Skip to comments.Sins of Omission
Posted on 01/05/2014 7:53:52 PM PST by mlizzy
There’s a story that’s told about two uncles and their young nephew. Let’s call the nephew “John.” We’ll call the uncles “Bill” and “Howard.” This family had lots of money, but unluckily for the two uncles, their young nephew was the heir to all the wealth—and he was only 8 years old. But in the event of John’s death, Bill and Howard would get the entire estate. Hmmmm…… So one day young John was left at home alone while his parents went out for the evening. You see this was in the days when an 8 year-old could be safely left at home alone. On that particular evening, Uncle Bill decided to drop in for a visit. When he did, he found little John at home alone, taking a leisurely bath. Bill thought how easy it would be to increase his finances if John was to drown in his bath. And so he took his nephew in his hands and, holding him under the water as he struggled, Uncle Bill killed John. Wealth at last, thought Uncle Bill.
Now imagine for a moment that a different story unfolded. On that same sort of evening when John had been left alone by his parents, he had decided to enjoy a leisurely bath. (What 8 year-old boy does this?…but I digress). Now on this evening it’s his Uncle Howard who decides to drop by for a visit. When he enters John’s room he notices the door to his nephew’s bathroom is open. Stepping inside, Howard sees that John has slipped under the water of his bath. Small bubbles are rising from John’s nostrils and Howard notices a large bump on John’s forehead. He concludes correctly that John has hit his head and become unconscious. The rising bubbles tell Howard that the accident has just happened and that John is still alive. For now. Howard could quite easily lift John’s head above the water and save his life. As he looks at the boy, Howard considers the great wealth that would be his if little John were to perish. Hmmm….And he does nothing to save his dying nephew.
In both stories, little John dies. In the first one he dies as the result of something his Uncle Bill did to him. In the second one he dies as the result of something his Uncle Howard failed to do. Who was the worse uncle? In the eyes of the law, Bill would be guilty of murder since he actively did something to cause John’s death. Howard might be guilty of negligent homicide since he failed to do something that he could easily have done to save John’s life. But let’s put aside legal questions and look at the situation in terms of sin. Which uncle is guilty of the greater sin?
At the beginning of Mass, we Catholics pray an ancient prayer called “The Confiteor,” from the Latin phrase meaning “I confess.” In it we acknowledge our sinfulness and ask for God’s mercy. We pray,”I confess to almighty God, and to you my brothers and sisters, that I have greatly sinned; in my thoughts and in my words, in what I have done and in what I have failed to do…” In this prayer, we acknowledge that NOT doing something can be just as sinful as our actions, our thoughts, and our words. We call these “sins of omission.” It makes us take a closer look at all the choices we make each day.
What if we don’t share our time, our talents, or our treasure with the poor and needy? What if we don’t love the Lord with all our hearts? What if we stop praying or stop going to Mass? What if we don’t go to confession anymore? What if we don’t take a stand against abortion? What if we fail to share the good news of the Gospel with the people in our lives? A kind word goes unspoken. An act of charity, not done. “Whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin”(James 4:17). We all know the story of the Good Samaritan who stops to help the dying man. But do we also remember the priest and the Levite who could have helped, but chose to keep going? As we walk through these first days of the new year, may we all be more aware of the needs of those around us and may we respond in charity and generosity. Make each moment of your life an opportunity for the Lord’s love to bear good fruit for His kingdom.
“In the end we will not remember the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.”
—Martin Luther King, Jr.
The MLK quote is appropriate.
One of the most impressionable sermons from childhood involved Cephas’ denial. Not exactly a correlation to the article’s message, but still relevant for the sake of integrity.