Sin is subtle. Sin is sneaky. Sometimes you can be so blinded to it you think you are pretty well-off sinwise. In that case I have some bad news for you: everyone sins. If you think you don’t, you suffer from Pride. Seriously.
Satan is the subtlest of beasts. If he can’t make you sin outright, he will attempt to steer you away from the greater good. Sin is anything that takes you away from God’s will for you. It can be an obvious sin against the 10 Commandments, such as murder, or it can be a subtler form of the same sin like deciding to drink that extra glass of wine that tips you over the edge of drunkenness. You haven’t murdered yourself, but you have damaged a few brain cells and made yourself incapable of safely driving or making good decisions until the effects wear off, which isn’t good.
Sin is a matter of degree. It can be an inward inclination or an exterior action. It can be as serious as murder or as subtle allowing yourself to hate. I have already discussed the nature of sin, so instead of going any further along the road of debating the nature of sin, I’m instead attempting to arm you for battle against it. Since this is the month for making resolutions this is a good time to discuss your personal battle against yourself, the battle against sin.
Just like the 10 Commandments can be used to diagnose sinfulness, so too can the Church’s 2,000 year understanding of the nature of sin. The Church has helpfully categorized the sins that completely corrupt our relationship with God as the following: Pride, Envy, Gluttony, Lust, Anger, Greed, and Sloth. These are defined below:
Click on the sin for a more in-depth review.
Pride is excessive belief in one’s own abilities, that interferes with the individual’s recognition of the grace of God. It has been called the sin from which all others arise. Pride is also known as Vanity.
Envy is the desire for others’ traits, status, abilities, or situation.
Gluttony is an inordinate desire to consume more than that which one requires.
Lust is an inordinate craving for the pleasures of the body.
Anger is manifested in the individual who spurns love and opts instead for fury. It is also known as Wrath.
Greed is the desire for material wealth or gain, ignoring the realm of the spiritual. It is also called Avarice or Covetousness.
Sloth is the avoidance of physical or spiritual work.
(from the website: The Seven Deadly Sins)
To battle these sins, one must cultivate the opposite virtue. According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church, a virtue is merely a habit of doing good (CCC 1803). As such you can develop and strengthen your virtue with practice, so there is hope for even the most habituated of sinners!
The 7 Capital Sins and their Contrary Virtues
Unrestrained appreciation of our own worth
Immoderate desire for earthly goods
Hankering for impure pleasures
Inordinate desire for revenge
Unrestrained use of food and drink
Sorrow over another’s good fortune
Laxity in keeping the Faith and the practice of virtue
Humility battles pride, kindness envy, abstinence gluttony, chastity lust, patience anger, liberality greed, and diligence sloth. Here is a brief definition of each of these Virtues.
Humility is the honest recognition of our total dependence on God, a recognition of our strengths and weaknesses, and a recognition that both are meant for His service. Our strengths are given us in order to do His work in service to the Body of Christ and our weaknesses are to remind us to rely on Him alone while doing it.
Liberality could be called generosity. It is habit of using our resources, our time and our talents in the service of God.
Chastity is the control of one’s senses so that the sexual drive does not control us but rather we it. It brings our desires for sexual union under the control of the intellect so that we are not enslaved and limited by so powerful an urge.
Meekness is the habit of placing others’ needs above one’s own. It is the habit borne of patience.
Temperance is the practice of keeping a good from going bad. It is the act of staying in control of the senses so that one is not overwhelmed or dehumanized by life’s pleasures. The daily practice of Temperance reminds us that we are not to be enslaved by anything, even a good thing like pleasure.
Brotherly Love is the happiness we feel or the happiness we choose to dwell upon in the face of another’s blessings. It is the joy we feel when our coworker receives a promotion and it is purposefully turning away from the twinges of jealousy our feelings may concurrently generate.
Diligence is the decision to fulfill the responsibilities our state in life demands of us. It is changing a dirty diaper for a parent, praying the Liturgy of the Hours for the Religious, and studying hard for the student.
If you have no idea what your habitual or primary sin is, your spiritual director or regular confessor can guide you. If he can not, I might suggest finding a new confessor in the New Year. Make a study of 7 Deadly Sins and the Virtues you will need to develop to combat them. Remember that prayer is the first step in any spiritual battle. Ask God for Virtues and ask Him for insight into your character. Pray always, my friends, and tend your garden. He wants you to grow in holiness. Ask and you shall receive.
Meanwhile as my gift to you, here is a lovely prayer you can begin with: It is a part of my personal New Year’s Resolution. Enjoy…
Litany of Humility
Rafael Cardinal Merry del Val (1865-1930),
Secretary of State for Pope Saint Pius X
O Jesus! meek and humble of heart, Hear me.
From the desire of being esteemed,
Deliver me, Jesus. From the desire of being loved…
From the desire of being extolled …
From the desire of being honored …
From the desire of being praised …
From the desire of being preferred to others…
From the desire of being consulted …
From the desire of being approved …
From the fear of being humiliated …
From the fear of being despised…
From the fear of suffering rebukes …
From the fear of being calumniated …
From the fear of being forgotten …
From the fear of being ridiculed …
From the fear of being wronged …
From the fear of being suspected …
That others may be loved more than I,
Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.
That others may be esteemed more than I …
That, in the opinion of the world,
others may increase and I may decrease …
That others may be chosen and I set aside …
That others may be praised and I unnoticed …
That others may be preferred to me in everything…
That others may become holier than I, provided that I may become as holy as I should…
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