Throughout our lives, most of us have been told to “avoid sin.” Perhaps we heard these words in our youth and obviously we receive these messages week to week when we attend Mass. Surely, to avoid sin is a good thing. However, what does that really mean when you leave the church parking lot? What does it mean in the workplace, with friends, or with family? Also, why is it even all that important?
When we are faced with moral dilemmas and find ourselves asking the above questions, maybe what is needed is a simple change in perspective. As Americans living in the 21st century, we really have a hard time denying our impulses. We have been trained to believe that if we want something or want to do something, we “deserve” it. We don’t know how to say “no” to ourselves. As a result of this very deep conditioning, to say “no” to ourselves is a very negative idea. This is especially true when we hear that God or the Church ask us to deny ourselves of anything.
The beauty of God’s call to each of us is that He does not want us to have a relationship with Him based on a lifetime of “no’s” and repression of our desires. Rather, God seeks from us a lifetime of “Yes’s” - for our life’s desire to be eternity with Him. When we sin, we are saying “no” to the grace of God, to union with God. God doesn’t ask us to deny ourselves as some arbitrary set of rules. God simply wants us to want Him. He wants us to want Him more than anything else. Our actions reflect what our desires are.
I can remember as a child attending a Catholic school and every time we were in Mass, if we weren’t “singing along” to the music, we would receive a “pink slip.” We were being trained to think that singing in Mass was an overbearing expectation and the reason to do it was to avoid punishment. You’ll notice, I put the words “singing along” in quotes. “Singing along” is arbitrary. “Worshiping God,” however, is beautiful, meaningful, and is actually the whole point. Worshiping God through song during the Mass is a perfect example of a “yes.” God does not want us to feel obligated to sing to Him. God wants us to want to sing to Him.
There is a beautiful illustration in scripture of the idea of living our lives with the goal of Heaven as the priority. In 2 Maccabees chapter seven, seven brothers and their mother were tortured and scourged in an effort to force them to eat pork in violation of God’s law. All they had to do was eat pork, and the torture would stop. It would have been so easy for them to say: “God wouldn’t want me to suffer so I’m just going to go ahead and eat it.” Instead of ending the torture by giving in, one of them said: “You accursed fiend, you are depriving us of this present life, but the King of the world will raise us up to live again forever." His heart was set on the resurrection; attaining union with God. It was a big “YES” to deny himself the pork.
What is the pork in our lives? What are the things we are tempted by or the things we currently participate in that are keeping us from saying “yes” to eternal life with God?
Let us pray that through the power of the Holy Spirit that God might become our life’s one desire and that we might fall more deeply in love with Him every day. In desiring and loving God more, may our actions reflect this truth at all moments and especially in moments of temptation.
Your brother on the journey