Tag Archives: seven deadly sins

Love

More than a virtue

“God is Love.” – 1 John 4:8

“‘For what quality must I love you?’ ‘For no quality! To regard me for any quality of mind or understanding, were only to esteem me.'” – The Rivals by Lord Sheridan

There are many things called love. We love our new car, classical music, animals, sunsets, spouse and God, but do we really love God in the same sense as our car? Clearly, one word is working overtime to express too many meanings. The ancient Greeks didn’t have this problem because they had several words for love, including affection, the love of family, sexual love, altruistic (perfect) and one that is complicated enough to require a story to explain. The first four are covered very well in C.S. Lewis’ book, The Four Loves. The first three are covered sufficiently in popular culture, so our focus will be on the last two.

The only perfect love is disinterested and freely given. In The Rivals, by Lord Sheridan, Julia asks Faulkland what quality of his would be an acceptable basis for love. His reply is that no quality is acceptable, that her love must be given for no particular quality of his. Faulkland demands perfect love, not a love moved by a pleasing look or noble birth, but love given without reason.

This is the love God gives. We possess no quality attractive to God and have nothing to give that God requires, including our worship. The vain and silly notion is sometimes put forward that God has need of our worship and praise, but this makes no sense if we take God to be the Creator of all and utterly complete in Himself. God loves us because we exist, and we exist because He loves us. This is not a circular argument: it is not an argument at all. God is love, and so He created us so we might be loved. He gave us free will so we could love others in the way He does. It is nothing less than astonishing that we can love as God loves; it is equally astonishing that we have consistently refused to do so.

To love as God loves is to love without reason, without thought of return, without bound. It is to desire the best for others, but not to decide what is best for them. It is to desire happiness for others without necessarily knowing what will make them happy. It means helping others reach their potential, but not running their lives. It means being involved in others’ lives while keeping our own self interest out of it, being willing to suffer great loss rather than use the other person for our own benefit.

Jesus gave us the perfect example, saving a world he could not live in for long. He did not seek his own private happiness in this life, but gave everything he had for our benefit, taking nothing from us during his life and dying utterly abandoned.

Some will comment that this is a sick attitude toward love, and that it supports abusive relationships, but that is mixing romantic delusions in with the highest love, and it will not work. Perfect love must be given from a position of power, not helplessness, and requires freedom as well. Both of these factors, power and freedom, must be present, and a person being abused will have to get free of the abuse before they can love the abuser perfectly. It may be that the abuser must be kept at a distance for love to be possible, so that the one abused can have the necessary freedom and power. Again, this is not about romantic love, but wanting the best for the person. In some cases, it may be necessary to leave someone permanently if we are to love them perfectly. This can be painful for both, but in Jesus we have an example of loving so much it hurts.

Quite possibly there is no greater danger to love than the pretenders of romance, affection, infatuation, lust or duty. Love is made to excuse many sins, and ignoble motives are often buried under protestations of love. To love perfectly is to be a bit colder in some respects, not relying on emotion but on resolution. Love is not a feeling, it is a decision. In deciding to love, we have the full power of God’s Grace in us, for He always supports love and gives us the ability to channel it. In fact, it is never we who love, but rather we become channels of God’s love, floodgates of love from Heaven, letting God love through us. This is the highest calling possible, and completely possible for every human being.

For Continued Reading

The Catechism of the Catholic Church, paragraph 2536

“The Four Loves,” by C.S. Lewis

“New Seeds of Contemplation,” by Thomas Merton

“The Little Flowers of St. Francis”

The Seven Deadly Sins: Greed

A Fear of Failure, A Fear of Need

“He who loves money never has money enough” – cf. Sirach 5:8

“You shall not covet your neighbor’s house. You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or his manservant or maidservant, his ox or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor.” – Exodus 20:17

“But I trust in you, O LORD; I say, ‘You are my God.'” – Psalm 31:14

There are at least three forms of greed:
1) an obsessive desire for ever more material goods and the attendant power.
2) a fearful need to store up surplus goods for a vaguely defined time of want.
3) a desire for more earthly goods for their own sake.

