Friends, in today’s Gospel, the Lord tells some Jewish listeners that they are enslaved to sin and that the truth will set them free.
Jesus was distinguishing between sins and sin, between the underlying disease and its many symptoms. When the Curé d’Ars was asked what wisdom he had gained about human nature from his many years of hearing confessions, he responded, “People are much sadder than they seem.” Blaise Pascal rests his apologetic for Christianity on the simple fact that all people are unhappy. This universal, enduring, and stubborn sadness is sin.
Now, this does not mean that sin is identical to psychological depression. The worst sinners can be the most psychologically well-adjusted people, and the greatest saints can be, by any ordinary measure, quite unhappy.
When I speak of sadness in this context, I mean the deep sense of unfulfillment. We want the truth and we get it, if at all, in dribs and drabs; we want the good, and we achieve it only rarely; we seem to know what we ought to be, but we are in fact something else. This spiritual frustration, this inner warfare, this debility of soul, is sin.