“I think there is far too much talk about sin and not enough about virtue.” -The Priest from the movie Calvary
How would you like to be compared to an old loin cloth rotting away in a desert under a rock? In today’s first reading we see God comparing the rot of an old loin cloth with the rot of the pridefulness of the people of Judah. Not a great comparison from anyone, much less God Himself.
I recently had an idea to start something called “out of context bible verses” where I would pick a strange verse from the bible and distribute it with no explanation of where or why it was said. Here we have one that would work; “Go buy yourself a linen loincloth;
wear it on your loins, but do not put it in water.”
All joking aside though, the wicked people in this passage refused to obey the words of God, they walked with stubbornness in their hearts, and they worshiped false gods. But before all of these sins were committed God says that he clung to His people but they did not listen.
Later in the Psalm we hear, “You have forgotten God who gave you birth.” Throughout these rich readings we see a theme of the people of God ceasing to search for God. They think they can do everything on their own and that rotten loin cloth pride takes over and they get in all sorts of trouble.
It would be easy to focus on the sins in these verses, but rather I want to focus on this idea of no longer seeking out God. A basic definition of virtue is to seek the good. I have been reading a lot about virtue lately and I have realized that it is easy to focus on how not to live instead of actually focusing on how we should be living. To hyper focus on avoiding sin and not focus so much on living in the truth.
This has been a huge step for me in my spiritual life. If we stop seeking the good, then we will stop living towards the standard of that same good. I would take this so far as to say that before any sin is committed, first virtue is rejected. If sin truly is a lack of something, then the thing lacking is goodness.
I think for me it is easier to focus on sin because it’s easier to just say that I should not do this or that thing. It is much harder to love the people that bug me, to go out of my way for the poor or marginalized, to sacrifice my time and money for the well-being of others.
Pope Francis in his new apostolic exhortation says, “Just as you cannot understand Christ apart from the kingdom he came to bring, so too your personal mission is inseparable from the building of that kingdom: “Strive first for the kingdom of God and his righteousness” (Mt 6:33). Your identification with Christ and his will involves a commitment to build with him that kingdom of love, justice and universal peace. Christ himself wants to experience this with you, in all the efforts and sacrifices that it entails, but also in all the joy and enrichment it brings. You cannot grow in holiness without committing yourself, body and soul, to giving your best to this endeavor.”
This is a call to true virtue. A call to come outside of ourselves and instead of hyper focusing on sin, focusing instead on our mission to love, a mission that will bring us the true joy we seek.
Pope Francis goes on to say, “Do not be afraid of holiness. It will take away none of your energy, vitality or joy. On the contrary, you will become what the Father had in mind when he created you, and you will be faithful to your deepest self. To depend on God sets us free from every form of enslavement and leads us to recognize our great dignity. We see this in Saint Josephine Bakhita: Abducted and sold into slavery at the tender age of seven, she suffered much at the hands of cruel masters. But she came to understand the profound truth that God, and not man, is the true Master of every human being, of every human life. This experience became a source of great wisdom for this humble daughter of Africa”
Let us take a lesson today from Pope Francis, from Saint Josephine Bakhita, and of course from the Word of God. This week I am going to try to live my life constantly seeking the good instead of letting the fear of sin be my motivation. Let us all ask for this grace. Amen!
Tommy Shultz is a Solutions Evangelist for Diocesan. In that role, he is committed to coaching parishes and dioceses on authentic and effective Catholic communication. Tommy has a heart and a flair for inspiring people to live their faith every day. He has worked in various youth ministry, adult ministry, and diocesan roles. He has been a featured speaker at retreats and events across the country. His mission and drive have been especially inspired by St. John Paul II’s teachings. Tommy is blessed to be able to learn from the numerous parishes he visits and pass that experience on in his presentations. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.