We are all sinners? Or should we say we were once sinners? Should it not be the “normal” state of affairs for a practicing Catholic to be able to avoid grave sin, through the grace of the Holy Spirit and the help of the Sacraments? St. John tells us that if we are begotten by God we will be able to avoid sin:
1JN 3 (NABRE)
4 Everyone who commits sin commits lawlessness, for sin is lawlessness. 5 You know that he was revealed to take away sins, and in him there is no sin. 6 No one who remains in him sins; no one who sins has seen him or known him. 7 Children, let no one deceive you. The person who acts in righteousness is righteous, just as he is righteous. 8 Whoever sins belongs to the devil, because the devil has sinned from the beginning. Indeed, the Son of God was revealed to destroy the works of the devil. 9 No one who is begotten by God commits sin, because God’s seed remains in him; he cannot sin because he is begotten by God. 10 In this way, the children of God and the children of the devil are made plain; no one who fails to act in righteousness belongs to God, nor anyone who does not love his brother.
I believe this passage has been interpreted as referring to mortal sin and that even those who are “begotten by God” still commit venial sins because of our concupiscence. Still, should we refer to ourselves as great sinners? Or should we say we were once great sinners but have been rescued from slavery to sin through Our Lord’s mercy? Or does that risk becoming (or coming off as) self-righteous?
I ask this because it was recently suggested to me that the proper attitude for a Catholic Christian is that expressed by St. Paul in 1 TM 1:15: “This saying is trustworthy and deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners. Of these ***I am ***the foremost.” I pointed out what I felt was obvious - that in context St. Paul was not saying he presently remained the world’s foremost sinner - but rather that he had been so before he was converted (“I was once a blasphemer and a persecutor and an arrogant man, but I have been mercifully treated…”).
But folks were insistent that I have it wrong. Do I?