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February 25, 2017


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I think a starting point is to remember that Leviticus is dealing with offenses against the Law; static and unyielding. Sin in the New Covenant is an offense against grace, which is our relationship with God. We don't punish children for unintentionally doing something negative; we redirect them and help them learn, and so God does with us.

Not a theologian or a Biblical scholar, but my instinct would be to think about this in the context of Matthew 22:40, "On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets." The Law of Moses is an expansion of the Greatest Commandment and the second that is like unto it. It's a long answer to the question, "What should I DO to love my Lord and my neighbor?" I would think an 'accidental sin' in your terms might neglect or mess up some of those things I ought to do in order to show love for the Lord and for my neighbor--and once I realize that I should try to make things right as best I can--but it wouldn't involve a major violation of the central two commandments in the way that a grave sin would. And just intuitively, I would say that most of us think there are accidental errors which are non-culpable (but which we still should correct if we can, of course!), and non-accidental errors or crimes which are culpable, which violate justice somehow. They might both require correction, but they are still significantly different in kind.

Yes. Sin in the old covenant is a violation of the law. You broke the law and ignorance of the law is no excuse. But in the new covenant sin is a breaking of our relationship with God. The image that Catechesis of the Good Shepherd uses is of being cut off from the vine.

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