Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
Of the many things I am blessed to experience, offering the Sacrament of Confession ranks near the top of the list of positive experiences. If I ever make it to heaven, I want to know how many confessions I have heard! In a parish like ours, that number is high, thanks be to God! I love helping people reconcile with God! That being said, many of us have pits in our stomachs about not being able to make progress in overcoming a particular sin that we confess over and over. They drag us down. I hear the frustration in people's voices in confession and I have experienced that in my own life.
The Church outlines seven deadly sins. They are deadly for many reasons, but certainly because they inspire further sin—not good. They are pride, greed, lust, envy, gluttony, wrath, and sloth. But here's the good thing.
There are virtues which help us overcome these sins and rather than focusing on sins, we should turn our attention to the virtues which break the bonds of sin. In other words, we can match the deadly sins with their corresponding virtues.
Chastity overcomes the sin of lust. Mother Teresa once said that every man in the western world should pray three Hail Mary's for chastity each morning. Her statement had a two-fold meaning. First, men (and many women), struggle with purity. Secondly, our culture is saturated with sexual impurity. We need the armor of preemptive prayer for chastity as it calms lust. Two amazing programs that have inspired many men and women are Exodus 90 (exodus90.com) for men and Magnify 90 (www.mag90.com) for women.
Generosity overcomes the sin of greed. We want a lot of stuff but that stuff can block our path to Christ. There is a book about stewardship called, What Do I Own and What Owns Me? The author's thesis is that we've long defined stewardship in terms of 10% of our time, talent and treasure. But what about the other 90%? Do we glorify God with all our gifts? Do we use them for the good of others? Being intentionally generous combats the sin of greed.
Temperance overcomes the sin of gluttony. St. Paul says, "All things are lawful for me, but all things are not helpful. All things are lawful for me, but I will not be brought under the power of any. " Let's put this simply. I can have two donuts but can I not enjoy one just the same? Gluttony produces self-gratification and produces little gods in our lives. Temperance is our quest to control these desires. Temperance also builds temperance. That is, being moderate in one thing allows us to be moderate in others.
Kindness overcomes the sin of envy. Prayers of thanksgiving whenever you are jealous is one of the best ways to overcome jealousy. God blesses each of us in different ways. Envy will cause rifts in relationships--with God and others. Look at your life with gratitude instead of counting the ways God "hasn't" blessed you. The enemy loves it when you focus on what you don't have.
Meekness overcomes the sin of anger. Praying for enemies is a difficult biblical mandate. When Jesus faced angry mobs, He prayed for them. This is hard in our impatient world. How often do we become consumed by trivial matters? Think of Jesus' example and pray for meekness and patience.
Humility overcomes the sin of pride. When Adam and Eve ate the forbidden fruit, they turned on one another in pride. The devil's sin was pride and he works hard to tempt us into thinking of ourselves as gods. A humble heart realizes that one true God has given us everything.
Diligence overcomes the sin of sloth. We all have duties and we need to pray for diligence to fulfill them. Sloth tempts us in to be lazy. I have a friend who gave up the snooze button on his alarm clock. He stands up immediately and recites Psalm 95, also known as the invitatory psalm which starts the day. He says it sets the tone for the rest of the day.
Focus on virtues instead of sins. It can make all the difference.BACK TO LIST