7 deadly sins

7 Deadly Sins: Poison For The Soul

If you were seated at a restaurant, given a menu, placed your order and then were told, “All the food here has poison in it,” would you say, “That’s fine. I’ve heard the steak here is excellent”? One would hope not. You’d likely grab your coat and run. Yet, every day, we choose poison for our souls.

Lust. Gluttony. Greed. Sloth. Wrath.Envy. Pride. These, the Church teaches, are the sins that are poisonous, that will dull and eventually (if left unchecked and unconfessed) deaden our souls. While the list has been around since the 6th century, the sins themselves go back to the Garden of Eden, rooted in original sin. Fr. Stephen F. Torraco says this:

It is important to notice that five of the seven deadly sins latch onto a “part” or dimension of the soul called desire or eros, the home of the central emotion of love and the dimension of soul where we are usually “located” on a daily basis. In light of this fact, it is extremely easy to drift into sloth, envy, covetousness, gluttony, or lust.

Anger is the “cancerous growth” on the dimension of the soul called spiritedness or thumos, the home of the secondary emotions such fear. Vainglory or pride is the distortion of the dimension of the soul called mind or logos, the home of intellect and will.

We live in a world saturated by lust. That means we look at another human being merely as a sexual object. We are willing to, and we do, use others only for our sexual pleasure and nothing else. We forget that each and every person is made in God’s image and likeness and is therefore meant to be treated as both holy and wholly: a whole person, not merely there for our enticement and pleasure.

Have you ever seen an eating contest? Contestants seek to stuff down as many hot dogs or chicken wings or whatever within an allotted time. 50, 60, 70 hot dogs in mere minutes. While there is big money to be won at these events, it is sickening to watch so much food being consumed – not for the health of the body and enjoyment of the palate – but simply to consume huge amounts of food. Once we step over the line of health and enjoyment, we are headed to gluttony.

Oh, greed. Who hasn’t looked at another’s possession (a car, a watch, a house) and thought, “I NEED that. I HAVE to have that.” Who hasn’t gone shopping for one item at the mall and come home with fifteen? There is nothing wrong with working for something one desires, but when a person’s life begins to revolve around possessions, it’s greed.

Sloth. That’s that adorable little mammal that lies around in trees, right? Did you know that a sloth has fewer bones than any mammal? They move so slowly because they cannot move at any other speed! When we “stop moving,” when we stop getting our work done, when we neglect our duties, we have become slothful.

Wrath is anger on steroids. Righteous anger has its place (remember Jesus overturning the money changers tables in  the temple?) We should be angry about abortion, about prejudice, about abuse. It is when anger overcomes us and we become out of control, we seek revenge, that we are wrathful.

Envy is another sin that surrounds us, mostly because technology and social media allow us to peer into the lives of others that former generations could never imagine. We see celebrities who walk the red carpet every other day, it seems, dripping in jewels. Designer handbags costing thousands of dollars seem to be on the arm of half the moms at the PTA meeting. Our neighbor always has the latest model of that fancy sports car while we are stuck patching together the minivan year after year. Spending time wanting what others have, either things or their situations, is envy.

Pride can be a tough one to discern. We often have accomplishments of which we are proud: we finished a big work project and got kudos from the boss, or we finally managed to get a home project completed and it looks great.

Pride fools you into thinking that you’re the source of your own greatness.

Liking yourself isn’t sinful. In fact, it’s healthy and necessary, but when the self-perception no longer conforms to reality, and you begin to think that you’re more important than you actually are, the sin of pride is rearing its ugly head.

Pride is the key to all other sins, because after you believe that you’re more important than you actually are, you compensate for it when others don’t agree with your judgment. You rationalize your behavior and make excuses for lying, cheating, stealing, insulting, ignoring, and such, because no one understands you like you do. In your mind, you’re underestimated by the world.

Thankfully, our God is merciful and sins can be forgiven through the sacrament of reconciliation. However, we must work to prevent sinning in the first place. The virtues we cultivate in our lives help us do just that, and we will talk about those tomorrow.

never give in

Families: Never Give In

In 1941, London had been under siege, seemingly standing alone against a well-armed enemy. Germany had bombed the city for months: lives were lost, buildings destroyed, morale low. England’s then-Prime Minister, Winston Churchill, spoke to the nation about these dark days:

[N]ever give in, never give in, never, never, never-in nothing, great or small, large or petty – never give in except to convictions of honour and good sense. Never yield to force; never yield to the apparently overwhelming might of the enemy.

