Friday, April 5, 2013

Devotion for today: Whack - that - sin!

I must admit that one of my favorite arcade games is Whack-a-mole. The idea is to whack a fake mole as soon as he pops his head up from the game box. It requires careful attention and quick action to bop him before he disappears into the game box again. It reminds me of my battle with repetitive sins. Really, it does, and here is why.
 Sister Frances Cabrini taught me, when I was seven years old, that this is the way to approach Confession: I must spend time finding out what my sins are; I must be sorry for my sins; I must make up my mind never to commit those sins again; I must tell those sins to the priest, and I must do the penance the priest gives me. I learned that in the second grade, and it is as true today as it was then. Those are the steps to a good confession.
Whack-a-mole focuses on the step which states that I must make up my mind never to commit the sins again. God is pleased, ready and waiting to extend His gift of mercy to us when we confess our sins. He assures us that we are forgiven, when we read Jesus’ words to the woman caught in the act of adultery:

Jesus straightened up and asked her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” “No one, sir,” she said. “Then neither do I condemn you,” Jesus declared. “Go now and leave your life of sin.”(John 8:10-11).

Aha! There it is. Go and leave your life of sin. He means we are to stop committing the sins that brought us to confession in the first place. I must make up my mind to do that. I must take responsibility for my own life. I must stop blaming everyone and every situation for causing my poor behavior. It was a funny line in the ‘70’s to say, “The devil made me do it!’ but the devil only has as much power as we allow him to have over us. So we must treat our sinful tendencies as moles in the game, and they must be whacked as soon as they raise their ugly heads.
If I have a tendency to a judgmental attitude, and I find myself thinking, as I am walking up the Communion line, “What was that lady thinking? How could she wear those boots with that skirt?” then that is a mole for me and I must whack it as soon as it starts. I must stop the thought and jump into a prayer, immediately and with careful attention to my words. I cannot pray like the Pharisee in this passage from Luke:

The Pharisee stood by himself and prayed: 'God, I thank you that I am not like other people--robbers, evildoers, adulterers--or even like this tax collector.’(Luke 8:11),

 I cannot say, “Thank you God that I have fashion sense and please give this poor woman some.” That is another sin of pride, so before I even get to Communion I have sinned twice! No, a good, responsible prayer would be, “Dear God, please rid me of this judgmental attitude. Please bless this woman whom you have brought into my line of vision so that I may pray for her needs. Bless her and me, dear Lord, as you see fit.” 
See, now I have taken responsibility for my sin. I have taken myself seriously when I said I would sin no more. I have focused on my weakness and found a way to whack it.
 Just because we want our tendencies to go away simply by confessing the sin doesn’t mean it is going to happen. We took many years in getting into the ruts we are in today. But we can get out of them by consciously attacking the temptation the minute it pops up.
 You know how to delete a pop-up on your computer. Well, do it in your life. Come up with a good prayer and use it quickly to avoid a lust-filled website, a juicy piece of gossip that only you know, a hateful remark to the gentleman or lady who just darted in front of you in traffic. Be serious about changing your life – the result is peace, joy and mercy. Since we are preparing for the wonderful feast of Divine Mercy this Sunday, let us take a look at how Jesus addresses our efforts to remove sin in His conversations with St. Faustina in her Diary (1488):

You see, My child, what you are of yourself. The cause of your falls is that you rely too much upon yourself and too little on Me. But let this not sadden you so much. You are dealing with the God of mercy, which your misery cannot exhaust. Remember, I did not allot only a certain number of pardons.

(1488) Do not lose heart in coming for pardon, for I am always ready to forgive you.

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