Chapter 23. Life in Christ—Part One • 313
Thus, by its very definition, sin is understood as an offense against
God as well as neighbor and therefore wrong. Sins are evaluated accord-
ing to their gravity or seriousness. We commit mortal sin when we con-
sciously and freely choose to do something grave against the divine law
and contrary to our final destiny.
There are three conditions for a sin to be a mortal sin: grave matter,
full knowledge, and deliberate consent (freedom). Mortal sin destroys
the loving relationship with God that we need for eternal happiness. If
not repented, it results in a loss of love and God’s grace and merits eter-
nal punishment in hell, that is, exclusion from the Kingdom of God and
thus eternal death.
A venial sin is a departure from the moral order in a less serious
matter. “All wrongdoing is sin, but there is sin that is not deadly” (1 Jn
5:17). Though venial sin does not completely destroy the love we need
for eternal happiness, it weakens that love and impedes our progress in
the practice of virtue and the moral good. Thus, over time, it can have
serious consequences. “Deliberate and unrepented venial sin disposes us
little by little to commit mortal sin” (CCC, no. 1863).
In considering sin we must always remember that God is rich in
mercy. “Where sin increased, grace overflowed all the more” (Rom 5:20).
God’s mercy is greater than sin. The very heart of the Gospel is the reve-
lation of the mercy of God in Jesus Christ. “For God did not send his
Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world might be
saved through him” (Jn 3:17).
To receive this mercy, we must be willing to admit our sinfulness.
Sorrow for sin and confession of sin are signs of conversion of heart that
open us to God’s mercy. Though we can judge a given offense to be the
occasion for mortal sin, and thus an act of objective wrongdoing, we
must always entrust the judgment of the person to the mercy and justice
of God. This is because one person cannot know the extent of another
individual’s knowledge and freedom, which are integral factors deter-
mining when an occasion for mortal sin becomes an actual sin for which
we are morally responsible.