Tag Archives: Sin

Who Do I Think I am Fooling?

"It is love alone that gives worth to all...

While the soul is in mortal sin nothing can profit it; none of its good works merit an eternal reward, since they do not proceed from God as their first principle, and by Him alone is our virtue real virtue. The soul separated from Him is no longer pleasing in His eyes, because by committing a mortal sin, instead of seeking to please God, it prefers to gratify the devil, the prince of darkness, and so comes to share his blackness. I knew a person to whom our Lord revealed the result of a mortal sin and who said she thought no one who realized its effects could ever commit it, but would suffer unimaginable torments to avoid it. This vision made her very desirous for all to grasp this truth therefore I beg you, my daughters, to pray fervently to God for sinners, who live in blindness and do deeds of darkness.

—-Teresa of Avila

Not everyone who says to me, “Lord, Lord”, will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only one who does the will of my Father in heaven. On that day many will say to me, “Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many deeds of power in your name?” Then I will declare to them, “I never knew you; go away from me, you evildoers.”

—-Matthew 7:21-23


 

For most of the world, good works and words equal oneness with God. The mystic Teresa of Avila and Jesus himself have something else to say. Jesus, while addressing the religious zealots of his day, points out that words and actions not grounded in the heart will leave us without peace. His message is clear. There are untold numbers of people who do things for their own self-aggrandizement and pretend that they are doing them for God. That was true then, and it’s true now. He met these people with a scathing” I never knew you” and sent them away. Teresa picked up on this theme in her writing that we use today.

She referred to the state that a soul finds itself in when mortal sin exists. I would venture to say that being absent from the grace of God is simply being present in our own grace. We are prideful creatures who love to relish in our own greatness. No matter how great our self-worth rises, there are still times when we feel threatened. In these threatening times, we are pushed to do something to prove our worth. The temptation of the garden was to have the knowledge of good and evil. When man attained this knowledge, a knowledge that was reserved for God, he was ejected from the peace of the Garden of Eden and banished into a life of struggle and toil. We are the heirs of that banishment and we must seek the path of grace. Let us consider a few facts.

· THE REALIZATION THAT WE CANNOT DO SAVE OURSELVES

Somehow, somewhere we all believe that we have the power to save ourselves. People are inbuilt with the inclination that we can do things our way, and our way is enough to please God or anybody else.

· OUR BEST EFFORTS FALL SHORT

If we can just do our best, that will be enough. We deny that we have a real sin nature and feel that steady improvement will get us to a true and solid relationship with God. The very idea that we have a serious problem with sin causes our sin nature to balk.

·THE GRACE OF GOD IS NOT FOR SALE

In our frantic path to do our best we somehow feel that we will eventually attain the price that God wants out of us. What will it take to please God short of admitting that we can’t do it on our own? That is the haunting question that cries out from our souls. The grace of God is a free gift set for distribution by the sacrifice of Jesus the Messiah on the cross.

· THERE IS NO SUCH THING AS A SELF-MADE MAN

Here in the United States, we love the story of the self-made person. The classic rags to riches stories are what makes the American dream. In our minds, we think of pleasing God by doing all the work ourselves. That “I can” attitude is deeply ingrained in us and the only way to be one with God is to say, “I can’t” and turn ourselves over to his mercy and grace.

Just as Teresa said to the Carmelites many years ago, “While the soul is in mortal sin nothing can profit it; none of its good works merit an eternal reward,” our efforts to come to God without first admitting our sin falls short. Let today be the day that we take a serious look at who we are and come to know that without grace we are not what God made us to be. Our relationship with our creator is not measured by what we do but by who we love and serve. On that day many will say to me, “Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many deeds of power in your name?” Then I will declare to them, “I never knew you; go away from me, you evildoers.”


 

Prayer

Lord, help me to see myself as I really am. Free me from the burden of working frantically to attain a salvation that is your free gift to me and the whole world. Help me to control my ego and to turn to you. May I accept my sin and ask for your grace.

Amen

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Lent Day 16

March 3

God Delights in Love

Micah 7:14-15,18-20

Shepherd your people with your staff,
the flock that belongs to you,
which lives alone in a forest
in the midst of a garden land;
let them feed in Bashan and Gilead
as in the days of old.
As in the days when you came out of the land of Egypt,
show us marvelous things.

