“Sin is not a transgression of law, but rather a violation of a relationship.” – Padre Pio
“Only in the knowledge of God’s plan for man can we grasp that sin is an abuse of the freedom that God gives to created persons so that they are capable of loving him and loving one another.” (CCC)
“It was now about the sixth hour, and there was darkness over the whole land until the ninth hour. And the sun was darkened, and the curtain of the temple was torn in the middle. Jesus cried out with a loud voice and said, It is finished. Father, into your hands I commend my spirit. Then, bowing his head, he died.” (Lk: 23, 44-46; Jn. 19, 30b)
“It was our weaknesses that he carried, our sufferings that he endured, while we thought of him as stricken, as one struck by God and afflicted. But he was pierced for our offenses, crushed for our sins: upon him was the punishment that makes us whole, by his stripes we are healed. We had all gone astray like sheep, each following his own way: but the Lord laid upon him the guilt of us all.” (Is. 53, 4-6)
Charles Dickens’ novel “A Tale Of Two Cities,” draws a correlation between the fate of Christ and that of Sydney Carlton. Each would pay the ultimate price for transgression, though they were innocent. Each would be obedient to the highest expression of love.
Carlton visits Charles Darnay, who is falsely imprisoned as a spy and condemned to death during the French Revolution. Carlton drugs Darnay, and Barsad (a turncoat), whom Carlton is blackmailing for his role in framing Darnay, has Darnay carried out of the prison. Carlton, who could pass for Darnay’s twin, has decided to switch places with him and be executed in his place. Carlton is an accomplished lawyer, but is seen to be a drunkard, self-indulgent and self-pitying because of his wasted life. Yet he is devoted to Darnay’s betrothed, and is so moved by her that he would sacrifice anything for her happiness; including his life. Following Carlton’s earlier instructions, Darnay’s family flees Paris and France. In their coach is an unconscious Darnay, who carries Carlton’s identification papers.*
On the way to the guillotine, Sydney Carlton is approached by a seamstress, also condemned to death. As she gets closer to him, she realises that he is truly Carlton, and not Darnay. Awed by his unselfish courage and sacrifice, she asks to stay close to him. Upon their arrival at the guillotine, Carlton comforts her, he tells her that their ends will be quick but they are destined for a better place where they will be mercifully sheltered. She is able to meet her death in peace.*
Dickens’ final words for Carlton clearly defines love: “It is a far, far better thing I do, than I have ever done; it is a far, far better rest that I go to than I have ever known.” The greatest expression of love is through sacrifice. In this case the sacrifice of one’s life for another. “Greater love than this no man hath, that a man lay down his life for his friends.” (John 15:13) Love truly conquers all – including sin and death. For the wage of sin is death.
Transgressions against law must be rectified through the application of justice. Judgement and punishment are then determined and administered to the transgressor. Without such adherence to law, there would be no order in society; regardless of the validity of that law or its usage. Justice and mercy go hand in hand. Justice is found in that which is determined to be a fair judgement, with mercy found in the level of punishment levied. A wrong must be righted.
In each case here cited the convictions were perpetrated by a lie and the convicted unjustly executed. Yet each sentence had to be carried out. One to maintain civil order, while the other to restore human order. Carlton would pay the penalty for a man. Christ would pay the penalty for mankind. It mattered not who paid the debt for Darnay. The successful deception mattered only to the Carlton, Darnay and his family. Justice was done regardless of the identity of the executed. However, it was Christ who must embrace the cross and endure its torture. For it was intended from all eternity that the Lamb of God was destined to take away the sins of the world; and no other.
Sin is a personally offensive act which compromises trust. It is contrary to love and can bring an end to life or a relationship. Sin is the underlying cause for the fault in man which inspires the circumstances that can compel the guilty and impel the innocent to ascend the steps to a guillotine or be pinned to a cross. It matters not how or by whom sin is committed, for someone will suffer for it – directly or indirectly. Sin, without doubt, causes pain for the offender and offended. As any child would attest, who has been sent to his room for disobeying his parents. Sin loses its potency and effectiveness when the penitent strive to amend their ways and the forgiving retain no memory of the offense. “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” (Luke 23:34)
Once again, to paraphrase Padre Pio; Sin is not so much the breaking of a law, as it is the breaking of a heart.
*Summation from Wikipedia