[gtranslate] Cultivate the Right Attitude to Sin this Lent - Eglise Catholique Saint James (Saint Jacques)

Cultivate the Right Attitude to Sin this Lent

Cultivate the Right Attitude to Sin this Lent

I had concluded Holy Mass in a parish and was rushing for my next engagement when I noticed that a parishioner had packed behind my car in the parking lot making it impossible for me to depart immediately as I had planned. I waited anxiously for the owner to arrive and move the car. The owner casually arrived about half an hour later, entered her car, and drove out without a single word of apology to me. By then I was already way too late for my next engagement.

I could feel the anger rising within me. The thoughts of offense were going full throttle in my mind, “How rude, proud, selfish, arrogant, and insensitive she is.” It was only after a few minutes that I realized that while focusing so much on the annoying attitude of the parishioner, I had completely forgotten the presence of the Lord Jesus that I had just received in Holy Communion. As long as I was giving in to and nurturing the angry thoughts in my head, the more I disconnected myself from God’s loving presence with me and within me.  

Nothing affects our relationship with God more than our attitude towards sin – our own sins and the sins of others against us. When we do not have a good attitude towards sin, our relationship with God is wounded and our faith in Him begins to dwindle.

Jesus in Mk 1:12-15 shows us the two attitudes that we must have towards sin if we are going to have a healthy relationship with God – Resist and Repent.

We must resist and overcome temptations to sin now. Jesus, the Holy One of God, freely chose to be tempted by the devil because He wanted to be faithful to His Father who had recently declared to Him at His baptism in the Jordan, “You are my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased.” All the temptations that Jesus faced were aimed at rupturing His filial relationship with His Father. But Jesus came and left the desert of temptation an ever-faithful Son of His Father. 

St. Augustine reminds us that we too share in the victory of Jesus over temptations, “He (Christ) suffered temptation in your nature, but by His own power gained victory for you.” Because of the victory of Jesus, we too can and should resist and overcome temptations by His grace. His victory is both an example and an inspiration for our own victory over temptations. Jesus even promises that we will overcome greater temptations, “Whoever believes in me will do the works that I do, and will do greater ones than these.”(Jn 14:12)

We should also begin to resist now, no matter the past defeats and failures. We should not postpone the day of our resistance to sin as if we can resist tomorrow while giving in to sin today. The truth is that we become spiritually weaker the more that we give in to sin.

We must repent of our sins in the past. Jesus declared this truth, “The kingdom of God is at hand. Repent and believe in the Gospel.” No repentance, no real faith in the reality that we belong to God and His kingdom. When we ignore this ongoing repentance, we begin to doubt or even question the love, wisdom, and power of God in our daily lives.

There are five sure ways in which we can begin to cultivate these two attitudes of repentance and resistance toward sin.

First, we must have patient trust in Jesus always. He suffered and died for our sins, and He is with us now, leading us to God along the same path of loving obedience that He has traveled victoriously, “Beloved, Christ suffered for sins once, the righteous for the sake of the unrighteous, that He might lead you to God.”(1Pet 3:18) We must place all our trust in Him and not in ourselves, our firm resolves, past victories, deep sorrow for the past sins, etc. Remember His words, “Without me, you can do nothing.”(Jn 15:4)

We must also be patient in temptations because no temptation lasts forever. Faith matures in patience. Besides, God knows our limits in facing temptations, “God is faithful, and He will not let you be tempted beyond your strength, but with the temptation will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.”(1Cor 10:13) The temptations will come and go but Jesus remains with us, whether we are faithful or unfaithful to Him in the temptations.

Secondly, we must pray always. Prayer opens our hearts to receive the light and grace that Jesus offers us in our temptations. Jesus prayed in Gethsemane and He invited the disciples to do the same, “Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation.” (Mt 26:41) We do not stand a chance against temptations when we are not praying fervently.

Through authentic prayer that is focused on Jesus, we also begin to desire the same things that Jesus desires. We can resist sins only when we have a deep share in the desires of Jesus. Praying to Mama Mary and with her in times of temptation is powerful because, as the Mother of Jesus who never ceased contemplating Christ, Mary helps us to focus on Jesus with receptive hearts ready to receive all that He offers to us at the moment of temptation.

Thirdly, we must practice self-denial and fasting. We are so weak against temptations when we are indulging in material things like food, drink, pleasures, gadgets, entertainment, etc. Though these things are good and innocent in themselves, overindulgence weakens our wills, making them slaves of our senses, and sluggish in regards to the things of God.

Practicing moderation in these things and even denying ourselves what is sometimes necessary train our wills to obey God and resist temptations. Unless we train our wills, we cannot respond to the graces that God is always offering to us.

Fourthly, we must know and love the truth always. We cannot resist temptations to sin when we are making choices only based on our emotions or on public opinions. We must study the sacred scriptures and know our Catechism well enough to know what is right and wrong, and why they cannot change. We can no longer depend on the priests to teach us everything at Mass without making our own personal efforts at knowing and growing in our knowldge of truth.

This knowledge of the truth is indispensable today when we are witnessing widespread deception even in the Church. For over two thousand years, the Church has been calling and equipping her children to repent and to resist sin. For the very first time in the history of the Church, a declaration, Fiducia Supplicans, completely deviated from scripture and tradition in giving permission for the blessing of people in homosexual relationships without any call whatsoever to repent and resist homosexual actions. It is more saddening to note how some Catholics remain oblivious to the wicked deception in that declaration. We just cannot hope to resist any temptation when we have a warped and ever-changing sense of good and evil.

Lastly, we must examine our conscience frequently and approach the sacrament of confession. We must get accustomed to dealing with the small sins before they become big sins that completely destroy our freedom and close our hearts to the life of God’s grace.

Our sins grow and multiply in the dark when we try to hide them or ignore them. We need the grace of sacramental confession to enlighten us, cleanse us of our sins, and give us strength to resist the sins that we have confessed. We will be remiss to ignore the frequent reception of this sacrament.

My dear brothers and sisters in Christ, our relationship with God by faith is the most powerful thing in this world, “The thing that conquers the world is your faith.”(1Jn 5:4) This relationship is the source of all the many blessings and benefits we deeply need and desire – joy, hope, strength, peace, etc. We lose all these and more because of our bad attitude towards sin.

Jesus Christ suffered and died for our sins to bring us into this relationship with God as His beloved children. He comes to us in each Eucharist to strengthen us in this relationship with God by giving us a share in His Holy Spirit, the very Spirit that led and empowered Him to victory over temptation and the devil. He knows our sins of the past and our present struggles with sin. With His Spirit in us, our own victory is possible and paid for already. All we need to do is cultivate and maintain the right attitude to sin – Resist and Repent now and always.

Glory to Jesus!!! Honor to Mary!!!

Photo by Thays Orrico on Unsplash