Who is a God like you, pardoning iniquity
and passing over the transgression
of the remnant of your possession?
He does not retain his anger for ever,
because he delights in showing clemency.
He will again have compassion upon us;
he will tread our iniquities under foot.
You will cast all our sins
into the depths of the sea.
You will show faithfulness to Jacob
and unswerving loyalty to Abraham,
as you have sworn to our ancestors
from the days of old.


Prayer Thought

Lord, sin can be a heavy weight when we bear it forever. Allow me to cast my sin far away.


“No hell will frighten men away from sin; no dread of prospective misery; only goodness can cast hell out of any man, and set up the kingdom of heaven within.”

―Hugh Reginald Haweis

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A Cloud of Forgetting

If you want to enter, live, and work in this cloud of unknowing, you will need a cloud of forgetting between you and the things of this earth. Consider the problem carefully and you will understand that you are farthest from God when you do not ignore for a moment the creatures and circumstances of the physical world. Attempt to blank out everything but God.

 

— Cloud of Unknowing

WAYS TO ENTER “A CLOUD OF FORGETTING”

Consider your place

Ancient Rome Christians were reminded, “…all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” Our real dilemma is to try to unpack the meaning of that short phrase and apply it in a way that builds our faith and our witness. We are born as proud and resourceful beings. God meant for us to be able to thrive in this world but He also meant for us to be dependent on Him. As we become increasing independent, we moved far away from Him. The mystical writer challenges us to get as far away from the things of this earth as we can so we can get closer to God. We must somehow “forget” who we are, what we have accomplished, and get in a place where we can encounter God. At the same time, never forget that we are part of this world.

See your surroundings

To do this we must be fully aware of our surroundings and begin the task of stepping away for a short time just a pause. When we step away, we are then given the opportunity of communicating with God as a deeply personal friend. As long as our lives are crowded by the things of this world, we will never see God in a light that glorifies us and Him. Seeing where we are allows us to set our course to where we want to be and allows us to seek guidance along the way. The hymn writer proclaims, “Turn your eyes upon Jesus, Look full in His wonderful face; and the things of earth will grow strangely dim In the light of His glory and grace.” That is the direction of a contemplative.

Own your circumstances

No matter how hard we try, we still live in this world -we cannot escape it. We cannot ignore it and for the most part, we cannot change it. With regard to this dilemma, different people take different actions. Hermits try to escape, hedonists embrace it, and most of us just try to find balance in our lives. The call of the mystic writer is to “blank out” everything but God. We do this by recognizing the problems and cares around us and putting them in the background of our lives as we seek to be nearer to God. We don’t get closer to God by being in denial of the carnal nature that we all possess. Closeness to God comes as we recognize our situation and say to God, we seek you with all our strength.


PRAYER

Lord may I approach you with full knowledge of the baggage I carry. This knowledge that instills in me a total dependence on your grace and a trust in your promises. With such a heart I come to you today seeking knowledge only you can grant. Please allow me your presence in my life in spite of my sins. I invite you to fill my heart in this time of my need.

AMEN

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The Leaky Sack

A brother committed a fault. A council was called to which Moses was invited, but he refused to go to it. Then the priest sent someone to him, saying, “Come, for everyone is waiting for you”. So he got up and went. He took a sack, filled it with sand and cut a small hole at the bottom and carried it on his shoulders. The others came out to meet him and said, “What is this, father” The Abba said to them, “My sins run out behind me, and I do not see them, and today I am coming to judge the errors of another.” When they heard that, they said no more to the brother but forgave him.

—–Abba Moses of the Desert

If I were to say that we live in a judgmental world, it would be a surprise to no one. We are surrounded by people who make judgments on everything from the call of a referee at last Sunday’s football game to the right of someone to call themselves an American. People very neatly set up boundaries that give them permission to judge, and we just love being in the seat of judgment. From that seat we are a notch above everyone else, and it sure feels good. Jesus said: “Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.”

