WHY IS SIN SUCH A BIG DEAL?
What is sin anyway?
Sin is not just breaking the rules. How many of us have failed to stop at a stop sign? When you got home, did you realize what you had done and feel intense sorrow and remorse? Probably not, unless you got a traffic ticket. So how is sin different? Why do we feel guilty when we commit sins? Sin, at its simplest, is a refusal to love. God has given us only two commandments: love God and love neighbor. When we fail to do these, we sin. And our sorrow, hopefully, comes from the knowledge that we have hurt someone we ought to love.
Mortal Sin And Venial Sin
St. John says: "If anyone sees his brother sinning, if this is not deadly, he should pray to God that he will give him life. This is only for those who sin is not deadly. There is such thing as deadly sin, about which I do not say that you should pray." (1 John 5:16). He makes a clear distinction between deadly mortal sin and lesser venial sin.
Mortal sin is a complete severing of the relationship between the sinner and God. God is no longer welcome to share in the sinner's life and so His life departs from the sinner's soul. This is not to say He will not try to call the sinner to repentance; He will! But the sinner must respond to that call with repentance and sacramental confession. If the sinner should die in such a state, his decision to sever his relationship with God will be ratified and he will be allowed to remain separated from God for ever - it's the sinner's choice; but it's made in this life and doesn't change in the next.
As St. John says, some sins are not deadly. The relationship between God and sinner is damaged a bit; it can be repaired and God remains indwelling in the sinner's soul. We'll talk more about mortal and venial sends in a later issue more information can be found on Catholic Answers website under Mortal Sin.
So how horrible can venial sin be anyway?
St. Teresa of Avila, who experienced an exceptional closeness to God during her lifetime, said, follow the advice to please God until you find you have such a fixed determination not to offend the Lord that you would rather lose a thousand lives, and be persecuted by the whole world, than commit one venial sin. Oh sure, you say, being so holy, she is exaggerating how bad it is. The fact is, however, that her very closeness to God is what allows her to see sin - even venial sin - for what it truly is.
We, on the other hand, have the false idea that sin is not that bad. We are de-sensitized to sin. We are like the cold-blooded frog. If a frog is put in a pot of water which is slowly brought to a boil he will not sense the increasing temperature and how bad his situation is…until it is too late. Let us listen to the saints. Out of love they warn us of the peril in which we have placed ourselves. For further discussion on the real nature of sin, see "The Horror of Sin" on the Catholic Faith Alive website. There are two ways to do re-sensitize ourselves to the seriousness of sin: frequent Confession and frequent reception of Holy Communion. For the times of Confession, see your local parish Bulletin.