June 13, 2010

How to be a Sinner

This weekend we have a guest preacher to make the annual appeal for the Propagation of the Faith, so I have the weekend off from preaching. It's kind of a bummer, because the dinner scene in the house of the Simon the Pharisee is so beautiful.

Jesus reminds us that to know ourselves as forgiven will be the source of our love of God.

Our choice is not whether or not to be a sinner. Our choice is what kind of sinner we want to be; we can allow our selfishness and sin to harden us into bitterness and idiosyncrasy, making ourselves unhappy and everyone around us miserable in the process, or we can allow our consciousness of ourselves as forgiven sinners to soften us and make us grateful for God's love.

As Catholics we sometimes get into a kind of angelism that injures our ability to experience this. The process goes like this: we go to confession, make a fresh start, and are happy because we are free from sin, a good and godly person. Then, after we sin again, the second temptation sets in, inviting us to despair for our Christian life and virtue, and telling us that we have ruined everything. There is no point in praying because we are ashamed of ourselves before God, and we may as well just give in to sin because we have already ruined our perfect little self. This second temptation reveals the trouble: mixed in with our love of God is a little bit of selfish vainglory; part of us wants to worship ourselves as an excellent and devout soul.

Instead of leading us into the shame that makes us want to hide from God and the frustration at not yet being the saint we want to be, we must allow our sinfulness to make us love the forgiving God all the more. Far from making us forget about prayer and letting our vigilance go, this will push us to prayer. When we love someone, we seek out time to be with that person. So it is with God. Instead of getting down on ourselves, the gentleness of God's love will help us to forget about ourselves. The more we do this, the less we will sin because we have begun to forget about our arrogant selves in favor of God.

In this is revealed another truth, simple to say but very hard to really learn: the way to stop sinning is not by trying not to sin, but by letting ourselves fall in love with God. Love is always liberating because it pushes us into falling out of ourselves and into another. Because He is eternal, infinite, and a superabundant Love, falling in love with God is the most liberating thing of all.


Mark said...

That would have been a superb homily if you had had the opportunity to preach it.

Von Balthasar says something similar in his book on Therese of Lisieux - according to von B, after a while she just gave up on the self-asbsorbed quest to be virtuous and threw herself heart and soul into falling in love with God.

GrandmaK said...

"Love is always liberating because it pushes us into falling out of ourselves and into another. Because He is eternal, infinite, and a superabundant Love, falling in love with God is the most liberating thing of all."

Wow!! I particularly like these words. They are so graphic and real! I never imagined the love of God as "liberating" before!!! Thank you for calling my attention to this! Cathy

a secular said...

Thank you Brother Charles. I can't tell you how many times what you blogged about is what I need to hear when I needed to hear it.

phil said...

Had the great pleasure of hearing our dear friend Fr. Peter Schneible preach on this Gospel this morning and discuss the tradition of prominently featuring the penitent Mary Magdalene in Franciscan traditions and the need of all of us to be penitent.

4narnia said...

excellent post, Fr. C! you bring up some very good points. the sentence where you say: "when we love someone, we seek out time to be with that person" is so true. and, yes, this is exactly the way it is with God. the more we love and serve God and others, the happier and more free and "liberating," as you say, we will be. spending time in Adoration before the Lord Jesus is essential, i feel, because we can grow closer and closer to Him by praying in this way. from personal experience, i know that those who are worldly and don't really understand are the first ones who criticize the way we serve God and others. just this past week at one of the weekday Masses (it may have been on the feast of the Sacred Heart, i think, we heard from Jesus that: "My yoke is easy and my burden is light." all we have to do is "learn from Him," as He also instructs us to do. i've had a devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus since i was very young (about age seven) and i feel this devotion has helped me fall in love with God. it is true that "it is a simple thing to say, but a hard thing to really learn," as you also say in your post. i know that for myself, it is not always so easy - sometimes i'll pass on an opportunity to love and serve others and give in to fatigue or i'll sometimes grow impatient with someone. but, we're all sinners and we have to keep trying and keep a positive and cheerful attitude because the love of God that we experience in the Sacrament of Reconciliation is very freeing and liberating and something to rejoice about. PAX! ~tara t~

FrankCaiati said...

Rockin' "almost homily!" I say take each paragraph and slip them into the next couple of homilies you give. No explanations.

Ståle said...

Thanks for this wonderful and inspiring reflection.

breadgirl said...

Hi Brother Charles
I can't add any more to the comments that have already been made. This is a truly inspiring post - save it and preach it the first opportunity that you get. It deserves to be heard so thanks for posting it. God bless you.