Friday, September 11, 2015

Sin wounds the image of God in us......

I worry about sinning and separating myself from God. He cannot dwell in a sinful vessel, yet it appears that He does. It's very confusing to me. I mean, does God pop out of my soul whenever I think or do something against His commandments and then pop back in as soon as I make a good confession? I fret over making a "good" confession -- what's that anyway?! When I knowingly do something wrong, I ask Jesus to forgive me and fill me with the Holy Spirit and the graces I need to live a holy life. I think He does it--as long as I am sincere; however, the Catholic church teaches us that we must confess our sins to a priest. This is very hard for me. I fumble around with my confession and hope that I did it right and always feel better when the priest pronounces forgiveness and absolution from my sins. And yet.....I go away wondering if it really worked.
St Augustine teaches that original sin wounds the image of God in us, and it is this wound that needs healing. St Paul defines sin this way--he says, “All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.” And yet...God calls us to 'Be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect". How do we do that? Seems impossible.
My daughter re-posted an article on this topic the other day and it has helped me tremendously. Just in case I thought I was making some progress on my spiritual journey, I can always meditate on the Cardinal Virtues. A personal reflection might look like this:

Have I practiced the virtue of Chastity? For example:
• Have I permitted myself to watch movies or television shows that are not edifying; ones that depict sexual scenarios or advocate for cohabitation or homosexual relationships?
Have I practiced the virtue of Temperance? For example:
• Have I indulged my love of sweets or snack foods, to the detriment of my health?
• Have I continued to consume alcoholic beverages excessively?
• Have I been immoderate in any activity, such as watching too much TV?
Have I practiced the virtue of Charity? For example:
• Have I been a “busybody,” unkind to a neighbor either by my thoughts or by my actions?
• Have I had a smile for a family member or loved one, or was I critical, hurting someone’s feelings?
Have I practiced the virtue of Diligence? For example:
• Have I used my physical limitations as an excuse for laziness?
• Have I neglected prayer, ignored my friend’s birthday, sat around the house when I might have helped with chores?
• Have I exercised my responsibility to become familiar with political issues, and to vote for the candidates who will best protect Christian values.
Have I practiced the virtue of Patience? For example:
• Was I unkind (or downright rude) to a telephone caller, supermarket clerk, or visitor. Was I crabby when things didn’t go just the way I wanted?
• Did I complain about the service at a restaurant because we had to wait for service or the waitress wasn't "on top of things"?
• Did I criticize my doctor, my caretaker, my child, for not serving me better?
Have I practiced the virtue of Kindness? For example:
• Was I jealous of the attention paid to someone else, wanting everyone to notice me instead?
• Did I feel angry because my grown children did not have enough time to spend with me?
• Did I compliment someone who looked good, or did I only have harsh words to say?
Have I practiced the virtue of Humility? For example:
• Did I accept a compliment graciously but then move on, refusing to keep the attention turned toward myself?
• Was I willing to let someone else be the center of attention?
• Did I feel grateful for the kindness of my family and other’s efforts?
I read a book in 2012 called, 'Why Catholicism Matters' by Bill Donohue. It helped me to come to the understanding that only through the inculcation of these virtues in one's life, can we ever hope to 'Be perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect'. The author makes a wonderfully poignant statement when he says, " How can we craft a society that pushes us to be our neighbor's keeper? Then, he quotes Pope Benedict XVI, "authentic service requires sacrifice and self-discipline, which in turn must be cultivated through self-denial, temperance and moderate use of the world's goods."

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

How Much Do I Love God?

Mother Angelica related a story about when she was a novice and asked her confessor, "How do I know how much I love God?". The confessor answered, "That's easy--you love God as much as you love the least of your neighbors". Simple answer yet powerful. This answer blew me away. I rewrote the gist of the conversation a few times in a different way so that I could understand it better:
Whoever it is you love the least, is the height of your love for God or The neighbor you love the very least is the measure of the depth of your love for God. I never thought of loving God in this way and I am so glad that I heard her say this today. It really helps me to grow in my faith.
How about you? How much do you love the person that you like least of all?