Twenty-Second Sunday after Pentecost — Venial Sin
My dear Children: God is infinitely holy, and therefore hates and detests every sin, even the least. Did He not want to destroy the entire human race when in the days of Noe He saw His chosen people piling sin upon sin? Holy Scripture says: “It repented Him that He had made man.” Furthermore He sent His only begotten Son into the world, that He, as the Lamb of God, might take away the sins of the world. Even venial sin had caused the world to need a Redeemer. And should we hold venial sin, then, to be a small evil? The saints thought differently. St. Anselm and St. Thomas said that they would rather be burning in hell innocently than be in heaven with one venial sin on their conscience.
There was once a girl who worked in a factory. One day, her work was done, and it was time to go home. Seeing on her dress some white lint, she stooped down to brush it off, but as she bent over, the machinery caught her loose hair and drew her along with it. In a moment her head and body were drawn among the wheels and she was crushed to death. It was by a few hairs only that this poor girl was at first caught. You would think that it would have been easy to have broken them and so to escape. But no; while each hair is so very small of itself, together they are stronger than a rope. So it is with venial sin, my children. Keep away, therefore, from the slightest venial sin.
As there is nothing more precious in the world than the grace of God, whatever deprives of this should be considered a great evil. It is true venial sin does not separate us entirely from God, but it grieves Him and puts an obstacle to His grace. So it happens that persons who go on committing venial sins wilfully, often fall into mortal sin. Not being strengthened by grace, they succumb to temptation and lose the friendship of God. Almighty God inflicts severe punishments on those who commit venial sins, both in this world and in the world to come. Now supposing that one of you were tempted to steal a penny, and you knew that, if you stole it, you would be thrown into prison or burnt in a slow fire, do you think that you would take it? Most assuredly you would not. And yet we know that if we die in the guilt of venial sin, we shall be sent into the prison and burnt in the fire of purgatory. Let us always remember, therefore, when we are tempted to commit venial sin, that God will be sure to punish it either in this life or in the next.
You know the story of Lot’s wife who was turned into a pillar of salt. She acted contrary to the command of God’s angel and out of mere curiosity looked back at the burning city. Yet, see her punishment! Mary, the sister of Moses, was, on account of a little murmuring infected with a terrible leprosy, from which she could only be freed by the prayer of her brother. Moses, just for a moment doubted God’s goodness when he was told to draw water from solid rock. For this small venial sin, he was deprived of entering the Promised Land.
St. Louis had the good fortune to have a most excellent mother. “Guard against sin!” was the constant warning of Queen Blanche to the child who was to be the future king of France. Often she would say to him: “I know that I love you, my dear son, with the greatest tenderness that a mother can have; yet I would rather see you dead than guilty of sin.” Such teachings made a deep impression on the prince, and he himself said later in life that he never forgot the instructions of his mother, but thought of them every day. Oh, that all children would take their mother’s teachings thus to heart. After his father’s death Louis became king of France, and as a ruler he fulfilled his duties most conscientiously. He honored the Catholic Church as her faithful son. He attended Mass every day and read many devout books. He visited hospitals and often nursed the sick, even lepers, with his own hands.
On his deathbed the holy king exhorted his son to be faithful to his duties, and said to him: “My dear son, the first thing that I commend to you is that you love God above all things. Live only for Him and be ready to endure sufferings and trials, rather than to commit a single sin.” Dear children, it was the teaching of St. Louis’ mother, the good Queen Blanche, that made this good king such an admirable ruler. Repeat it often in your hearts, especially when you are tempted, remembering that sin is the greatest evil that can befall you.
For the forgiveness of venial sins God has given us many means. Sincere acts of contrition, act of love and works of penance will serve to cleanse our souls from these stains. If you have told lies, you must try not to tell such anymore; if you have been angry, try to be gentle and kind; if disobedient, to be willing and docile.
When St. Macarius was a little boy, he was playing with some other children in a garden. At a little distance stood a fig tree, laden with ripe fruit. The boys said: “What beautiful figs! Let us take some.” So they plucked a few, and began to eat them. While Macarius was eating, his conscience seemed to be always saying to him: “You have done wrong! You have done wrong!” And he found no pleasure in eating the fig he had taken. Afterwards, when he grew up to manhood, his disciples would often see him weeping: “I am weeping,” he would say, “for the sin I committed when I was a child, by stealing a fig.” “But, dear Father, that was only a venial sin.” “Ah, my brethren,” he would answer “it was an offence against God, and that is enough.”
My dear children, keep away from venial sin, since it is so terrible in the eyes of God. If you try every evening when you retire to think how you have failed in being good, and resolve to do better the next day, you will learn by experience how good God is to those who seek Him. There is no true happiness to be found on earth except in the love and service of so good a God.