We had Youth Alpha last night. The theme was "How do I resist evil?" -
The talk part of the evening is sometimes only 20-25 mins long, so that's a pretty big theme to cover!
We also looked at the actual concepts behind sin and evil. Words which get bent around or even misinterpreted over time.
For example, evil can sometimes be seen as sexy, risky, exciting, fun, cheeky, alluring, attractive and sin is fast becoming a "churchy" word that doesn't otherwise have much of a place in normal conversation. People totally understand right and wrong - they feel bad when bad stuff happens - but they don't always like to use the word sin to describe it.
Resisting evil is important - we don't want it! But sin is also a fact of life.
I didn't want to dwell on this last night as we had so much else to cover and forgiveness for sin alongside resisting evil are really two different topics - But Jesus' death and resurrection opens the gateway of Grace which enables forgiveness - getting right with God. We are set free!
But some people like to feel bad for longer!
This picture shows the Scala Sancta staircase in Rome. The Pope apparently grants "indulgencies" to you if you go up them on your knees.
The idea of this penance is that, if this experience is discomforting to endure, then you can justify or pay for your sins by some measure.
I should stress that not all Catholics feel the need to do this - didn't want diss the Catholic faith! - but I guess sin makes all people feel bad - and all people (even atheists!) want to get right after they've either thought, done or said something they consider to be wrong. We all want to be clean again..... sometimes we need this every day!
Look at the top of the stairs in the picture.... Jesus is there! He's waiting to greet these people once their knees are sore - trading their failings for pain. As you see, the Catholic Jesus is still often depicted on the Cross. But actually it's not really an image that best illustrates the whole story.... Jesus is risen. The Cross is empty - and he's waiting to forgive you at the bottom of the staircase. You don't need to pay for your sin..... it's already a done deal folks!