Abba Moses took the saying of Jesus very seriously. He was so mindful of his own sin that he knew he couldn’t possibly sit in judgment of another. His lessonabba-moses of the sack with the hole in it drives home an important point. We don’t see our own sins very clearly, how can we clearly see the sins of others? Our lives consist of a series of successes and failures that make up our journey towards God. Just as the monk didn’t see that going to a meeting of judgment was appropriate, we need to begin to get a glimpse of what is the true calling of the Christ follower. Our present age conditions us to see ourselves as far more the judges of the world rather than the light of the world.

The symbol of the leaky sack is to remind us that sins are not always seen by those who commit them and our sin is never far away from us. We do leave a trail of sin in our daily walk. That trail, however, is covered by grace that come from God’s love for us. We, in turn, need to understand grace so that we might fully receive such a gift and pass it on to others. That is the lesson of the leaking sack.


Prayer

Oh Lord, why does the wisdom of forgiveness escape us so readily? It seems so very difficult to empty ourselves of the baggage we carry. This baggage blinds us from the reality of our own weaknesses and frailty and drives us to a life of false righteousness. Help me, Lord, to tend to my own sin and allow me to live into a peace with You and my fellow sinners.

Amen

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Sins and Grace

Monk in prayer orthodoxA brother questioned Abba Poemen in this way, ‘My thoughts trouble me, making me put my sins aside, and concern myself with my brother’s faults’. The old man told him the following story about Abba Dioscorus (the monk), ‘In his cell he wept over himself, while his disciple was sitting in another cell. When the latter came to see the old man he asked him, “Father, why are you weeping?” “I am weeping over my sins,” the old man answered him. Then his disciple said, “You do not have any sins, Father.” The old man replied, “Truly, my child, if I were allowed to see my sins, three or four men would not be enough to weep for them.”

—sayings of the desert

We rarely think of the depth of our failure. Such a thought would be too overwhelming to bear. The best worldly advice we are given is to think positively. Those who fail to see the good in themselves, we are told, can be very perilous. Such a person no longer works as well, fits in the social order as well, and just seems to drag others down. The Abba gives us an important word in this saying. He challenges us to understand that in the recognition of our sins we understand the marvelous grace of God. If we had to carry the full burden of our failures, we would collapse under their weight. Yes, we must recognize and weep for our sins but God will sustain us in our weeping. And, most importantly, He will give us the grace we need.

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Prayer of a Soul Taken with Love

Lord God, my Beloved, if you still remember my sins in such a way that you do not do what I beg of you, do your will concerning them, my God, which is what I most desire, and exercise your goodness and mercy, and you will be known St. john of the Crossthrough them. And if you are waiting for my good works so as to hear my prayer through their means, grant them to me, and work them for me, and the sufferings you desire to accept, and let it be done. But if you are not waiting for my works, what is it that makes you wait, my most clement Lord? Why do you delay? For if, after all, I am to receive the grace and mercy that I entreat of you in your Son, take my mite, since you desire it, and grant me this blessing, since you also desire that. Who can free themselves from lowly manners and limitations if you do not lift them to yourself, my God, in purity of love? How will human beings begotten and nurtured in lowliness rise up to you, Lord, if you do not raise them with your hand that made them? You will not take from me, my God, what you once gave me in your only Son, Jesus Christ, in whom you gave me all I desire. Hence I rejoice that if I wait for you, you will not delay. With what procrastinations do you wait, since from this very moment you can love God in your heart? Mine are the heavens and mine is the earth. Mine are the nations, the just are mine, and mine the sinners. The angels are mine, and the Mother of God, and all things are mine; and God himself is mine and for me, because Christ is mine and all for me. What do you ask, then, and seek, my soul? Yours is all of this, and all is for you. Do not engage yourself in something less or pay heed to the crumbs that fall from your Father’s table. Go forth and exult in your Glory! Hide yourself in it and rejoice, and you will obtain the supplications of your heart.

——John of the Cross

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Self Judgment

Desert MonkA brother who was sharing lodging with other brothers asked Abba Bessarion, ‘What should I do?’ The old man replied, ‘Keep silence and do not compare yourself to others.’

—-sayings of the desert

There is no greater enemy than the enemy of self – judgment. When we compare ourselves to others, we are judging ourselves and usually looking for ways to compete with the other. This sort of behavior easily leads to jealousy and envy, emotions which ALWAYS cause us to fall into sin. Jealousy and envy become all-consuming and the next thing you know you are trying to eliminate them so they are no longer a threat.

