“Sin is an offense against God…Sin sets itself against God’s love for us and turns our hearts away from it.”
Catechism of the Catholic Church 1850
At this year’s Midwest Catholic Family Conference, I heard Catholic evangelist, author, and tour guide Steve Ray give a talk. One of his stories especially stuck with me: “Someday,” Steve said, “my hope is that I will get to the gates of heaven. Once there, St. Peter will look for my name in the Book of Life. Hopefully, he will find it there and open the gates of heaven for me. But just before I step through those gates, I’ll see my neighbor across the way and realize that he is being directed away from the gates of heaven. This is a neighbor who lived next door to me for most of my adult life. While on earth, we would exchange pleasantries whenever we saw each other, and even though I knew he didn’t go to church regularly or live a life focused on Christ, I avoided the subject and just focused on keeping the peace between us.
But in that moment, as we stand across from each other between heaven and hell, my neighbor will look at me and ask St. Peter, ‘Why is he getting into heaven and I’m not?’
And after St. Peter explains that I knew the teachings of the Church and lived them, my neighbor will look at me with accusing eyes and say, ‘You mean you KNEW all of this and didn’t tell me?’”
Sin is a touchy subject. It’s difficult to tell our neighbor when we see an error in their ways. While we mustn’t ignore the plank in our own eye, we are also called to help our neighbor remove the splinter in his. This is how we help our neighbor and fulfill our calling as Christians to take as many souls to heaven with us as we can.
And while balancing prudence with true charity is a challenge with many of the people in our lives, I think it comes a bit easier with our own children. Certainly, it is our duty as their parents to shepherd them to heaven. And this means we must talk to them about the dangers of sin, the horrors of hell, and that even though it is the grace of the Cross that will bring us to heaven, we must guard against choosing to cut ourselves off from that grace through sin.
I find that my children readily accept these teachings on sin. They are eager for guidance and want to know how they can one day get to heaven.
As for me, it’s painful to think of the earthly separations that are sure to come between me and my children. It hurts to think that someday we will not all be gathered around a table together on a daily basis. It hurts even more to think that there may be Thanksgivings and Christmases in our futures when we will not all be together. I look forward to watching my children grow and mature, but motherhood is forever bittersweet.
Which is why I talk to them about sin. Because my greatest joy will be the day that we are all gathered together for eternity around the heavenly table–to share in the Supper of the Lamb.
For more ideas on teaching the Catholic faith to your children, see Donna-Marie Cooper O’Boyle’s book Feeding Your Family’s Soul: Dinner Table Spirituality and companion video.
Copyright 2017 Charisse Tierney