Stir up your power, we pray, O Lord, and come, that with you to protect us, we may find rescue from the pressing dangers of our sins, and with you to set us free, we may be found worthy of salvation. Who live and reign with God the Father in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.
Sin is dangerous like a caustic chemical. Most dangerous chemicals have warning signs on their containers. These signs, however, are only useful if people understand the words or symbols used. Sin, too, is preceded by warning signs. The first is the sting of a well-formed conscience. The second should be the admonishment of others. Unfortunately, it seems that both of these warning signs are often absent.
First, our consciences can only guide us to holiness if they are strengthened by the repetition of good acts and the avoidance of evil acts. If one repeatedly ignores the guidance of the conscience, then he will become largely deaf to it. Once this happens, a person must make the arduous break with vice to form the virtues which strengthen (or louden) the guidance of the conscience. Also, the conscience is formed by knowledge of moral standards. In order to receive this guidance clearly, a person needs interiority. There are many false teachers in this regard, so each individual must be vigilant to receive formation from the right source. The Catechism of the Catholic Church quotes Gaudium et Spes #16 thus: “Conscience is man’s most secret core, and his sanctuary. There he is alone with God whose voice echoes in his depths.”
Second, it is a spiritual work of mercy to admonish a sinner. Those with whom we chose to associate ourselves should help us become the saint we were made to be! Admonishment is most fruitful if it takes place before a person has fallen into grave sin–though it can be one of those things which are “better late than never.” Many resist giving any sort of admonishment because they are afraid of being labeled a hypocrite. While hypocrisy is an evil, it is even more evil to withhold the truth from someone who needs it. Besides, it is always possible to break with the past by repentance. Nonetheless, each of us has an obligation to uphold the value of virtuous living in our “public” lives. Our Lord has harsh words for people who led others into sin (see Mark 9:42). There are repercussions for someone who even tacitly gives approval to sinful behaviors.
The reason why sin is so dangerous is because it has the ability to cut us off from the divine life. Once a person loses the state of grace, they could come to be captivated by a life of dissipation and lose desire to repent. Sin is like an addiction because the more it is chosen the more it grabs hold of the person. Since, no person can merit for himself the grace of repentance we are led to a scary truth: one mortal sin cuts a person off from God. Thankfully, today’s prayer asks that God rescue us from our sins. This gives great hope: God’s goodness is always more powerful than any evil. May each of us heed the warning signs of sin.