God is good!
Anon asked the following questions: “When it is said that ‘sin separates us from God,’ what does that mean? I’m perplexed with this idea. If I am full of sin, sin not confessed- maybe even sin for which we are unrepentant, does it mean God isn't with us? I don't understand the concept. Please explain.”
Let’s first look at the definition of sin found in the Catechism: “Sin is an offense against reason, truth, and right conscience; it is failure in genuine love for God and neighbor caused by a perverse attachment to certain goods. It wounds the nature of man and injures human solidarity. It has been defined as ‘an utterance, a deed, or a desire contrary to the eternal law’” (#1849). Sin and evil are privations of goodness; they are a lack of good. There is no good in sin or evil. When we choose to sin and enter into evil, then, we choose to be where there is no good.
I often like to add an “o” to God’s name: God is good! If we substitute God for good, then we can say that when we choose to sin, we choose to be where there is no God. Our faith tells us this: God exists in all things but sin. He exists is what’s good. Everything that comes from Him is good and everything that is good is from Him. Sin is a lack of good; it is like the hole of a donut. The donut represents “the good”; the hole represents “sin”. The hole exists (i.e., it is real), but there is no donut there. It is a lack of donut. In the same way, sin exists, but there is not good there. It is a lack of good. It is a lack of God.
Now, it is important to make the distinction between mortal sin and venial sin. “Sins are rightly evaluated according to their gravity. The distinction between mortal and venial sin, already evident in Scripture,(cf. 1 Jn 5:16-17) became part of the tradition of the Church. It is corroborated by human experience. Mortal sin destroys charity in the heart of man by a grave violation of God's law; it turns man away from God, who is his ultimate end and his beatitude, by preferring an inferior good to him. Venial sin allows charity to subsist, even though it offends and wounds it” (CCC, #1854-55). So, in this post, our discussion of sin (including the donut analogy) is mainly referring to mortal sin. When we choose to commit mortal sin, we choose to separate ourselves from God.
It might help us to understand all of this better by focusing on love (charity). We see how the Church focuses on charity in presenting the effects of sin: “sin…is a failure in genuine love for God and neighbor…mortal sin destroys charity in the heart of man”. As Pope Benedict reminded us in his first encyclical, God is love. If we say that when we sin, we separate ourselves from God, then we can also say that when we sin we separate ourselves from love. This will probably make the point as much as anything because we have all had the experience of separating ourselves from those we love when we have offended them. This doesn’t just mean a physical separation, although if it is serious enough, it can bring that. It means a personal separation; a separation of hearts.
In my ministry, I encounter different kinds of personal separation due to sin on a daily basis (except on most Thursdays, my day off, when the usual separation I deal with is my golf ball from the hole…it’s normally a long one). Spouses separate themselves from each other because of anger or lust, siblings separate themselves from each other because of pride, kids separate themselves from parents because of disobedience, friends separate themselves from each other because of gossip, etc. If the initial separation is not repaired through reconciliation, then hearts grow further and further from each other. This is why I am in the “reconciliation business” – to repair the damage that sin does in our relationship with God and others.