Is It A Sin?

The reading from the Holy Gospel according to St. Matthew. (4:12-17)

We have completed the Feast of Theophany, the Lord’s baptism and now we continue with the Lord as He begins his ministry of preaching, teaching and healing the people. Most of the commentators agree that the Lord’s earthly ministry was about 3 years long. It is hard for us to fathom how one individual could so profoundly change the course of the whole world and human history in 3 years.

One of the hallmarks of the beginning of the ministry of the Lord Jesus Christ is the fact that He begins his preaching with the very same word uttered by John the forerunner and baptist. “Repent”. “Repent for the kingdom of Heaven is at hand.” Many of you know that this word repent means to turn around, to reorient yourself, to change your mind, to change your way of thinking, to change your way of life. But it assumes something else. It assumes that we understand what we are to repent of. According to the teaching of Christ and the new testament, we are to repent of the sin in our lives. But what even, is sin? That is a very important question in our day and age and one that needs to be answered.

Sin in the Greek language of the New Testament means to miss the mark or to fall short. More broadly, sin is understood as the words, thoughts and deeds that create a wall or barrier between us and God. How would we find out if some word, deed or thought is a sin in our life? Where should we go to find the answer? Should we trust pop stars and musicians? Should we trust google? Should we trust politicians? How about the courts? Ok what about your friends opinions? What about that one group chat thread? Or your social media groups? These are not typically trustworthy sources of information. They are not generally truthful sources.

So where should we go to hear the truth? If you get this answer correct and your follow through with it, then you will have a blessed life. We go first to the words of the gospel of Jesus Christ. It is our Lord Himself who said “I am the way, and the truth and the life. No man comes to the Father, except through Me.” If the Lord is truly the way then it follows that the first place we should go to learn truth for our lives is directly to His words and His life as recorded in the 4 gospels. Now some people would concede this point gladly but then they would say that all we need are the words of Christ. In other words, nothing else is worth noting in the whole of Scripture and if the Lord didn’t mention it, it must not be an issue. That is one opinion but we must say that it is simply false. Holy Scripture is more than the 4 gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. Scripture is the books of Moses and the wisdom literature and the prophetic books. The truth is found in all of these places since God does not change and neither does the Holy Spirit, the spirit of truth. The New Testament is another place where we find the truth. The words of St. Paul are not optional words for a Christian. So when St. Paul teaches the Christians throughout the Roman Empire, he teaches them with the authority of Christ and in harmony with Christ.

In our day and age there is a hesitation to call things sinful. But that is not good for us. Imagine being in a hospital where the doctors and nurses refuse to tell you what kind of sickness you have. They know you are sick but they don’t mention it for fear of offending you. They figure that it will be too hard for you to bear the truth. So everyone then pretends that you are completely well, the very picture of health and normalcy. Now you see what is happening in our world. But the truth is available to us my brothers and sisters. We don’t have to sit in darkness and the shadows of death. We can know God’s will for our lives. We can know the way to walk and live and think that will be pleasing to God. We can also know what pitfalls to avoid in our lives. And there are so many pitfalls, that is why Our Lord says “For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few.” (Matt 7:14)

It is a narrow way that we are seeking as children of God. It isn’t a glamorous way or a fancy way or a popular way. It is a way that is built on the foundation of repentance as we understand from the Lord’s very first words.

So how do we begin to repent? We start with the difficult first step of looking at our lives and ourselves in the light of the teachings of Christ and the rest of Holy Scripture. We start by honestly assessing where we have fallen short and broken the commandments and holy teachings. We might fall down and cry to the Lord “Lord please reveal the depths of my brokenness to me. Help me to know my sins and to repent properly.”

We might make a list of those sins as well and bring them with us to the sacrament of confession. The Church isn’t like the other hospital that I mentioned. She doesn’t pretend that we are well when we are sick. But she takes those who admit their sickness and she does make them well by the grace of God. It is not so much an issue of what you have done or not done. It is an issue of whether you want to change and to return to Christ and begin cultivating a relationship with Him. He desires this relationship with us. The old things can be wiped away and forgiven. Healing can come to us. Reconciliation with God is possible. But God can’t force His way into our hearts. That door is locked from the inside.

Perhaps as we seek to examine ourselves and our conscience we ask ourselves “what is holding me back?” “What about my life is not pleasing to God?” “What wrong thoughts or actions are causing me to be sick in the soul?” “What am I putting above my relationship with God?” These are some of the profitable questions we might ask.

St. Nikolai of Zicha writes, “Only if sinners cease to commit evil and learn to do good and turn to God with humility and repentance they will become “white as snow.” The Lord is mighty and willing. No one, except Him, is able to cleanse the sinful soul of man from sin and, by cleansing, to whiten it. No matter how often linen is washed in water with ashes and soap, no matter how often it is washed and rewashed, it cannot receive whiteness until it is spread under the light of the sun. Thus, our soul cannot become white, no matter how often we cleanse it by our own effort and labor even with the help of all legal means of the law until we, at last, bring it beneath the feet of God, spread out and opened wide so that the light of God illumines it and whitens it.”

So let us start with this belief that each of us is indeed a sinner and that each of us is in need of healing from the Master and physician of our souls, Christ Our Lord. Let this be our first step to becoming radiant sons and daughter of the living God. AMEN.

Source: Sermons