The Greed of Power

In this form, earthly goods are chiefly a means to an end, which is really not that far off from a healthy view. The money, real estate, cars are simply things used to achieve, wield and display personal power. These things can be used to intimidate or bribe others, reinforce one’s own illusions about what is important or to build up a feeling of success. The “products of wealth,” as the Jethro Tull song (“Slipstream”) puts it.

The real problem here is more the desire for power than the actual greed. A common thread for sin in general is that it is often borne out of fear. A fear of helplessness or loss of control can turn into a lust for power as a way of preventing an undesirable situation. The parable of the man with an abundant harvest is well worth considering.

To destroy our desire for power, we must be generous in granting power to others. When appropriate, be submissive to others. Avoid jobs that are a temptation for a “power grab.” Share credit for successes with others, and claim a fair share of responsibility for failures being blamed on others. The idea is to stop trying to control everything and everyone. In parenting, this means encouraging children to find their own way, and respecting their choices. It does not mean abdicating legitimate responsibilities, but loosening our grip on others’ lives as well as our own. God will take care of us, He has the plan. We can’t control everything anyway, so we might as well learn to relax in God’s hands.

The Greed of Fear

Fear is a poor motivator for virtue, but an excellent one for greed. Sometimes, greed is simply a desire to have so much that we can’t possibly run out. The stock market could crash, we could lose our jobs or health, we could be sued. If we acquire enough stock, real estate, or T-bills, we think we will be safe from want. This is an illusion. There is no perfect preventative for want, but even if there was it would stand in opposition to the trust in God to which we are called. Jesus said, “Perfect love casts out fear.” Trust in God frees us from a need to build a massive buffer against poverty.

Part of the cure may be to embrace poverty. We may not become homeless, but we can learn to do with less. Serious campers try to leave their campsite in the same state they found it. Ideally, there should be no trace left when they move on. In the same way, try to use less of the world’s goods. “Live simply, that others may simply live.” Once this kind of freedom is practiced, we realize that we don’t need that much, anyway. This knowledge, in turn, reduces our fear and builds a kind of strength and confidence.

The Greed of Acquisition and Enslavement

This is slavery, plain and simple. We can reduce ourselves to a small and cold desire to accumulate more electronic gear, trading cards, antiques or other collectibles. It is far beneath the dignity of human beings to enslave themselves to objects of their own making. It is well said that our possessions in some ways may come to own us.

The obvious cure is to divest oneself of as much as possible, but another suggestion might be to consider the grave. When we die, we take nothing with us. If we are bound by “disordered attachments” to worldly goods, the separation forced upon us by death will be even more painful. If we are destined for eternal glory, the temporary enjoyment of trinkets in this life is simply absurd. Meditation on this begins to loosen the grip of objects on the heart.

For Continued Reading

The Catechism of the Catholic Church, paragraph 2536

“Mere Christianity,” by C.S. Lewis

“New Seeds of Contemplation,” by Thomas Merton

“The Little Flowers of St. Francis”

Humility, Obedience and Charity

On reading this again, it is apparent that it also applies to any job: it describes a Christian attitude to work. Please let us know what you think.

Most of us have known someone that worked in the Church and yet displayed a less than Christian attitude in the midst of it. You know the type: the woman that dusts the windowsills and gets very upset when flower-holders are installed that get in her way. She makes everyone miserable while congratulating herself on the faithfulness of her service to God. Or how about the man that has read the Scriptures at church every third Sunday for 19 years, and now can’t cope with a change in the placement of his chair, or the Bible translation he is to read?

If you are starting to be active in the Church, through lectoring, singing, teaching, or whatever, you would be wise to consider the bad example of so many and begin to pray earnestly to avoid the pitfalls of Church service.

Many priests, nuns and brothers take vows of Poverty, Chastity and Obedience. These are known collectively as the Evangelical Counsels, because the Gospel recommends them. A married friend of mine, married a very long time, says that we all take these vows: Poverty because we can’t have everything we want, Chastity because we can’t have all the pleasures we want, and Obedience because none of us can do everything we want. Lay people sometimes have problems relating to these counsels, though, so I would like to suggest another three that can be derived from Scripture, and will help us serve our brothers and sisters in the Church without succumbing to the temptations of “Church work.”

