Enslaved in sin, St. Augustine cried out in anguish amid a torrent of tears, “How long, how long, tomorrow, and tomorrow? Why not now? Why not is there this hour an end to my uncleanness?” (Fr. Ed Broom 1/16/16)
We can all feel Augustine’s pain. Whether troubled by a serious sin or a weakness that perpetuates, it can seem suffocating. I recall the decade of the 80’s working long hours, then coming home to sit on the couch watching TV all night. And the gluttony of snacking on just ‘a few’ chips but munching until the dip was gone, too tired to stop. I can also recall what it feels like to rely solely upon my own self-discipline: very limiting. Even if I succeeded at restraint, rather than feeling recreated I simply experienced the absence of the gluttony or sloth, and perhaps a little health improvement too. There was also a false idea that my good deeds and discipline in some parts of my life were sufficient to make up for my lack of discipline in other areas. Good enough.
That was the decade I quit going to mass. I didn’t intend to quit. I just procrastinated each weekend for 11 years or so. But even under the weight of that sinfulness, there was still a little piece of something inside me that said I needed more discipline simply because it was the right thing to do. I hadn’t stopped talking with God; I simply quit visiting Him. So while in my psyche I battled sloth and gluttony, and won sufficiently to keep it under control on my own, I experienced the mix of the weight of the burden, and greyness of my own weakness, at the same time as the light (albeit faint) of God in my soul giving me His fortitude to keep going.
Fr. Broom presents St. Catherine of Siena who explains that made in God’s image, we too are love. “So a soul in love with God our eternal Father, wants to follow its own nature: love makes it lose itself; love makes it punish itself by striking out against false sensual passions of the devil, the world, and the flesh … Then our soul is giving the Father His due, following its nature and never going against it.”
Receiving the sacraments of mass and confession, and spending time in mental prayer with Him, one can experience the difference of the Holy Spirit’s work: A self-discipline that doesn’t come from me, thus not limited to me. And when I would fall back into those patterns, at first old habits would tempt. But it was easier to resist and I also began to recognize the difference between me fighting off chips & dip, and me [with the Holy Spirit in me] rejecting them.
Intention does matter. As He won’t force His way into our problems, there really is a difference when temptations are fought with a heart desiring God rather than simply armed with one’s own ideas.
It is not that I have already taken hold of it or have already attained perfect maturity, but I continue my pursuit in hope that I may possess it, since I have indeed been taken possession of by Christ [Jesus]. (Phil 3:12)
The sacraments are necessary for all of this. Come to mass and confession! Continue to pray for Pope Francis, all clergy and religious, and the worldwide church:
Almighty and everlasting God, from whom cometh every good and perfect gift; Send down upon our Bishops, and other Clergy, and upon the Congregations committed to their charge, the healthful Spirit of thy grace; and, that they may truly please thee, pour upon them the continual dew of thy blessings. Grant this, O Lord, for the honour of our Advocate and Mediator, Jesus Christ. Amen.
Ad Majorem Dei Gloriam 😊
Photo by Andrea Piacquadio from Pexels