. I watched from the sidelines as other men headed off camping with their grandchildren; I sat in my wheelchair burning with jealousy and thought, "Why can't I be doing that too?!"
I told this interior sin of mine to a friend. He replied, "Well, that's understandable." I suppose he was trying to be kind but his comment was irrelevant to the sin.
Understanding why someone sins does not lesson, erase or mitigate the sin. You may suspect that a childhood of deprivation may have caused a woman to become a kleptomaniac, but she is still a thief. A loveless marriage may contribute to a man having an affair, but he is still guilty of adultery.
Sin is sin.
RECOGNIZE THE SIN
The reason why we sin is less important than recognizing when we sin and responding with confession and repentance. The grace of my Baptism does not inoculate me from the weaknesses of my nature that lead me toward sin and evil.
We are all guilty of violating God's law: The gravity of sin - whatever it may be - must not be downplayed or discounted. Sin is destructive to our prayer life and Christian growth, our human relationships and our relationship to Christ. Sin separates us from God.
By Christ's passion, crucifixion and resurrection, and through the wonderful sacrament of Reconciliation and Penance, reconciliation with God and his Church is available to you and me. It's there for the asking and we should keep short accounts with God.
For me to allow jealousy, envy or covetousness to take root in my heart is really to doubt the sovereignty and goodness of God. Something far better awaits me in heaven. That should be enough to live contentedly here.
The writer of Hebrews said, "Let your conduct be without covetousness; be content with such things as you have." For he himself has said, "I will never leave you nor forsake you."
Perhaps this passage deals specifically with material possessions but I place it in context with my reality of physical incapacity. I must not let my temptation to be jealous of other men turn me bitter. Be grateful for those things I still have? Yes, I still can get about with my wheelchair and my family accepts me as I am. They have not forsaken me nor has God.
My life is rich and there is every reason to be content. Forgive me Lord for my discontentment.
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