In his apostolic exhortation, Amoris Laetitia (The Joy of Love), Pope Francis understands that the modern nuclear family – father, mother, children and extended family – is also under siege. The war we face is with a hidden enemy but one who is still very real. Parents know the struggle of protecting innocence, of standing firm in faith and morality against an increasingly hostile culture, and the necessity of creating a home life that offers respite from a harsh world.

In family life, we need to cultivate that strength of love which can help us fight every evil threatening it. Love does not yield to resentment, scorn for others or the desire to hurt or to gain some advantage. The Christian ideal, especially in families, is a love that never gives up. I am sometimes amazed to see men or women who have had to separate from their spouse for their own protection, yet, because of their enduring conjugal love, still try to help them, even by enlisting others, in their moments of illness, suffering or trial. Here too we see a love that never gives up. Para. 119

The Holy Father talks of a positive attitude that requires endurance, and a “dogged heroism” that is committed to goodness. One would be hard-pressed to find someone who disagreed with this. We all want a home that is a place of forgiveness, goodness, and love. One would also be hard-pressed to find any family who does this well, all the time.

We are human; we all struggle with sin. As much as we love our parents, our siblings, our children, our spouse, we do not always love as we should. We criticize. We speak harshly. We fail to listen. We are impatient, unkind, unforgiving: the very opposite of what we are called to be.

What to do? The Church offers us the Sacrament of Reconciliation so that we might seek forgiveness from God and gain the grace we need to do better. Making frequent use of this sacrament as a family is a tremendous gift we can give one another.

The simple act of saying, “I’m sorry” and “I forgive you” when they need to be said is indispensable. Both children and adults need to know that they can make mistakes, they can sin, and that they are still loved and lovable.

We can never give in. Evil hates love. It hates forgiveness, patience, kindness. Evil hates the dogged determination to love. While it is difficult for families to live up to this standard, we must never give in. We cannot give in to despair or fear, to hostility or harshness. We must never give in. We must love.

sorry for sins

Sorry Seems To Be The Hardest Word

One of the most controversial aspects of Catholicism is the Sacrament of Penance. The majority of the people outside the church don’t understand it, but neither do many inside the church. Why do we have to tell a priest our sins? Can’t we just tell God directly?

According to Fr. Eamon Tobin at Catholic.com, the Church requires us to go to confession, because despite our best efforts and the grace of baptism, we continue to sin against God and each other. But the most important reason

why the Catholic Church asks her members to confess their sins to a priest is simply because the Church has always believed that sin, however private, is a community affair. Every sin, however small, wounds the Body of Christ, the members of the Church. . . . When any of its members sin, they all suffer. Moreover, because my sins wound the community and diminish its effectiveness, reconciliation must include the community and not just God. In the confessional, the priest is the representative of God and of the community. In the confessional, the priest represents the whole Christ, the Head (Jesus) and the members (the Church).

We would like to think that our sins go unnoticed or are unseen. We are like the child who steals a piece of candy from a store, sure that no one will ever notice. Or we become the rationalizing adolescent who thinks to herself, “Hey, it’s a big store – they have lots of money. They won’t miss one pair of earrings.”

What we must realize in order to mature in our faith life is that each of our sins – even if they go unnoticed, unseen, hidden away – still harm us and others. That girl who makes a habit of shoplifting becomes an untrustworthy friend and employee. A man addicted to porn in private ends up distancing himself from his wife and family. Imagine the wounds of the Body of Christ: not necessarily the grave wounds of the cross, but the millions and millions of tiny wounds we inflict upon the Body of Christ every day because of our sin.

Lent is the perfect time to got to confession, especially if you have not been in awhile. (Even if “awhile” is years. Or decades. It’s okay.) The Unites States Conference of Catholic Bishops have given us this guide to the sacrament and instructions on how to go to confession.

Remember that no matter what you are feeling, God is waiting for you with great joy. He wants the opportunity to unburden you. He longs to hear that you are sorry for misusing the gifts He’s given to you, and most of all, He wants to tell you, “You are forgiven. Go and sin no more.”