Sunday, July 8, 2007

Falling Into Sin

1. The just man falls seven times, (Prov. 24:16) says the Book of Proverbs. Unfortunately, we have all experienced how true this is. If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves. (Cf. 1 John 1:8)

We fall often in many ways-in thought, in speech, in action, and by omission. Sometimes we fall in a moment of weakness or of impatience; at other times we sin by an act of premeditated malice. Watch and pray, Our Lord warns us, that you may not enter into temptation .(Mt. 26:41)

Our Lord also said that we must always pray and not lose heart. (Luke 18:1) In other words, we should have a spirit of prayer which is based on the love of God and keeps us close to Him. It is only when we are united to God that temptations cannot hurt us and we are protected by His grace from falling into deliberate sin.

It is idle to protest that this would require the virtue of an anchorite, and that we are entangled in all kinds of other business. Virtue is necessary for everybody, not only for anchorites. The kingdom of heaven has been enduring violent assault, and the violent have been seizing it by force. (Mt. 11:12) In order to attain to the kingdom of God, therefore, we have to do violence to our corrupted nature. A life of solitude is not essential for prayer, however. One can be busy from morning till night and pray continuously, so that his work is offered to God and done for the love of God. In this way work becomes prayer and will save us from falling into sin.

2. When we realise that we have fallen, what should we do about it? We must avoid two extreme and opposing kinds of reaction-hardness of heart, and an excessive anxiety which might lead to discouragement and loss of confidence in God's infinite mercy. Above all, we must avoid hardness of heart, and that accompanying state of indifference which causes us to become immersed in sin. Let us hope that we shall never foolishly boast: I have sinned, yet what has befallen me? for the Lord bides his time. Of forgiveness be not over-confident, adding sin upon sin. (Ecclus. 5:4-5) When we see that we have fallen into sin, let us cry out at once like the prodigal son: I will get up and go to my Father. (Luke 15:18) How unfortunate I am if I have lost the friendship of God! But God is an infinitely merciful father and I must throw myself into His arms and implore His forgiveness. When we have sinned, a good confession will give us God's forgiveness and peace of soul.

3. The second extreme to be avoided is discouragement, which can lead us to despair as Judas did. We know that God is entirely good and merciful. We know that Jesus died on the Cross for our salvation. How can we doubt that He will welcome us if we repent and return to Him?

No matter how grave and how numerous our sins may be, let us remember that the mercy of God is infinite. Let us remember that He is waiting for us, as his father waited for the prodigal son, and that He is following us like a shepherd who is searching for his lost sheep. He allowed us to fall in order to humble us and help us to realise that we are incapable of doing anything good by ourselves. Let us go to Him humbly and penitently, trusting He will give us the kiss of peace and forgiveness.