A Catholic Convert in Ottawa

Posts Tagged ‘sin

As I pushed my cart through the store aisles this morning, Duffy’s song “Mercy” began to play over the loudspeaker.

It got me thinking about mercy—how we experience it, how we show it to others, and how we benefit from God’s mercy.

As children, we might think of mercy as that game where people try to bend back each other’s hands until they give up and say, “Mercy!” When we’re older, we might think of mercy as the kindness we show to those in dire need—such as the victims of a natural disaster, war or persecution—or as something a leader or a judge exercises in sparing a prisoner from a harsh sentence.

Every day, whether we realize it or not, we benefit from God’s mercy. Every day, we fall short of his expectations. Deliberately or not, we hurt others; we fail to show kindness even when it would cost us little; we refuse to recognize others’ needs, rights, dignity and humanity. Yet God continues to give us opportunities to learn from and correct our mistakes. To do better. To become more like him.

Do we ever wonder why? Read these words from Psalm 103:8-12*:

The LORD is merciful and gracious,

slow to anger and abounding in mercy.

He will not always chide,

nor will he keep his anger for ever.

He does not deal with us according to our sins,

nor repay us according to our iniquities.

For as the heavens are high above the earth,

so great is his mercy toward those who fear him;

as far as the east is from the west,

so far does he remove our transgressions from us.

Since we’re called to become more like Christ, if that’s what we truly want, then why do we hang onto our anger or hold grudges or vow to make others pay for their wrongs against us? Are we like the unmerciful servant who, forgiven his own debt, threw a fellow servant into prison until he paid what he owed (see Matthew 18:23-35)?

If God held onto his anger, if he paid us in full for our sins, if he insisted on our being able to repay what we owed without giving us the chance to repent and be forgiven, would we be able to stand before him?

May we remember these words of the Lord as he passed before Moses, being thankful that he is a merciful God and striving to be more like him:

“The LORD, the LORD, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in mercy and faithfulness, keeping merciful love for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin. . . .”

~ Exodus 34:6-7

(*Scripture quotes taken from the Holy Bible, Revised Standard Version, 2nd Catholic Edition.)

 

 

snufflin gbulldog

Cute as she is, even my bulldog is tempted to steal shoes in order to get a treat.

I might be tempted to buy a milk chocolate bar even though I’m trying to eat better, a book in the discount section of the bookstore when I have a stack at home, or yet another magazine about getting organized. (If no one reading this would be similarly tempted, it’s helpful to remember I’m a neat freak.)

It might seem that people give in to temptation more easily today, but I doubt that’s true. Consider what Oscar Wilde wrote in The Picture of Dorian Gray: “The only way to get rid of a temptation is to yield to it.” And actress Mae West said, “I generally avoid temptation unless I can’t resist it.”

But giving in to temptation isn’t our only option, as Jesus’ example shows.

Remember that even Jesus was tempted. The Gospel reading for yesterday’s Mass told us Jesus “was in the wilderness forty days, tempted by Satan” (Mark 1:13*). As our parish priest pointed out in his homily, temptation comes in our area of weakness. Matthew 4 tells us Jesus had been fasting for forty days and nights, and Satan first tempted him to satisfy his hunger (Matthew 4:3): “And the tempter came and said to him, ‘If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread.’” Jesus resisted temptation, drawing on the scriptures in his responses to Satan (see Matthew 4).

We need to remind ourselves, as our priest also stressed, that temptation is not sin; we sin when we give in to temptation. If being tempted were the same as sinning, we would not find these words about Jesus in Hebrews 4:15:

For we have not a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sinning.

We can take comfort in the fact that Jesus, in his time on earth, was tempted, and so he knows what we go through. We can remind ourselves that we haven’t sinned until we’ve given in to what tempts us. We can draw strength from Jesus’ example, from the scriptures and from the Catechism. And if we do give in to temptation, we can receive God’s forgiveness through the sacrament of reconciliation and, like King David, ask God to cleanse us of our sins and “put a new and right spirit” in us (see Psalm 51).

(*Scripture quotes and references taken from the Holy Bible, Revised Standard Version, Second Catholic Edition.)


Food for Thought

(Y)ou do not know about tomorrow. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we shall live and we shall do this or that.” ~ James 4:14-15

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