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The Hardening of Hearts Caused by the Deceit of Sin

January 15, 2017 9 Comments

stubbornLast week at daily Mass (Thursday of the First Week of the Year) we read from the Letter to the Hebrews. In it was an important admonition, especially appropriate for our times:

Encourage yourselves daily while it is still today, so that none of you may grow hardened by the deceit of sin (Heb 3:12).

Collectively speaking, we been hardened by the deceit of sin. Many of us who are older remember times when sins that are openly practiced (and even celebrated) today were considered shameful a mere fifty years ago. Pre-marital sex (fornication), living together before marriage (which many called “shacking up”), and divorce were considered scandalous. “Gay” was a word that meant happy or joyful, and condoning (let alone celebrating) homosexual acts would have been inconceivable to most Americans. The concept of same-sex marriage was foreign and not even imaginable to most. Up through the 1950s, even contraception was considered by most Americans to be a loathsome practice and was often associated with prostitution.

This is not to say that it was a sinless time; it was not. There were indeed some who transgressed. Young, unmarried girls who got pregnant were generally sent to live with relatives or taken into the care of religious sisters until they gave birth; children born under such circumstances were usually given for adoption. But those cases were relatively rare and handled discreetly. There certainly weren’t child care centers in public high schools! So while some did stray, there was general agreement that such behavior was wrong.

Many of these attitudes began to shift in the cultural revolution of the 1960s. Although the tumultuous change of that decade was already brewing in the 1950s it is rightly said that we entered the 1960s through one door and came out a very different one.

The cultural revolution had different aspects. There was a revolution against authority and tradition, including religious faith; a steep drop in church attendance began. There was the feminist revolution, proper in some of its concerns, but also beset by a growing radicalism that ridiculed motherhood and men. And there was the rampant use of hallucinogenic drugs, which devastated the intellect and judgment of many young people. The hardening of hearts by the deceit of sin was underway.

The most long-lasting and devastating aspect of the 1960s was the sexual revolution. The spread of revolutionary sexual attitudes was facilitated by the availability of “the pill.” Thus there arose the evil and erroneous notion of “sex without consequences.” This notion has ultimately led to widespread fornication, consumption of pornography, adultery, abortion, divorce, sexually transmitted diseases, and large numbers of children being raised by single mothers.

The resistance to divorce rooted in religious concerns and the common-sense notion that divorce was harmful to children, had been eroding through the decade as many celebrities began flying to foreign countries in order to be divorced. Slowly, the shock that divorce once caused, began to give way. Prior to 1969, obtaining a divorce was a difficult, lengthy, legal process. But due to growing pressure, states began to pass “no-fault” divorce laws, making marriage one of the easiest contracts to break. The hardening of hearts by the deceit of sin was growing worse. Jesus Himself attributed the desire to divorce to hard hearts (See Matt 19:8).

A nation increasingly hypnotized by fornication and the evil deception of sex without consequences began to show a decline in the rightful indignation at killing babies in the womb. Legal maneuverers to permit abortion had already been underway, but abortion remained illegal in most of the United States until 1973, when the dreadful, immoral Roe v. Wade decision of the Supreme Court made abortion the “law of the land.” The hardening of hearts by the deceit of sin was by now full.

Things have generally worsened over the decades that followed. And the hardening of hearts has seen added to it the darkening of our intellects (see Romans 1:21). Rational conversations about moral topics are becoming nearly impossible.

Added to all of this the is the recent, bewildering rise in the outright celebration of homosexual acts and subsequent approval of same-sex “marriage,” along with the latest cause célèbre, “transgenderism.”

And thus the words of the Letter to the Hebrews ring true:

Encourage yourselves daily while it is still today, so that none of you may grow hardened by the deceit of sin (Heb 3:12).

Sin hardens the heart and darkens the intellect. Many people today hold deeply and stubbornly to errors and are lost in moral confusion. Attempts to disabuse them of such deceptions often leads to venomous accusations of intolerance, bigotry, and hatred. The hardness is deep; the deception is dark. When one grows accustomed to the darkness, the light seems harsh and painful in comparison. The protests get louder as the years go by because as the darkness deepens, the light seems increasingly intolerable.

