Monday, July 19, 2004

Will and sin

I kept running across EWTN Live while watching TV last week. It featured Fr. Thomas Dubay as the guest talking about a new series he filmed called "Deep Conversion/Deep Prayer." During his conversation with Fr. Pacwa, they discussed, in response to audience questions, the difference between emotions and will in reference to sin.
In summary, a felt emotion is not a sin. A willed dwelling on it can become sin, as well as the acting-out of the emotion. So, I can feel impatient, and snap at someone. Sin. I can feel impatient, and think murderous thoughts about the person, reviewing the "shoulda woulda coulda's" of how I think the conversation should have gone. Sin. Or I can feel impatient and set it aside or offer it up or blow it off. No sin.
I realized a mistake I've been making lately. While I'm at least mature enough not to ask God to make the other person not so thoroughly irritating (!), I have not asked God for help to recognize the emotion and deal with it internally, instantly and in charity. Instead, I have been asking Him to make me not impatient. It's as though I feel unable to control the progression of emotion-to-will-to-action.
Better it would be if I would recognize that I will be impatient, and to see it, smile at it (internally, or I'd be smiling like a loon all day) and set it aside in gratitude for the Peace that passeth all understanding. 

How do you short-circuit that path in yourself?



Anonymous said...


Wasn't that a wonderful reminder that it is our actions or an obsessive response that lead us into sin.

As a compulsive "grinner" I can say that it can become a very good response (and bear it...) As my late mother used to say "offer it up!". Remember the three parts to a sin. Serious matter, we must recognize it as a serious matter, then do it anyway.

Remember that you will receive what you pray for. Many years ago I prayed for patience. I was given more chances to exercise it than I would have believed possible. When I recognized what was going on, I was filled with laughter. I said a prayer thanking God for his generousity.

Short circuit it? As a Engineer, short circuits scare me. I've had to learn to recognize "it" and as with any other exercise - build up my ability to hold "it " off.

John Huntley

Therese Z said...

As a non-engineer (who had a factory assembly job one summer in college and is still surprised she didn't electrocute herself), isn't it a resistor that keeps a circuit from being completed until certain conditions have been met? Can my ego and will only be correctly stopped, or directed, by a bigger, better Ego and Will?

Lazy me wants God to take away my desires, or the troubles that affect me, rather than be transformed (aha! another electronics term! but what the heck is a transformer for?)

Anonymous said...


A short circuit is an abnormal conditon in the electrical or electronic world. My reply was in part an acknowledgement that the Lord can short circuit a specific part of my sinfulness (concupiscence) and burn it out of me. But that runs the risk of damage. Here I am comparing the laws of the physical world to the laws of the spiritual world. This is where my faith may be weak since I acknowledge that "With God all things are possible".

However, I believe that there is much more glory given to God by allowing me to build up a resistance to that weakness. The current of sinfulness flows less and less strongly. I go to him for forgivness should/when I fail as I try to overcome it. Each time I am given the grace to overcome my weakness. Each time I learn to trust in His grace and know that in Him all things are possible. In time I am changed.

This is not "God as ATM" as I have to have a true sorrow for my sinfulness and an intent to change. In time, with His grace, I conform to His intent. I remain a sinner with tendencies to sinfulness, but I have grown in grace to avoid the near occasions both external and internal. If I'm paying attention, I remember to praise him for that grace. Praise and thanksgiving have become more and more a part of my prayers.

As far as transformers... I need to think of an appropriate analog. (very esoteric pun here)

John Huntley

Therese Z said...

First I have to pray for the serious, gut-level, 100%-of-the-time remorse and desire to change, not just at the moment of examination of conscience and confessional time. Even the Tuesday smack in the middle of the month between my confessions.

I'm afraid that I'm still sometimes sorrier for having to confess than for doing the sin. Humiliation instead of humility.



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