After Mass, Edna, a parishioner, said, “Father, you preached a great homily on temptation. It struck home with some people, but for many others, there’s a problem.” I asked, “What’s the problem?” She continued, “Many teenagers, young adults, and even older people do not have the term, sin, in their vocabulary. They think even less about temptations.”
Reflecting on her words, I remembered students who admitted in college theology classes that they “goofed up”, but were not willing to call their moral failing a “sin”. “That’s too heavy”, they said, “We don’t think that way”.
The secular environment strongly influences this generation and the categories of sin and temptation rarely enter some people’s decision making. What does this say about illicit moral actions today? How can a society survive for long when the morality of actions is separated from the actions themselves? What role does Jesus play, if sin is a foreign word and original sin is little more than a pious teaching with no immediate connection to our fast paced, amoral, secular world? What does salvation mean?
We live in a graced-filled, but wounded world. Our brokenness comes from sin—original and personal. If we fail to acknowledge the reality of temptation and sin, we cannot achieve the wholeness toward which every person’s inner self strives.
When beginning his public life, Jesus went into the desert and overcame the temptations of the devil. In so doing, he conquered sin and death brought about through the sin of Adam and Eve and our personal sins. His actions give us the confidence that no matter what our lives have been in the past, God’s grace enables us to follow Jesus on our journey toward peace in this world and eternal blessedness in heaven.
A priest of the Archdiocese of Cincinnati and a Professor of Pastoral and Systematic Theology at the Athenaeum of Ohio, Father Bob Hater is also Professor Emeritus at the University of Dayton. Order Fr. Hater’s new book, Common Sense Catechesis: Lessons from the Past, Road Map for the Future.