13 March, 2020

Sins are like circles formed in the water when a stone is thrown into it: One produces another.

~ Eliza Cook ~

Genesis 37:3-4,12-13,17-28; Psalm 105; Matthew 21:33-43,45-46

Once sin has taken hold of us it often leads to other, and greater, sins. In today’s story about Joseph, the envy of his brothers grew into hatred and eventually to a desire to destroy him and to profit by selling him into slavery. In the Gospel parable, greed leads to murder as the tenants first kill the servants and then the vineyard owner’s son. In our own context, greed and envy lead to corruption, conflict and often eventually to the destruction of life.


At the root of greed and envy are the beliefs that we do not have enough or that we are not enough. The opposite virtues are gratitude and a belief in our own value. If we truly had a sense of God’s abundant generosity and our preciousness, we would not need to attack others.


We do choose to act in sinful ways, but often the obvious sin is underpinned by another root sin. When we think about our lives and see the sins are we are struggling with, it helps to ask a deeper question. If I watch too much TV or waste hours on social media, perhaps it is about more than just being lazy. Perhaps there is something I am trying not to feel. Perhaps I am distracting myself from sadness or boredom.


It’s not about excusing sin. It is about seeing that God’s grace is needed to penetrate to the deepest parts of us. In this way we experience the forgiveness we need but also the healing that may prevent that spiral into the bad choices that so often come from unhealed pain. What is the pain or hurt that is at the root of my sinful choices that also needs to be brought to God?


We also need to unravel the pattern or trajectory of what happened so that we have better chance of stopping it in the future. For each of us there are often early warning signs. If we notice and act on the early warning signs, they may just become moments of grace, pointing to something which needs attention.


Gracious God,


Hurt often leads to sin, and sin to more serious sin.


Help me to bring all of myself to you, seeking both healing of broken places and forgiveness for the choices I make, that are destructive of myself and others.




Catholic Parliamentary

Liaison Office

Jesuit Institute
South Africa

This reflection has been adapted from Have Mercy, O Lord! Daily Reflections for Lent by Grant Tungay SJ, Russell Pollitt SJ, Annemarie Paulin-Campbell, Puleng Matsaneng, Anthony Egan SJ and Frances Correia, & published by the Jesuit Institute South Africa in 2016.

Reflection prepared by

Fr Matthew Charlesworth SJ

Fr Matthew Charlesworth SJ entered the Society of Jesus in 2005 and underwent the usual course of studies in his formation, which took him to such varied places as Canada, France, Ireland, Kenya, Spain, Tanzania, the United Kingdom, the United States, Zambia, Zimbabwe, and South Africa. Whilst working at the Institute, Matthew managed the background technical aspects of much of the Institute's work and was involved in the Spirituality work, completing the Advanced Spiritual Directors Training Course and the Spiritual Exercises Training run by the Institute. He is a member of Spiritual Directors International and was also a part-time lecturer in Sacred Scripture at St Augustine College of South Africa. He is currently the Director of Communications for the Jesuits in Southern Africa, based in Lusaka, Zambia.

m.charlesworth@jesuitinstitute.org.za @mcharlesworth
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