The text says that it is the deceit of sin which does this. The Latin roots of the word “deceive” present a picture of being pick up and carried off (de (from) + capere (to take or carry away)). The image of one who has been deceived is that of a small animal hanging limply from the jaws of a predator. To be deceived is a very dangerous thing. It means that the devil has us in his grasp; the end will come soon unless we can unlock the jaws of the evil dragon through the grace of mercy that comes from repentance.

Our age, like few others, demonstrates just how bad things can get when we are individually and collectively hardened by the deceit of sin. This has happened to us fairly quickly. It was not that long ago when we were still shocked by the things that many celebrate today with “pride” parades and divorce “parties.” Fornication and shacking up were once considered scandalous. A sex scene in a movie was considered indecent. Many other sins today, such as greed and disrespect for elders and leaders, are also glamorized. That this no longer shocks or surprises us shows the hardening that the deceit of sin can bring.

Ask the Lord for a sensitive conscience. It is a precious gift that is not to be confused with scrupulosity. A sensitive conscience is one that loves what God loves, that values what God values, and that shares His priorities. A sensitive conscience loves God’s law and His truth, and is saddened and productively mournful at the reality of sin, whether personal or collective.

Ask also for the gift to mourn. Scripture says, “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted” (Mat 5:4). Who are those who mourn? They are those who see the awful state of God’s people (that they do not know God or glorify Him in their lives and that they are locked in sin and its deceptions) and are motivated to pray and speak the truth. They will even endure suffering in order that some may be snatched away from the evil dragon and from the hardening that comes from the deceit of sin.

Lord, heal our land; for we are surely hardened by the deceit of sin. Help us to turn to you. May you use our holy tears to wash away our sins and give us new and tender hearts.

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Comments (9)

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  1. Mark Tracy says:

    Msgr. This is without question the most accurate, concise, and well articulated explanation of the horrific current moral atmosphere. Thank you! God be with you. You have been added to my prayers.

  2. Brian Crowe says:

    Thank you Father, for this salutory post.
    I am of an age to have seen these evils evolving over my lifetime.
    Only a return to God and His teachings will overcome Satan and his minions.
    Holy Mary pray for the world.

  3. Dave Gugg says:

    I have found myself wondering a lot lately how we came to the cultural revolution of the 60s. I’m thinking during the difficulties of WW2 in the 40s, we must have, as an entire culture, been very reliant upon God. How does that change so rapidly in the span of 15 – 20 years?

    • Tina says:

      I was born in the 80s so I didn’t experience that drastic change but I wonder sometimes if some of it had to do with PTSD. Several solders I know, some family, have severe PTSD and depression after being stationed in the middle east. I wonder if some of the men returning from WW2 developed depression after some time and we’re disconnected a bit from their children. Many of those men saw some terrible things, how could they not be affected. Perhaps their children saw this as emotional abandonment and grew to resent their parents. They took their rebellion to an extreme and wanted everything their parents’ generation abhorred and hated everything they valued. Just a theory (and certainly not an excuse or acceptance of sin) but so many young men fought in the war and then returned to life at home. It must have been hard. Maybe someone who lived in that time period knows more about mental health after WW2

  4. Elaine Steffek says:

    I heard it explained once that someone who dies in this hardened state of sin
    is so uncomfortable in the sanctifying light of God that he flees on his own to the
    darkness of Hell.

  5. Janet says:

    I have also thought the same thing, Dave. It shows how essential it is for us to remain ever vigilant against the ministrations of the devil. Perhaps the absolute horrors of WW2 led people to disbelieve in both God and Satan. Once you don’t believe in either, it’s extremely easy to fall into the pit of sin.

  6. Lisa says:

    Thank you, Monsignor Pope, for always speaking and writing the truth. Thank you, too, for your wisdom and guidance.

    Reading your message was akin to being doused in ice water. It is shocking to realize how easily deceived one has become and the hardness of one’s heart. I pray that I may receive the gift of a sensitive conscience and the gift to mourn.

    God bless you and your work. I keep you in my prayers.

  7. David says:

    As to the timing of the sexual revolution and its accelerants: I remember well the subtle rejection of Humana Vitae among so many Catholics, lay and Priestly, followed by the Kennedy Compound meeting wherein priests affirmed politicians who supported the acceptability of voting for abortion as public policy. Those events certainly broke down the doors of restraint.

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