What if you made 50 out of 100 on a test? Or McDonalds got half your order correct? Or someone only paid you half of what they owed you? Would you be ok with that?
What I see is that WE the Church have been getting “pure religion” only half right.
What do I mean by that? James 1:27 states this:
“Religion that is pure and undefiled before God and the Father is this: to care for orphans and widows in their affliction and to keep oneself unstained by the world.”
Wow! The Church gets the first half bang-on correct. We are very good at Social Justice, Catholics excel at compassion and humanitarian outreach to those in need and in loving our neighbor.
But the second half? To “keep oneself unstained by the world” is an area in which we have fallen miserably short. We are now seeing how this has played out in our present day circumstances.
So how do we do this? Keep ourselves “unstained” by the world?
I confess, I struggle in the areas of pride, vanity and sensuality. The sin traps! I too am a victim of being marinated in a world view that so stains and scars my conscience that the shock value of a great deal of sin has somehow worn off.
Well, that was until recently...
The good that God is allowing to come from the disclosure of the heinous, fully mature fruit of the sin in which many of our Church leaders have fallen prey has so shaken us that we can now see areas in our own lives that are in need of God’s healing light. Our calloused consciences have been pricked and clarity of vision is now once again possible. We long to be purified and cleansed--holiness is no longer optional. And not just for the Church leadership, but for all.
The enemy’s schemes have been uncovered. St. John Chrystotom stated:
“Pay attention carefully. After the sin comes the shame; courage follows repentance. Did you pay attention to what I said? Satan upsets the order; he gives the courage to sin and the shame to repentance.”
So how do we beat it? How do we beat temptation, Satan, sin and shame?
Top five ways:
RUN! Yep--like a chicken. It worked for Joseph (Gen. 39:11-12). Don’t stand around and try to reason with temptation--just run. You will be so thankful later.
Don’t go there. You know where… just don’t even go there to begin with.
PRAY! PRAY! PRAY! Even in the midst of the temptation. “HELP ME JESUS!!!!”
Even better...PRAY BEFORE YOU ARE TEMPTEMPTED! Yes-- a daily quiet time of being intimate with God through Scripture reading and prayer- at home or in the Adoration chapel-- will do so much more good than waiting until you are tempted because intimacy with God will help you NOT WANT TO GO THERE to begin with. Intimacy with God turns what can be a dry "religion" into a beautiful "relationship". In this time of quiet He will woo you and call to your heart to love Him more than whatever it is you are tempted to leave His love for- you know, whatever it is you want to choose over Him. Pray for a delicate conscience and a heart that loves God more each day.
Accountability. Find a trusted friend or better yet-- a good confessor. Have them help hold you accountable and encourage you to replace the temptation of sin with SOMETHING GREATER...Jesus! And if and when you do fall prey and find yourself--”stained by this world”...bring your dirty laundry to God. He is in the business of making all things new--of giving us a clean start and a new heart. And in the Sacrament of Confession* He even gives us the grace to help us to do better.(CCC1458)
We will always be tempted to sin-- but it is not the TEMPTATION that is the sin. It is the GIVING IN TO THE TEMPTATION THAT IS THE SIN.
But thanks be to God here is what He promises:
“No trial (temptation) has come to you but what is human. God is faithful and will not let you be tried (tempted) beyond your strength; but with the trial (temptation) he will also provide a way out, so that you may be able to bear it.” 1 Corinthians 10:13.
Don’t be half-right when it comes to being “pure and undefiled” before God. Lean into Him more and more each day and ask that His grace flow abundantly and freely into your life.
“Come now, let us set things right, says the LORD: Though your sins be like scarlet, they may become white as snow; Though they be red like crimson, they may become white as wool. If you are willing, and obey, you shall eat the good things of the land…" Isaiah 1:18-19.
Help me. I do not want to be only half-right. I want to be all Yours. I want to be compassionate to the world but not sucked in by the world or its standards. Please help me to remain pure and undefiled, help my heart to be always turned towards You. And when I do fall prey to temptation, I ask that You in Your mercy and grace, allow my conscience to be pierced and to quickly have clarity of vision to see my sin and its effects before it becomes “full grown” (James 1:15)** in order to repent and take the steps needed to be lovingly reconciled back to You. I love You Lord, help me to love You more.
I ask this in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. Amen.
*Steps in the Rite of Reconciliation (Confession)
The penitent can go to confession privately behind a screen or face-to-face with the priest.
1. Begin by making the Sign of the Cross and greeting the priest: “Bless me, Father, for I have sinned.”
2. Then continue: “My last confession was ... (weeks, months, or years) ago.”
3. Confess your sins to the priest. He will help you make a good confession. If you are unsure of how to confess or you feel uneasy, ask him to help you. Answer his questions without hiding anything out of fear or shame. Place your trust in God, a merciful Father who wants to forgive you.
4. Following your confession of sins, say: “I am sorry for these and all of my sins.”
5. The priest will assign you a penance and offer advice to help you be a better Catholic. The penance imposed will take into account your personal situation and support your spiritual good. It may be a prayer, an offering, works of mercy, service or sacrifice; but it joins us in some way to Christ and to the cross.
6. Say an Act of Contrition, expressing sorrow for your sins such as: “My God,I am sorry for my sins with all my heart. In choosing to do wrong and failing to do good, I have sinned against you whom I should love above all things. I firmly intend, with your help, to do penance, to sin no more, and to avoid whatever leads me to sin. Our Savior Jesus Christ suffered and died for us. In his name, my God, have mercy.”
7. The priest, acting in the person of Christ, then will absolve you from your sins by saying the Prayer of Absolution, to which you make the Sign of the Cross and respond, “Amen.”
8. The priest will offer some proclamation of praise, such as “Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good,” to which you respond, “His mercy endures forever.”
9. The priest will dismiss you. Because sin often harms others, you must make satisfaction for your sins by completing your penance. It is good practice to perform it as soon as you are able.
The humility required in confessing and completing penance helps us submit to God’s will and follow him more closely. Confession is a blessing, offering peace, a clear mind and a hopeful heart.
**”Blessed is the man who perseveres in temptation, for when he has been proved he will receive the crown of life that he promised to those who love him. No one experiencing temptation should say, ‘I am being tempted by God’, for God is not subject to temptation to evil, and he himself tempts no one. Rather, each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. Then desire conceives and brings forth sin, and when sin reaches maturity it gives birth to death.” James 1:12-15