Actual Sin – Lesson 21, Questions 1 & 2

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Christ permitted Himself to be tempted by the devil. After Our Lord's forty days' fast in the desert, the devil appeared to Him and tempted Him to gluttony, to pride, and to avarice. But Our Lord resisted the devil and sent him away. Then angels came to minister to Him. God wishes to show us that temptation, far from being a sin in itself, is a source of merit if we resist firmly. Then God will send us His blessings and consolations, and we shall be dearer to Him after our successful fight against temptation.

What is actual sin?

Actual sin is any wilful thought, desire, word, action, or omission forbidden by the law of God.

  1. There are two general classes of sins: original and actual. Original sin is the kind of sin that we inherit from Adam. Actual sin is the kind of sin that we ourselves commit. In general, when we speak of "sin" we mean actual sin. Sin is an offense against God, a violation of His commandments. To sin is to despise God, to disobey Him, to offend Him. One who sins takes the gifts that God has given, and uses them to insult Him.
  2. No person exists who does not sin, however holy he may be. The only human being who was created without sin, and never committed sin, was the Blessed Virgin; this was a special privilege bestowed on her because she was to be the Mother of our Saviour. St. John says: "If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us" (1 John 1:8).

 

In what way do we fall into sin?

We fall step by step from temptation into sin.

The different steps at times follow each other rapidly and are accomplished in the twinkling of an eye.

  1. Sin is not committed without temptation. First an evil thought comes into the mind. This in itself is not sinful; it is only a temptation. A man may be in a jewelry store looking at some jewels. The salesman turns away to talk to someone else, leaving a precious diamond ring on the counter. The thought enters the man's mind that it would be easy for him to take the ring and walk away unnoticed. This is temptation, not sin.
  2. If we do not immediately reject the thought, it awakens in the mind an affection or liking for it. If the man in the above example does not resist and reject the thought, but plays with it, and becomes pleased with the idea, he thereby gives partial consent, and commits a slight sin.
  3. Next the thought is followed by an evil desire in which we take pleasure. If, still playing with the thought, the man wishes that he could take the diamond ring without being noticed, the consent is complete, and he commits a sin in his heart (interiorly).
  4. The resolution to commit the sin when occasion presents itself follows. Then the exterior act is committed. Finally, tile man glances to see if the salesman is still busy. Then lie takes the ring and walks aivay with it. Thus the wish or desire has been translated into an exterior act. Even should the man be prevented from stealing, he is guilty of grave sin.

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