PARADOXICAL

The faith chronicles

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

 

Sins of omission


The sin of omission is a grave sin that we oftentimes fail to recognize, our parish priest Fr. C.B. said in his homily. Whenever we confess during the Mass, he reminded us, we enumerate the four kinds of sins: “in thoughts, in words, in what we have done, in what we have failed to do.” But whenever we actually do our litany of trespasses in the confessional, we seldom mention the things we have failed to do.

We think our failings are a lightweight sin. The bad news is, Fr. C. implies, they’re not.

Other people suffer because of our failures - failure to reach out, to extend help, to get involved (not to be confused with meddling and gossiping, though).

Fr. C. loves to cite as example Filipino TNTs ("tago ng tago") who cause the suffering of the rest of the Filipinos. The priest sees as selfish, no matter how desperate, the practice of entering foreign countries through illegal means to find work. These Filipinos, he says, are giving the rest of us a bad rep.

Fr. C. claims that citizens of Singapore, a tiny country, can now enter Europe and the US without a visa. Whereas foreign embassies are always wary whenever it’s a Filipino standing at their counters. A preconceived notion about us has become a rule of thumb, and who can blame them?

TNTs may not have directly committed a wrong, but their failure to be abide by the law has put in jeopardy and unnecessary shame other Filipinos who follow the law.
Fr. C.’s favorite example may not quite cut it (desperation out of poverty is largely to blame), but his point is: Whenever we act like the unconcerned, apathetic Bartimaeus to this world’s hapless Lazaruses, we are committing a grievous sin. It sounds simple enough, but is it?

Whenever I want to scare myself out of my complacency, I contrive to find my copy of The Unpublished Manuscript on Purgatory and see for myself where I am failing as a Christian. Without fail, this little treasured document scares me whenever I read the part where souls suffer indescribable torments for their failure to do this and that – a nun who was too harsh on the kids, a religious who was not passionate enough about the Lord, a priest or bishop who committed certain sins, etc.

If these guys who have offered their whole lives to God would suffer torments like those in purgatory, then what awaits the rest of us who are less holy and even less fervent? What fate awaits the apathetic among us, those who habitually say they don’t care? What sort of rigorous punishments await those whose silence paved the way for evil to reign?

It appears that our little failures – failure to correct privately the mistakes of our brothers and sisters, give the right words of encouragement, visit the sick, condole with the bereaved, voice out our support or disapproval on current issues...failure to love and to care – shall be dealt with the same purifying fire inside the same hellish furnace.

'Tis hard to be a good Christian. But the alternative is incomparably worse.

9.30.2001


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