Wednesday, January 14, 2009


Forum on Sin, March 23, 2003

From the Book of Common Prayer

Baptismal promise
Q. Will you persevere in resisting evil, and, whenever you fall into sin, repent and return to the Lord?
A. I will, with God’s help

Outline of the Faith
Q. What is sin?
A. Sin is the seeking of our own will instead of the will of God, thus distorting our relationship with God, with other people, and with all creation.

Q. How does sin have power over us?
A. Sin has power over us because we lose our liberty when our relationship with God is distorted.

From Msgr. Chester Michael
The goal of the spiritual life is to increase in these loves:
  • Love of God
  • Love of Neighbors
  • friends and family
  • the poor
  • enemies
  • Love of Creation
  • Love of Self

3 P’s: Possessions, Pleasure, Power, a..k.a. The World, the Flesh and The Devil
When these things are abused they are obstacles to grace, distortions of the truth. They carry so much energy that when they become our ultimate goals, they become like evil spirits. Because these things are good and attractive, we tend to make them an absolute good, to idolize them. They are ways of seeking security in an insecure world. These are the fundamental spiritual conditions that are at the root of the deadly sins.
These involve the three basic relationships around which our whole life revolves. Think about how these distort our relationships.

  • Pleasure – ourselves and bodies. Do we make our bodies little gods?
  • Possessions – our neighbors. If we’re concerned with acquiring more possessions we may fail in our duty to love and serve others.
  • Power – attitude to God. Do we try to usurp God’s authority?

The Desert Demons – Jesus temptation in the wilderness. Confronting Satan, wrestling with each of these dilemmas.
  • First temptation: turn stones to bread. Satisfy bodily pleasure
  • Second temptation: possession of all the earth in return for worshiping Satan
  • Third temptation: power over nature. Leap from the pinnacle of the temple. A wrong use of power and act of pride.

Traditional remedies:
Jesus told his disciples that some evil spirits can only be cast out by prayer and fasting.
Prayer – we acknowledge our dependence on God’s power. We recognize our total dependence on God. We acknowledge the truth about our motives and actions. We submit our will to God’s will.
Fasting – we bring our attraction to sensual pleasure under control. Self-discipline. Moderation in food and drink.
Almsgiving – we become detached from our excessive love of money and possessions. This is generally synonymous with the love of neighbor. We need to share our gifts with others. We need to give our money but also our time and talent.

Deadly Sins - Abuses of love

Pride is the beginning of all abuses of love. The exaggerated love of one’s own excellence to the contempt of God. Showing contempt for God by treating him as a thing rather than a person. Treating other people with contempt or using them for our own purposes. Being wrapped up in our own interests and having no time to be concerned about anyone else. Having an excessive desire for the approval of others.

There is legitimate anger directed against real evil. It becomes evil when it is uncontrolled or used to defend our egos. The desire to attack violently anyone who is a threat to us. Threatening our high estimate of ourselves or our possessions. It may be provoked when something shows us faults or weaknesses in ourselves. Rather than face these, we turn the anger outwards against the person troubling us.

A modern term for covetousness is addiction. The covetous person has such an overwhelming desire for the things of this world that he will go to any extreme to obtain them. It points to a deep insecurity, emptiness, dissatisfaction that has to be filled up with things.

Gluttony: The excessive desire for the pleasures of food and drink. We need to learn moderation about food and drink as an exercise in self-control.

Greed: The exaggerated love of money and material goods. This is a sign of our insecurity. We need to try to counteract it by increasing our confidence in God.

Lust: The exaggerated desire for the pleasures of sex. Sex need to be balanced with unselfish love to redeem it.

Sloth: “The evil sadness that overtakes us at the prospect of the hard labor required to attain something good” (St. Thomas Aquinas). Growth to maturity requires hard work. Sloth shows itself as boredom with prayer, procrastination about anything requiring effort, resentment at anyone, including God, who makes demands of us.

Envy: “The evil sadness we feel toward the success of others” (St. Thomas Aquinas). Someone else’s accomplishments or good fortune offend us, diminish us. We feel pain at hearing someone else praised. We may try to hurt the other’s reputation. Envy can easily grow into hatred.

Traditional and Contemporary Deadly Sins

Most of this material is taken from A New Day, by the Rev. Msgr. Chester P. Michael, The Open Door Inc., Charlottesville, VA

Music: Kate Campbell, Ten Thousand Lures

Good reading:
Gerald May, Addiction and Grace
Richard Foster, Prayer: Finding the Heart’s True Home
Anthony Bloom, Beginning to Pray
Rowan Williams, Archbishop of Canterbury, “Faith & Reason: Time for both sides in the war debate to tell the truth about evil and oil”
Scott Peck, People of the Lie

And if you’re really ambitious:
Second Book of Homilies

04. Of good Works, first of Fasting
05. Against Gluttony and Drunkenness
06. Against Excess of Apparel
07. Of Prayer
11. Of Alms-doing
19. Of Repentance

Modern DemonsAntidotes
NegativityPositive Attitude

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