Does sin ever dictate your spiritual life?

Let me give you an example. You have certain sins that keep cropping up, so one day you sit down and come up with a plan to conquer them. Maybe it looks something like this:

         August:      Stop being short with my kids—Work on Patience

         September:    Stop letting my eyes roam at the public pool—Work on Purity

         October:     Stop gossiping about my coworkers—Work on Charity

         November: Stop drinking a beer every night—Work on Temperance

         December: Should be holy by now

         January:     OK, never mind—Work on Humility

I’m sure some advance in virtue is possible with such a method, but all too often it just leads to disappointment. Let’s change our viewpoint. Let’s move from a model of moral striving to a life of sacramental living.

The Catechism offers us a reason why:

The ultimate end of the whole divine economy is the entry of God’s creatures into the perfect unity of the Blessed Trinity. But even now we are called to be a dwelling for the Most Holy Trinity (260).

We are made for relationship with the Triune God. This relationship has already begun, and it finds its consummation in heaven. A checklist puts too much emphasis on me, as if I have to prove my worth before God. Rather, God gives me my worth. He has made me his beloved son. He has given himself to me in a way that even my parents cannot—in my innermost being, in my heart. 

Most importantly, he has given me a way to deepen this relationship with him: the sacraments. Frequent confession renews God’s healing grace within us and helps counter our particular sins. Confession, by re-orienting us to God, instills a hunger within us for the holy Eucharist. In the Eucharist, we relish the presence of Jesus—Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity. The moment the sacred host touches our tongue, we know in faith God’s personal love for each of us individually, even if we do not emotionally experience it. This remembrance of who we are in God extends throughout the day. In moments of temptation, instead of holding on for dear life and striving not to succumb to sin, we instead simply say, Jesus, I know you dwell within me. I don’t want to leave you alone. Help me in this moment.

Instead of a checklist, perhaps you can find the local daily Mass times and schedule one in your phone every day. Perhaps every two weeks you can have a reminder pop up about going to Confession. In this simple way, the moral life focuses on relationship, a relationship that begins with Jesus: I have called you friends (John 15:15).

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