Hi Everyone, thank you for visiting again. I hope you are well and continue to develop your relationship with Christ Jesus. He is everything and as St. John the Baptist so eloquently said, “He must increase; I must decrease.” ~ John 3:30
It’s been a while since my last post; I’m sorry I’ve been away for a while. I will do my best to have regular posts going forward.
Let’s start this post out with a question: Have you ever had a sin that just kept nagging you and which, beyond your best efforts continued or continues to get the better of you? If so, take comfort; you are in the boat of life with everyone else. Yet in your recognition of your sinfulness you are embracing God’s gift of grace and in doing so are beginning to see the world through God’s eyes by first seeing yourself and your desire to strive for agape perfection. God has given you a window into your soul and here is where the journey begins – we are all sinners and without saying “yes” to God’s grace, we will suffer an eternal death. In the words of fallen priest, John Corapi, “In the end, when the dust settles; we will be in Heaven or Hell, forever, period.” Corapi is guilty of falling into his past sins. As God shows no favoritism, we are no better than Mr. Corapi. As he must reconcile with God, so must we.
Being creatures born into original sin, the very nature of “sin” is ever about us, like the air that we breathe. Yet in baptism, we are washed clean of that stain and born anew in Jesus, therefore sin’s counterpart ~ to strive for holiness and avoid the near occasion of sin is our ultimate goal as true followers of Our Lord. This is not an easy task to undertake since we all suffer from temptation. We recall St. Paul himself asking the Lord three times to “remove the sting of the flesh” and the Lord in reply saying, “My grace is sufficient for thee; for power is made perfect in infirmity. Gladly therefore will I glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may dwell in me.” ~ [2 Corinthians 12:9] As I have reviewed previously in my post on Redemptive Suffering, these infirmities/sufferings were thought by many saints to be their greatest gifts as they allowed them to unite themselves The Suffering Christ/The Son of Man.
I think we are all intuitive enough to understand the Near Occasion of Sin, yet how do we avoid it? The Near Occasion of Sin is when we at a juncture in our life. To ignore it means the possibility of sin and moreover, grave sin. At the moment of “the near occasion” we are at a junction or a crossroad of a decision taking place often in a fraction of a second. Our first duty is to recognize that we are at a crossroad. In addition, we must recognize the possible options before us, our possible choices and the consequences or graces accompanying them. That’s a lot on which to reflect in a quick moment, yet the outcome of our choice can affect how our faith journey continues or if we allow ourselves to be led into darkness.
Let’s look at some examples:
Gossip: Speaking personally, gossip is difficult. I have always been drawn to a good story, a good joke or something interesting to share. In themselves, none of these are sinful unless they involve the devaluation of another. Let’s say you’re taking a work break. As you walk past a colleague, you hear his conversation, “Hey, did you hear about Susan? I heard she … ” In this moment you have several choices, here are two possibilities, you can join the conversation, which can be very luring or you can walk past the two people talking. If you are later engaged, you can simply say, “I really don’t want to talk about this person behind her back; she’s my friend or she’s my colleague.” You can also take a higher road too such as, “I really don’t think it’s professional to engage in rumors.” By avoiding the spread of gossip, we avoid the near occasion of sinning and stay in the good graces of God. “A perverse man stirreth up quarrels: and one full of words separateth princes. An unjust man allureth his friend: and leadeth him into a way that is not good.” ~ [Proverbs 16:28 – 29] As with all ill behaviors, the more we avoid them, the more we are able to resist them. The contrary is also true. The more we engage in sinful behavior, the easier it becomes to ignore our consciences. We may even reach a point where our consciences are deadened. We don’t have to look far to see this in our world – abortion, adultery, lewdness, etc. “What fruit therefore had you then in those things, of which you are now ashamed? For the end of them is death. But now being made free from sin, and become servants to God, you have your fruit unto sanctification, and the end life everlasting. For the wages of sin is death. But the grace of God, life everlasting, in Christ Jesus our Lord.” [Romans 6:21 – 23]
Considering two of the topics below, let’s look at the repercussions of sins of the flesh. These are grievous sins which will lead to spiritual death if not addressed and avoided at every occasion. Let’s look at men for a moment. Men were created as visual creatures. As such we are drawn to the good and the evil intensely by our visual senses. If an undisciplined man sees a woman dressed provocatively he will have a difficult time turning from the situation, but there are ways to avoid most of these situations and near occasions. For example, if you work out at the gym daily and there are temptations, consider changing your workout time to one where there is less temptation. If you like to surf the web, avoid those places where you know you could get into trouble. If you come across an ad while surfing, close the browser or look away, shut off your monitor or get up and leave. It is counter-cultural to look away, but the truly weak man is the one who looks where he ought not. Our Lady of Fatima told us that more people go to Hell over sins of the flesh that for any other reason. Those words alone should be a stern warning for men particularly to avoid situations like this at all costs. Recall the early quote from 2 Corinthians, “my grace is sufficient for thee.” God expects us to use the knowledge he gave us for the good. It is unwise to hold a lit match in your hand and as the flame burns toward your fingers, plead with God saying, “By Your grace, keep me from getting burned,” you are literally and metaphorically playing with fire. You cannot throw yourself into the lion’s den or even near it and then beg for God’s grace. You must avoid the flame and the den ~ turn from it, run from it. Like the prodigal son, run to your Father, drop to your knees and beg for his help and forgiveness.
As we approach the upcoming Lenten season, I ask you to reflect on your faith journey and connect with God through scripture and prayer. Only through both of these gifts will you be able to live in that sufficient grace and avoid not only sin, but that which can lead us into it.
If you wish to reach me privately, you can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
God Love You,