Sermons about sin are few and far between in these happy-go-lucky times. Solid information about how to address sin in a way that actually brings about changes is even rarer. But I was lucky. Our parish had a mission offered by Renewal Ministries which offered us a number of evenings of meaty fare for our spiritual appetites.
Here is an excerpt from my notes: eight principles for dealing with venial sin, from a conference given by Ralph Martin.
Sin never helps . . . although sometimes it seems as if it would. The source of all unhappiness and wounds in life is sin. Period. Sin is never the solution to the problem we think we're facing. Doing the right thing brings joy. It brings freedom to the soul.
You can't achieve happiness without turning from serious sin. Conversion and ongoing repentance is always a crisis of revelation. We're not always aware of the truth about ourselves. Sin is partnered with falsehood. Repentance brings light and truth and keeps us from having to run from ourselves.
Big sins are bad. Small sins are less bad, but they're still bad. Deliberately chosen offenses harm our relationship with God. They damage us. Inadvertent sins (like blurting out something wrong before you catch yourself) need to be addressed, but more important is the act consciously entered into that you know is wrong - even if it's not a serious sin in itself. Hatred is not too strong to direct toward sin - it's good to get your emotions involved to support your determination.
We need to deal with our affection for sin. We wistfully yearn for some of our sins, much as the Hebrews in the desert maintained an affection for Egypt. We can close the doors of our hearts, letting go of the affection and asking God for the grace to release it. Toward this end, it can help to meditate on the basic truths of the faith, such as the lengths to which God went to address the effects of sin.
Temptation is not sin. If you're tempted your whole life toward the same sin, there is nothing wrong with you! Some of the most renowned saints struggled to the end of their lives with temptations that perhaps many of us have been spared. The key is how we stay connected with the Lord in the middle of temptation. The best time to say "no" is the instant you become aware of the temptation -- don't make life harder than it needs to be. Identify temptation for what it is. Don't go easy on it. There's no need to bend down and engage the serpent in diplomatic conversation.
Avoid the situations that often accompany temptation. In other words, avoid the near occasion of sin. Stay away from the circumstances and situations that are associated with that sin.
Talk to somebody. Go to confession, get a spiritual director, talk to someone with spiritual maturity and stability who you trust. Talk to someone. Do it. Now.
Humility Don't be impatient with your sin out of pride rather than contrition. Don't expect yourself to have the ability to change through your own efforts. Have confidence in God. Trust him to do in you what he wants to do.
Ralph accompanied the talk with many anecdotes of the saints. He told of Therese of the Child Jesus who, throughout her life, had trouble with falling asleep while she was in prayer. She didn't get discouraged about it or obsess about her failing, but instead expressed confidence that God loved her even while she slept just as a parent loves his sleeping child. We can trust God, not the power of our prayer nor the fervor of our repentance.
And toward the end of St. Therese's life, she was rebuked by a sister after she spoke impatiently. Her response was to be glad to learn of "another fault to bring to the mercy of Christ." May we all have the same spirit.
I was surprised that Charles Nelson Reilly was 76 when he died, over the weekend. Not that he was that young, or that old, but that he was still alive.
Some time ago I posted the people that I wasn’t “done with yet,” people who died too young or too soon. There are other people with whom popular culture has gotten done with, who linger on, alive, presumably happy, but invisible and when they die, a million Americans hear the news and think, “Hmmmm, I thought s/he died YEARS ago….”
June Allyson – died July 2006 at the age of 89 – when you watch the movies, everybody around her seems to be dead: Jimmy Stewart, Judy Garland, Fredrick March, Steve Allen. She made those embarassing Depends commercials (by golly, there is a foundation named after her) and then, I assumed, she died. But she was apparently fine, if incontinent (I'm not being mean, she started the foundation fer criminy!) for another ten years,
Glenn Ford - died in August 2006 at 90. No talk shows, no books, no angry children, no scandal. No guys like him in the movies anymore, either: silent, square in build and level in look, competent, occasionally witty but it was a strain.
Curt Gowdy - I don't know much about sports, but his voice seems to have ended with the sideburns and fluffy perms sticking out under the hats of the baseball players, and the handlebar mustaches on the football players in the washed-out color films of World Series and Superbowls long ago. Died February 2006 at 87.
Who surprised you when they died? Who do you keep forgetting is still alive?
It's good to be back. Roz is right - what felt like "blog poisoning," being drawn out of meditation or prayer to composing a blog entry, now feels like a lively urge to communicate again within the Christian blogworld.
Pentecost seems like such a providential time to return, too! The birthday of the Church! The end of the Easter season (did you stop rejoicing long before Sunday, too? I know I did.)
Come, Holy Spirit! Bless us in our conversation here!
Renewal partners with springtime, the refreshing breath of the Holy Spirit first from Pentecost but for always, the conversion and belief that is Jesus' first exhortation in the Gospel of Mark -- but for your humble blog hosts, it is also some newfound energy after taking time off. Both Therese and I have missed the blog, as we discovered through frequent encounters with thoughts or incidents about which we'd like to write, realizing only after a beat that there was no longer any place to write it.
I, for one, struggled with the thought that any post after a long hiatus would have to be particularly profound, insightful, witty, and/or remarkable to justify either the absence or the comeback. As many of you will recognize far more quickly than I did, that is pride, naked and unblushing. Besides, I reason, we abandoned our readers for so long that there won't be anyone left to notice the quality (or lack) of our posts for weeks to come.
So, to the one or two of you who might still have us hooked into your automatic RSS feed and therefore will notice that we're back, we're back. We hope for stimulating and thought-provoking conversation with you here. We'll do our best to strew the bait around for it.