The other side of that scenario is self – loathing. Such an attitude leads to loss of productivity, depression and destructive behavior. We must be continually be reminded that we are created in the image and likeness of God, and we are possessors of great potential. The sheer numbers of different personalities and talents are an expression of an infinite God whose possibilities are limitless.

The Abba is telling the brother and us, to keep silent and see the person that God has created. We are not all the same, but we are the crown jewel of God’s creation. In silence we discover God’s spark in our lives, and He then uses it to bring us to our full potential. As the psalmist says, ‘Be still and know that I am God….’

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It’s Not Location

Arsenius 3While still living in the palace, Abba Arsenius prayed to God in these words, ‘Lord, lead me in the way of salvation.’ And a voice came to him saying, ‘Arsenius, flee from men and you will be saved.’ Having withdrawn to a solitary life he made the same prayer again and he heard a voice saying to him, Arsenius, flee, be silent, pray always, for these are the source of sinfulness.

——-Arsenius of the Desert

Location does not cause us to sin or save us from sin. That is the message of this desert saying. At first glance such an idea takes us by surprise. Most of us think that if we get away from the bad place, the bad company ,or whatever else seems to vex us, things will automatically get better. Arsenius prayed with sincerity asking for an answer to his plight, and he thought he had found one. Going from the palace to the monastery would take care of everything. Apparently after his move, he still felt an emptiness or restlessness. He once again prayed and to his surprise heard the same answer. The fleeing he was called to do came from the inside out not the outside in.

Nothing has changed in the past 1500 years. Change begins in our hearts. Solitude is not a place; it is a condition. There are places that seem more conducive to prayer and contemplation, and we should seek them, but in the end we must find a contemplative heart. Let us not pine away over our inability to change our physical location and work diligently to change the location of our hearts.

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Joy of Work

There was in the Cells an old man called Apollo.  If someone came to find him about doing a piece of work, he would set out joyfully, saying, ‘I am going to work with Christ today, for the salvation of my soul, for that is the reward he gives.’

—-sayings of the Desert

Our world could be turned upside down if we would really take the words of this monk to heart. Finding joy and salvation in our work make the work worth doing, and worth doing well. The whole concept of working for Christ when we are doing the tasks of the day allows us to see our days through a new lens that gives us joy and meaning beyond our imagination. We must ask ourselves, what would it take for me to see my work as salvation for my soul?

children at workDefinitely it places a new perspective of what it means to work and serve. For most of us, work is a means to an end. The monk leads us to believe work is our end, and we will be incredibly rewarded for doing the tasks of the day. Implicitly, we are being told that God sends our work to us as a means of worship. Imagine the difference it could make in your life if you saw your work as an act of worship and a means of grace.

Suffer little children, and forbid them not, to come unto me: for of such is the kingdom of heaven.

—-Jesus of Nazareth

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Give Me Your Sins

Jerome was a hermit, priest, and father of the church who guided the church as it translated the Bible from Greek to Latin, the language of the people. Jerome wanted the people to read and know the Bible. He lived in Bethlehem for a time to get a feel of how Jesus lived during his earthly journey. Oral tradition tells us that while living in Bethlehem, Jerome had a dream that Jesus visited him. TheJesus Quote 7-15.14 - 1 dream was so real that he rounded up all his material blessings and offered them to Jesus. He heard the Lord declare, “I do not want your possessions.” So being a good church leader, he offered all his money to Jesus. Jesus once again declared, “I do not want your money.” Finally, in desperation, Jerome cried out, “Jesus, what do you want from me?” Jesus simply replied, “Give me your sins. That is what I came for–I came to take away your sin. Give me your sin.”

That’s really what it’s is all about. Jesus wants our sins! He asks us to love and trust Him enough to be able to give all to Him. Our Lord asks us to confess the unforgivable and feel the warmth of His grace. Many of us are far too busy trying to impress God when all He wants is for us to trust in His promise. That promise is: “Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.” As we bring our sins, He offers His rest. Jerome had it right, all Jesus wants is our sins.

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