WINNING THE BATTLE AGAINST SIN
Hope-Filled Lessons From the Bible
Father Mitch Pacwa, SJ
The Word Among Us Press, 2013
184 pages, $12.95
To order: bookstore.wau.org
In an increasingly relativistic culture, it should be no surprise that books about the dangers of sin in your average bookstore are about as common as a New York Yankees jersey at Boston’s Fenway Park.
But while awareness of the evils and dangers of sin may be low, the dangers sin poses may be more severe than ever, partly because of the diminished societal understanding and recognition.
To counter this trend, EWTN host Jesuit Father Mitch Pacwa has produced a well-organized, thought-provoking and easy-to-use guidebook entitled Winning the Battle Against Sin: Hope-Filled Lessons From the Bible (The Word Among Us Press).
In 10 chapters spread over fewer than 200 pages, Father Pacwa uses unvarnished yet compassionate prose and plenty of Scripture to present a course on “Sin 101.” He begins, appropriately, with the first sin of Adam and Eve and works up to practical guidance to put sin to death.
Father Pacwa begins each chapter by stating a goal and by noting the key books of the Bible that underpin the chapter’s message. Every page or two, he includes a bold one- or two-line takeaway that encapsulates the main messages from the previous paragraphs, helping hit home key lessons. Examples include:
n We are responsible for our sins and must answer to God for them (Chapter 4, “It’s Your Choice: Life or Death”);
n We are either slaves to sin or slaves to righteousness. When we are committed to righteousness, we have hope (Chapter 5, “Freedom From Slavery of Sin”); and
n We encounter the pull of the flesh in many areas of our lives, and if we live by the flesh, we cannot please God (Chapter 6, “The Battle Between the Flesh and the Spirit”).
In a particularly relevant chapter, given the current culture’s aggressive efforts to redefine marriage, Father Pacwa cautions readers to recognize the dangers posed by false prophets: “False teaching can also be attractive when it is more in keeping with modern thinking, while the orthodox teaching can seem backward, out of date or even oppressive. This kind of argument is frequently employed to deny various moral teachings, particularly in the sexual realm. Therefore, Christians need to always remain alert to the temptations set out by false apostles and teachers. They can best accomplish this by knowing the fullness of the truths of the Christian faith so that they can use them as the standard by which to judge the teachings of any teacher or group that may cross their paths.”
Each chapter is full of scriptural excerpts, but the book does not read like a data dump and does not require an advanced degree in sacred Scripture to comprehend and enjoy because of the effective way in which Father Pacwa intertwines Scripture with his own explanations and analysis.
The author concludes each chapter with a set of thought-provoking questions for reflection or discussion, making the book a useful tool for individual or group study.
After providing readers with a thorough overview of all things sin-related, the last third of the book concludes with two chapters of meditations on the Gospel and Psalms.
The Gospel chapter includes several well-known parables, including the Conversion of St. Matthew, the Samaritan Woman at the Well, Zacchaeus and the Prodigal Son. Following each excerpt, Father Pacwa employs Ignatian spirituality to place the reader in the scene and to confront some tough questions. For example, he includes a summary of the paralytic going through the roof: “Imagine being this paralytic. … When you hear Jesus say, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ do you react with disappointment that it is not a physical healing, or do you feel a deep relief that sins you have not spoken about to others are perceived by Jesus and forgiven?”
If the book has one negative, in my view, it is the lack of a conclusion, as it ends rather abruptly following meditations on several Psalms.
Winning the Battle Against Sin works for just about any audience, from highly vigilant practitioners of the faith who might appreciate another resource to help them grow in holiness to those questioning or struggling to understand sin and its consequences.
Nick Manetto writes from Herndon, Virginia.