Humility

Worldly people often sneer at monks, priests and nuns and say “That’s easy for them! They don’t have to fight for their bread every day like us!” As lay people, we can take pride in our accomplishments and think that we are tougher than people who have “escaped the world.” We can begin to consider ourselves as more important than others, and more capable of dealing with the “hard realities of life.” This is called Pride, the worst sin of all.

If we work in the Church, we may be tempted to examine the importance of what we do relative to the work of others in the Church. We may begin to think that we “own” the ministry we are engaged in. Even our pastor may be afraid to dislodge us, because he needs the help, and doesn’t want to lose us. We may become petty tyrants over altar cloth or prayer services. We may even lose sight of our Lord in our obsession with His work.

In humility, we do not minimize our work, but we do evaluate it in the “big picture.” If we are successful in business, we may realize that we have a duty to be fair and honest as a witness to the worldly. In humility, we acknowledge that the cloistered brothers and sisters support us by their prayers constantly, as they pray for the whole Church. We offer our help humbly, to the Church, to the young people starting out in business, to our customers. We remember that all good comes from God, and that He can take it away, too. We are stewards of the money we receive, and we must spend it as God desires, not just for our own entertainment.

Performing Church work with humility brings joy to us and to others. We take pleasure in knowing that our pastors or other leaders can ask us to change times, locations, methods or duties without worrying about our reaction. “Remember that he whom you serve is the Lord.” This does not mean that we never say “no”, but that “no” comes from a good reason, not from pride or habit. We may feel that a change in the time of our service would impact our family in a bad way, or that some practice will be irreverent. Honest and open communication in a spirit of Love really works among holy people. If you are not blessed with holy leaders, do the best you can. Whenever possible, “defer to one another out of reverence for Christ.”

Humility puts us in a right relation to God and others. This is an essential starting point for service in the Church.

More: Padre Quadrupani

Obedience

A good question when buying a car: ask the salesperson what kind of car they drive. If they won’t buy the brand they sell; why not?

Any Catholic that works in any kind of ministry is engaging in a kind of teaching ministry. The Eucharistic Ministers teach the sanctity and importance of the Eucharist, and testify to the Real Presence. Altar servers teach the sanctity of the Mass, as do the singers, altar society and ushers. Those that work to help the homeless or that protest abortion teach us about the sanctity of life. Every Christian action in ministry is the Church fulfilling its role as herald of the Truth.

Once we commit ourselves to humility, we know that God makes demands of us, and that we are subject to the teaching of the Church founded by Jesus Christ. If we do not obey Church teaching, and are not repentant, we are not good servants, and still have pride. Like the car salesperson, if we won’t live the teachings of the Church we claim to work for, we are hypocrites, saying one thing and doing another. Of course, we may say the Church is wrong, but then we are spreading doubt, not faith, because if we say we know better in our twenty or forty years than the Church does in all the Saints and ages, why should anyone put faith in any of it? Like so many parents say as the children wander about at the open door: “In or out, in or out!”

Get a copy of the new Catechism of the Catholic Church, and read it. If anything bothers you, study and search for an answer. Try hard to accept it. Talk to a priest, or several people that you know have given the matter thought and can express themselves clearly. Mail me if you have to, but keep knocking until you get an answer you can live with!

As any parent knows, obedience is difficult to develop. We have strong wills. Pray for the humility to be obedient.

Charity

Once we are on the road to humility, and are committed to obeying the teachings of the Church, charity (also known as love) becomes possible. Without humility, we may invent our own kind of (self-serving) love. Without obedience, our love will be lost for lack of a shepherd. In humility, we accept God’s definition of Love. In obedience, we commit to carrying out the demands of Love. Love perfects zeal, brings endurance and oils the parts of the Church, which is us. In love, we can bear patiently the faults of others. Love is a great power, and allows us to serve God through others past the point of exhaustion. A life filled with God’s Love is a great light to the world, and draws many people to Jesus.

A life of service rendered to God’s people in Humility, Obedience and Charity will be truly fertile: attended by conversions, beauty and joy. Why would anyone desire less?