Justifying Our Sinful Behavior
by Deacon Thomas Frankenfield
As we Catholic Christians journey together in these 40 days of Lent, our Church challenges us to gaze deep within our relationships to see areas needing spiritual growth. These deep reflections may be similar to a thorough examination of conscience. They work to sanctify our relationships with God as well as with the Christian community.
What a system of reflection do you use? Some of us may use daily reflections books which are readily available worldwide; some use the internet spirituality sites; others have their need for inner conversion revealed during prayer, especially at the Holy Mass. What is certain is that to more fully experience the Lenten Journey, we need these 40 days to look deeply at ourselves to smooth a path to forgiveness and healing. In that respect, I share the story of Dennis as an example how we are all need to prepare for Lenten forgiveness.
A Personal Revelation
During a recent personal reflection Dennis encountered as area of sinfulness blocking his experience of full relationship with God and his Catholic Community. Following a full morning of liturgical celebrations, Dennis was in a parking lot of his parish preparing to drive his colleagues to a nice Sunday lunch. Suddenly, out of nowhere another car cut across the path of Dennis' vehicle--coming within a whisker of hitting his car.
In a sudden startled and frustrated state, Dennis shouted a series of very colorful and clearly offensive and profane words towards the driver. As a result of this sudden outburst everyone was feeling in a sense of awkwardness. Dennis' misconduct caused a heavy silence to overcome the automobile.
First his colleagues were shocked at the near accident but secondly they were stunned at the stream of refuse that streamed from Dennis' mouth. For the rest of the day, Dennis was in a very apologetic state and certainly this incident made the lunch uncomfortable for all, especially Dennis.
When we analyze this incident, we may be tempted to justify Dennis' behavior by blaming the other person or by passing the behavior off to the stresses of a long day of ministry. However, the truth is that Dennis lost control. Dennis chose to use profanity. Dennis could easily have been more just. Dennis made wrong choices for which he bears total responsibility.
Later Dennis faced his friends and asked for forgiveness and they reconciled. As good friends do, his colleagues forgave the incident and their ability to deal honestly strengthened their relationships. Additionally, Dennis received total forgiveness from God and our Church in the Sacrament of Reconciliation.
The temptation to justify our improper behavior is one of the most popular temptations of our day. However, Jesus is calling each of us to take full responsibility for all of our actions. This encounter with honesty is often painful. It is one that many of us may want to avoid in order to stay in a comfortable place. My friends, Lent is not about being comfortable. Wearing the ashes of our failures truly leads to healing and new life.
Join with me this Lenten season in encountering those areas in our lives that we may have justified away. From alcoholic and sexual misconduct to mistreatment in personal and spiritual relationships, the areas we explore may be painful. We have Jesus as our companion to walk with us. Jesus will guide our paths of reflection. Trust in Jesus! Allow the Prince of Peace to bring lasting peace to those battlefields in your life.
For Your Reflection
From a Ministry Perspective:
- Are there particular failures in my ministry with which I struggle? Can I take them to my quiet place of prayer and permit Jesus to heal me?
- Is Jesus calling me to take full responsibility for my actions? What areas in my ministry have I justified sinful behavior? . Can I take them to Jesus for inner healing?
From a Family Perspective:
- In my Domestic Church, as parent, sibling, widow or single, are there particular relationship failures with which I continue to struggle? Can I take them to my quiet place of prayer and allow Jesus to heal me?
- Is Jesus calling my Domestic Church to take full responsibility for our actions? In what areas in our household have we justified or ignored sinful behavior? Can we talk to each other and then pray together for Jesus' inner healing?
I would love your feedback, thoughts, stories and ideas. Please email me.
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