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As the Holidays wrap up and we all look forward or with trepidation to that Happy New Year, resolutions to do better or otherwise improve in some way seem all the more necessary considering the tumultuous times in which we live these days.
I find myself needing to get out of my own way in terms of trying to discern and fulfill God’s Divine Will for me. Isn’t that so often the case for so many of us. How do you get yourself out of your own way?
Several times in confession a while back, a particular priest hearing my confession would bring up these great verses from St. Paul on the degree to which from Original Sin we are all burdened by various concupiscent desires not at all in keeping with God’s will for us.
These striking words from his letter to the Romans, coming from such a towering figure in our faith, the great Apostle to the Gentiles, give me hope that I’m not at all alone in dealing with various temptations. And considering the following verses, neither are you!
I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate...For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I do. Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I that do it, but sin which dwells within me. So I find it to be a law that when I want to do right, evil lies close at hand. For I delight in the law of God, in my inmost self, but I see in my members another law at war with the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin which dwells in my members. Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! (Romans 7:15, 19-25)
Indeed have not we all felt like St. Paul at one time or another? Saying or singing “Thy Will be done” in the Lord’s Prayer at Mass but thinking “My will be done” instead! This especially can be the case these days when it seems like there are more temptations around us than ever before!
Exorcist Father Chad Ripperger has noted that God allows demons to encourage us to give into temptations to various vices, so that we might grow in holiness by fighting back with their corresponding virtues. Like St. Paul in the quotation above, we need to acknowledge our need for God’s help in fighting our many obstacles to holiness as we seek to make our way to heaven.
This means when fighting what are known as the Seven Deadly Sins we need to follow this battle plan. For the sin of pride, ask God to give you the grace to fight back with humility. For lust, chastity, for greed (also known as avarice), generosity, for wrath (excessive anger) meekness (which means being patient in the midst of difficulties); for sloth, diligence, for gluttony, temperance; and finally, for envy, charity towards others and gratitude for the graces and abilities that God has given you.
There are some good illustrations and examples of what are called the 7 deadly sins here, here, and here. They were enumerated in this form by Pope Gregory I, also known as St. Pope Gregory the Great, in the 6th century and elaborated upon by St. Thomas Aquinas in the 13th century.
St. Thomas described pride, the inordinate desire to see ourselves in our own self-centered eyes rather than God’s eyes, or, as he put it more elegantly as “an excessive desire for one’s own self which rejects subjection to God”, as a sin that could encourage us to entertain the other six more readily.
These other deadly sins can still cause a great deal of trouble, and even havoc, in our relationship not only with God, but, not coincidentally, with each other. Jesus said in His Last Supper Discourse “If you love me you’ll keep my commandments”(John 14:15).
So many of us these days, given our fallen nature, might give lip service to those Ten, but in our hearts we’re thinking, “We don’t need no stinkin’ commandments”. How’s that working out for everyone these days, folks?
When you find your good intentions, and New Year’s resolutions, to be as solid as an ice cube on a hot stove, ask Jesus and our Blessed Mother for their assistance in turning away from your sinful inclinations.
And especially now, remember that the sacrament of penance (confession) is an essential weapon, along with prayer, for much needed graces, in fighting whatever disordered temptations you may be experiencing, that would hinder you on your spiritual journey to holiness.
Remember this: that while sinful temptations are strong, you can be stronger if you ask for God’s help in prayer (and our Blessed Mother’s as well) as much and as often as you need.
St. Paul reiterated his need and desire for Divine assistance in another letter that he wrote later to the Philippians “I can do all things in him [that is, Christ] who strengthens me” (Phil 4:13).
As we head into what promises to be a tempestuous year, Satan will be prowling around especially like the roaring lion looking for someone to devour that St. Peter wrote of in his first New Testament letter (1 Pet 5:8).
Ask God to help you make whatever resolutions you make for this year last more than just a week or two. Pray not to become one of Satan’s prey!