Browsing Pastor's Message

Overcoming Sin


2-3 march 2019

Sunday before Ask Wednesday — Get Prepared


        The wise man once said, “he who fails to prepare, prepares to fail.”  It is a good statement just days before we enter the great season of Lent. 

        The purpose of the Lenten season is manifold.  But the central theme of Lent is always one word:  Metanoia.  Which literally means a “turn around.”  A 180 degree transformation.  To recognize that we have been heading one way — usually away from the Lord — and we need to turn around and return to the Lord of Life and make our pathway back toward the Lord whom never moved, but it is we who have moved away from Him.

        Too often when asked, “what are you giving up for Lent,” people regardless of age, will come up with something very mild and even childlike:  “I’m giving up coke, I’m giving up candy, I’m giving up facebook.”  Then come Easter Sunday they over indulge on those items all over again.  So the whole experience of Lent was for naught.  They may have fasted from the “thing” for 40 days, but they did not radically change their lives; their lives are not any better after Lent than they were before Ash Wednesday.

        The purpose of Metanoia, is to literally transform one’s life.  To make such a substantial change that one is a new creation after the fact.

        When people come to confession, very often they have a litany of pesky, habitual sins that keep haunting them.  Over and over they confess the same sins, from which they can not break free.  The challenge with that is that very often they are stuck in the forrest, if you will; they can’t see the forrest for the trees. 

        So let me propose this.  Here is a method of breaking free.  You can break free from any sin, with a plan of action. You have to have a plan of action, and if you focus like a laser beam upon it, and spend quality time doing so, you can over come any sin — whether it is something like patience, spending too much time in the internet, overeating some unhealthy snack food, cursing too much, or even the insidious scare of the devil like pornography.  Now I am not going to spend too much on that last one, right now, as the Archdiocese will launch a substantial program at the end of the month entitled Safe Haven, in which we will help all of those who are enslaved to the devil’s snares of lust, masturbation and pornographers and to protect our children away from that cesspool. 

        So here are some simple steps. 

        First, pick something from your habitual habits that you want to get rid of.  Don’t pick the hardest one, because it may be too much to focus on and take too much energy.  Chose something smaller, that is actually manageable.  Its called the snow ball effect.  If you conquer a small thing, you can come back later and do a bigger thing.

        Then make a plan.  Like a person who intends to run a marathon, you have to have a plan.  No-body training for a marathon goes out and runs 26 miles on the first day. You start out walking, then jogging, then running a few miles, then you add to it until you build up endurance.  Then you can run all 26 miles.

        Same with conquering sin.  Decide what you want to overcome.  Have a three stage plan of overcoming it.  Not more than three things that you can do to overcome the sin.  Three positive things.  It could be prayer, it could be some type of personal intensification, bodily mortifications, it could be a way to avoid the temptation.  Three things.  Not 10, not 5; just three things that you can focus on.  And stick with it. 

        Then you need an accountability partner.  Someone you trust to discuss this issue confidentially.  Probably not your spouse, as you may not want to discuss this with your spouse.  A trusted friend, perhaps.  A spiritual director, your confessor.  Someone whom you will meet with on a regular basis during lent, and discuss your progress, who will be firm with you, and will hold you accountable.  Be able to discuss how you are doing. Are you staying with your plan?  Are you doing what you promised to do?  Are you making progress?

        Then take it to prayer.  Make a pledge to the Lord that you intend to do this.  And most importantly work toward overcoming the sin.

        Put all of this in writing, perhaps in a journal.  Keep track of your progress.  When we write things out, we are more likely to hold ourselves accountable.  If it is just “pie in the sky” ideas, we tend to not stay focused on them.

        Here is the important part.  You have to replace the sin with something virtuous.  The old adage of:  nature abhors a vacuum.  If you do not replace it with something virtuous, the devil will come in and replace it with another sin.

         And what is more, when you are successful with this, expect the Evil One to come with vengeance to tempt you in a whole new way.  He hates success in this capacity.  He despises Christians who are faithful to Christ.  He wants you enslaved to your sins, especially habitual sins.  If he can keep you bogged down in the cesspool of sins, then he wins.  But if you break free, then he gets really mad and comes back with other devils to temps you all over. 

        I’m reminded of the words of Ven. Frances Xavier Nguyen Van Thuan, the former Archbishop of Saigon, just before its fall, who spent over a decade as a prisoner of war at the hands of the North Vietnamese.  He wrote:  “We must always remember we are in a battle for our souls.  The Devil is out to conquer us.  But we have allies in this battle.  The Blessed Virgin Mary, St. Joseph, our Guardian Angel, our patron Saint and our spiritual director.  We have weapons at our disposal:  the confessional, the Bible, the catechism, the cross, the rosary and holy water.  Unless you abandon your allies and drop your weapons, you have already won.”

        Those are wise words for a future saint.  Dont’ forget them.  Use your allies.  If you don’t have a good relationship with the BVM and our patron, and your individual GA., and your individual patron saint, formulate it!  Build it up.  Use the weapons Ven. FX mentions.  Use the Scriptures, the Catechism, crosses, the Rosary, holy water.  Go to confession frequently, especially to get rid of habitual sin!  The devil hates all of this.  He flees from it all.  Don’t abandon your allies nor drop your weapons.

        if you stick with this type of a program during Lent you can over come at least one sin!

        We have learned much from the social sciences and 12 step programs in the last 50 years.  One day w/o sin leads to 2 days; and 2 leads to 7 and 7 to 14 and 14 to 30; and 30 to 60 and 60 to 90.  When you have 90 days without sin, you have pretty well conquered a sin.

        It is no wonder that most 12 step programs — from AA to NA, to GA, to SA, all require a drying out period.  They all suggest and require that you need time to break free from these addictive behaviors. 

        Lent is more than 40 days; and when you add the Easter Season, then you are at more than 90 days.  Anything can be conquered in 90 days. 

        Lives can be changed in 90 days.  If you do it right, your life could be radically different come Pentecost than it is today.  Make a plan, change your life, change your world.