I think that sometimes the word “sin” slips through our mind as though it pertains merely to religion and nothing else. Sin is not some abstraction that the church has dreamed up as an excuse for her own existence, far from it. Multitudes of people who know little and care less about the Church and her message are firm believers in the reality of sin. Why is it that government at every level spends millions of dollars to maintain police forces, jails, prisons and courts of law? The basic reason is sin. Why is it that automobile manufacturers equip their products with ignition keys, door locks and various security devices increasing the cost of every car by several hundred dollars? The primary reason is sin. What is it that all great literature sees as the central problem of human life? Always it is there, whether you are reading the Bible, Shakespeare, modern novels, or ancient classics. The answer is sin.
Sin is no religious invention. It is a tragic reality, the deepest problem of our personal and social lives. And we would still have to deal with it even if we burned every Bible, boarded up every church and silenced every pulpit.
And what is so wrong with sin? What is so tragic about it? Is it the dire consequence that it brings on the lives of the guilty? That, I would have to admit, is bad enough; but that is not sin at its worst. Sin at its worst is seen in the sacrifice of Jesus, for there it poured its suffering not upon the guilty but upon the innocent. There sin took the best life lived, spat upon it, mocked it, beat it, and nailed it to a cross. That is always sin at its worst, when it brings its curse upon the innocent.
Have you ever seen a little child, or even the picture of a child, who has been beaten and abused? If you do, you will never again be able to think and speak of sin as if were a religious triviality. Sin, at its worst, is always seen in what it does to the innocent. The sacrifice of Jesus is an eternal reminder of that tragic and inescapable truth.
The sin that crucified Jesus was not extraordinary sin. Every comprise that was there is here, and every attitude that is here was there. But look at the consequence, and it fell on one who did not at all deserve it. So it always is. There is not a sin in this world today so secret that the one who is guilty can keep its consequence within the confines of his or her own life. For every sin that we commit builds a cross on which someone innocent will hang. When we hear Jesus say at every Mass, “This is my body; this is my blood,” it faces us all with the fact of our own personal sin.
But the sacrifice of Jesus has for 2,000 years also symbolized the meeting of that need for salvation from sin. In Him we see revealed not only a God who condemns our sin but a God of infinite love who saves us from it.
We have made our bed of sin and, in a sense, must lie in it. Bur Divine Love has come to spend the night with us in every Eucharist, in every tabernacle. Jesus broke bread, gave it to His disciples, and said, “This is my body.” Then He handed them the cup and said, “This is my blood to be poured out on behalf of many.” In that Eucharist our sin is made graphically clear, but also our salvation from sin and its consequence is made gloriously possible in and through Jesus.