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OCCASIONS





OCCASIONS of sin are persons, places or things that may easily lead us
into sin: this definition of the little catechism is simple and clear
and requires no comment. It is not necessary that said places or
things, or even said persons, be evil in themselves; it is sufficient
that contact with, or proximity to, them induce one to commit an evil.
It may happen, and sometimes does, that a person without any evil
design whatever become an occasion of sin for another. The blame
therefore does not necessarily lie with objects, but rather with the
subject.

Occasions are of two kinds: the remote or far and the proximate or
near; they differ in the degree of facility with which they furnish
temptation, and in the quality and nature of such temptation. In the
former, the danger of falling is less, in the latter it is more,
probable. In theory, it is impossible to draw the line and say just
when an occasion ceases to be proximate and becomes remote; but in the
concrete the thing is easy enough. If I have a well-grounded fear, a
fear made prudent by experience, that in this or that conjuncture I
shall sin, then it is a near occasion for me. If, however, I can feel
with knowledge and conviction that I am strong enough to overcome the
inevitable temptation arising from this other conjunction of
circumstances, the occasion is only remote.

Thus, since danger in moral matters is nearly always relative; what is
a remote occasion for one may be a proximate occasion for another.
Proneness to evil is not the same in us all, for we have not all the
same temperament and the same virtue. Two individuals may assist at a
ball or a dance or a play, the one secure from sin, immune against
temptation, the other a manifold victim of his or her folly. The dance
or spectacle may not be bad in itself, it is not bad in fact for one,
it is positively evil for the other and a near occasion of sin.

Remote occasions cannot always be avoided, they are so numerous and
frequent; besides the evil they contain is a purely imaginative, and
therefore negligible, quantity. There may be guilt however, in seeking
such occasions and without reason exposing ourselves to their possible
dangers; temerity is culpable; he that loves danger shall perish.

With the other kind, it is different. The simple fact of embracing a
proximate occasion of sin is a grievous fault, even in the event of our
accidentally not succumbing to the temptation to which we are exposed.
There is an evil in such rashness independent of its consequences. He
therefore who persists in visiting a place where there is every
facility for sinning and where he has frequently sinned, does a deed of
crime by going there; and whatever afterwards occurs, or does not
occur, affects that crime not in the least. The same is true of reading
certain books, novels and love-stories, for people of a certain
spiritual complexion. The same is true of company-keeping,
street-walking, familiarity and loose conversation. Nor can anything
different be said of such liberties, consented to or merely tolerated,
as embracing and kissing, amorous effusions and all perilous amusements
of this nature. When experience shows these things to be fraught with
danger, then they become sinful in themselves, and can be indulged in
only in contempt of the law of God and to our own serious spiritual
detriment.

But suppose I cannot avoid the occasion of sin, cannot remove it. What
then?

If it is a clear case of proximate occasion of sin, and all means fail
to change it, then the supposition of impossibility is a ridiculous
one. It is paramount to asserting that sin and offense of God is
sometimes necessary; and to talk thus is to talk nonsense. Sin is a
deliberate act of a free will; mention necessity in the same breath,
and you destroy the notion of sin. There can never be an impossibility
of avoiding sin; consequently, there can never be an impossibility of
avoiding a near occasion of sin.

It may be hard, very difficult; but that is another thing. But, as we
have already said, the difficulty is rather within than without us, it
arises from a lack of will power. But hard or easy, these occasions
must nevertheless be removed. Let the suffering entailed be what it
may, the eye must be plucked out, the arm must be lopped off, to use
the Saviour's figurative language, if in no other way the soul can be
saved from sin. Better to leave your father's house, better to give up
your very life, than to damn your soul for all eternity. But extremes
are rarely called for; small sacrifices often cost more than great
ones. A good dose of ordinary, everyday mortification and penance
goes a long way toward producing the necessary effect. An ounce of
self-denial will work miracles in a sluggard, cowardly soul.

It would be well on occasion to remember this, especially when one in
such a state is thinking seriously of going to confession: if he is not
prepared to make the required effort, then he had better stay away
until such a time as he is willing. For if he states his case
correctly, he will not receive absolution; if his avowal is not
according to fact, his confession is void, perhaps sacrilegious. Have
done with sin before you can expect to have your sins forgiven.





Next: SCANDAL

Previous: HEARTS



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