Fr. Michael's Thoughts on Biblical Imagery: Sin of Omission

FR MICHAEL BOAKYE YEBOAH

CATHOLIC ARCHDIOCESE OF KUMASI, GHANA

SIN OF OMISSION

            Sin of omission is a sin that takes place because of not doing something that is right. Examples could include not praying, not standing up for what is right, or not sharing Christ with others. Another example is not showing kindness to the less-privileged people around us. James 4:17 is often used as a key verse regarding sins of omission: “So whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin.”

            I would like to think that whenever the topic of a “sinner” is raised, some people may point fingers at people who are immoral or those who commit sins that are considered as a state crime or a person considered to be deviant in his/her ways. Little attention is paid to the sin of omission but it is equally dangerous. The white fabric of society gets tainted because of immorality and deviant ways but it would be torn apart when good people who know they have the ability to wash it and make it pure decide to be indifferent and do nothing. When people know the right thing to do and fail to do it, they are equally guilty with their immoral brothers and sisters.

            Every Christian is called to live a life of prayer especially attending Mass on Sundays and Holy Days of Obligation. And for priests and religious, they are obliged by law to pray the Divine Office and if they willfully fail to pray it, they commit the sin of omission. We are living in a world that some people see it as normal if they fail to attend Mass on Sundays. Time for Sunday Mass seems not to be a priority for some people and in place of it some engage in a lot of recreational activities. This is an area in formation that we need to dedicate attention to. The youth of today do not see it as an obligation to go to church and pray but the sad thing is that they see nothing wrong with it.

            Another example of a sin of omission is “not standing up for what is right.” Indifference is gradually earning the tag as an acceptable norm. I am of the opinion that if a human person cannot stand up for something noble in his/her lifetime then his/her life should be considered as worthless when his/her days on earth comes to an end. As Catholics we need to stand up for our faith. And when we talk of standing up for our faith, it is not enough to stand for the faith only in church but especially outside the church. There are a lot of deviant activities that seem to be accepted as societal norms and we see few Catholics standing for the Catholic way. Among the Akan of Ghana, they say: “the elder who stands aloof and allow children to involve themselves in deviant activities, when we count deviants in society, he should be counted among them.” Our lives as Christians should be geared towards witnessing the gospel values but if we fail in this regard we commit a sin.

            The last example for the sin of omission is when one fails to be charitable to the needy. This is the sin that the rich men in today’s first reading and gospel passage committed. The life of a Christian finds substance and fulfillment when after seeking his/her own needs in life, (s)he assists others who are less-privileged in their struggles. Helping others within the Christian circles is not measured by what one donates based on the request of a needy person but what one seeks to do for needy people even when they have not made a formal request. And so, our Christian catechism teaches us that if someone knows something to be good and (s)he does not do it, it is a sin. This sin is known as the sin of omission.

            Let us take a closer look at the first reading. Amos tells us about some rich people who were complacent in their luxury. The Merriam-Webster Dictionary gives the synonyms for complacent as: apathetic, casual, disinterested, incurious, indifferent, insensible, etc. I am more interested with the last two synonyms. The rich men that Amos described to us were living in comfort, for the inspired writer states: “…lying upon beds of ivory, stretched comfortably on their couches, they eat lambs taken from the flock, and calves from the stall! Improvising to the music of the harp… they drink wine from bowls and anoint themselves with the best oils…”

            Those rich people were right to enjoy the sweat of their labors and no one in his natural senses can fault them on that but we are called as Christians to pay attention to the needy around us. I would like to think that “the woe statement” was directed to the rich people because they were indifferent and insensible to the plight of people around them.

            The same indifferent and insensible attitude can be applied to the rich man in today’s gospel passage. He was right to enjoy himself from the sweat of his labor for it is no crime for people to eat good food and drink good wine but he also was negligent of the plight of Lazarus, the poor man at his gate.

            The first reading and the gospel reading seem to direct our attention to one particular sin: “the sin of omission.”

            As Christians we need to bring the less-privileged along in our life of blessedness. If you are privileged to be endowed with wisdom, there is the need for one to seek and help the less academically endowed in his/her school. Seek for avenues to bring the less academically endowed along by actively taking part in study group sessions. It is a sin of omission when the academically endowed student will say that “since I don’t have any issues with academics, I don’t need to be part of a study group.” But my friend, you may not need others but they may need you and it is Christian to be helpful.

            There are other examples but I would like to end with those who are financially endowed. Some rich people are financially endowed to be charitable to the less-privileged but they have simply decided to act as if they don’t know people who need their help. I hope the message is clear to all of us.

            Do not wait for someone to ask you before you show kindness. May God who loves cheerful givers continue to bless the millions of kind people whose generosity feed and clothe millions of people every day. OUR LADY OF PERPETUAL HELP PRAY FOR US.

 

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