The Perception of Sin

This Sunday (Pentecost) you’re going to hear in the First Reading how the Apostles were given the Gift of Tongues.

And suddenly there came from the sky
a noise like a strong driving wind,
and it filled the entire house in which they were.
Then there appeared to them tongues as of fire,
which parted and came to rest on each one of them.
And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit
and began to speak in different tongues,
as the Spirit enabled them to proclaim.

I’ve often wondered where this miracle occurred; with the Apostles as they spoke the Word of God, or with the people in the crowd as they heard the Word of God? The Gift of Hearing doesn’t seem to have the same ring to it, does it?

That’s Not What I Meant

Regardless of truth to this chicken and egg question, I’m drawn to a similar comparison with a “discussion” I had with my wife many years ago. The short version of the story is, I said something that offended my wife (shocked right…shut up). However, that wasn’t my intent. Truly it wasn’t.  Think of the many disagreements you’ve had with your wife, then think about that certain point in the argument when things escalate and you’re not sure why. That’s when you most likely said one thing, but something else was heard.

At that point, we took a break from the conversation only to circle back to an education of the difference between intent and perception, between what was said and what was heard. I was instructed that intent did not matter (as long as the intent is not to cause harm), only the perception. I proceeded to apologize and since then, have been more aware of my intent and much quicker to apologize for how my voice is heard. Do you spend any time considering how your voice is heard, regardless of its intent?  Think about the last set of disagreements or reprimands with family, friends, and coworkers.

Two Sides of Sin, Maybe Three

As I progressed from the First Reading to the Gospel for this Sunday, I saw a direct connection to my revelation as a husband (thanks to the constant tending by my wife) that I saw in the First Reading to the following line in the Gospel that gives us proof as to why we need to go to Reconciliation:

As the Father has sent me, so I send you.”
And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them,
“Receive the Holy Spirit.
Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them,
and whose sins you retain are retained.”

The connection between the readings this week and the story I told about my wife resides in perception.  When you go to Confession, who do you consider your transgression towards? Think about it for a few minutes. Do you simply go through the Ten Commandments, do you use one of the many “apps” available to do an examination of conscience, or do you use a simple wrong versus right checklist? Think back to your last Reconciliation and reconsider some of the sins you confessed.  But this time consider not only how your transgression appeared to you, but to the person it was against. Is there a depth to your sin you overlooked by not really considering how it affected another person?

Lastly, try peeling back a third layer of your sin.  This is something you may already do.  How does your sins affect not only you and the other person, but how does it affect God? It makes an examination of conscience a lot harder when you must consider all three sides (You – Others – God). Is this something you do…with every sin…every time?