Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Comfort for Sinners with Habitual Sins

Do not be surprised if you fall back into your old ways every day. Do not be disheartened, but resolve to do something positive about it; and, without question, the angel who stands guard over you will honor your perseverance.
- St John Klimakos

Note that they are the “old ways.” For you may be a blasphemer, calling down curses on lousy drivers and bad weather; you may be a addict, craving alcohol or drugs, tobacco or sweets; you may be a gossip or a cynic; you may be selfish and prideful; you may have fallen into these temptations yesterday and the day before; you may never remember a time when you did not fight and succumb–or just succumb without much of a fight at all; but they are your “old ways.” Your weaknesses are not you, for you are of Christ. These temptations and weaknesses and sins are not your future ways, for those too are of Christ. And even though you may still fall into your old ways everyday, says St. John, “do not be disheartened.” All is not lost.

What positive things may we do about this? First, repent of your old ways. Call your sins “your old ways.” Remember that they are not your new ways, your future. Second, pray for mercy and then pray all the more. Say the Jesus prayer: “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.” Say it over and over, not just as you feel temptation, but afterward. “Pray without ceasing,” says St. Paul. Third, read the Scriptures and attend the liturgy, receive the Sacrament often; read edifying things and so forth.
Old ways have a tendency to catch up to the present when, after prayer, we begin to rely on ourselves. Once you say that prayer and feel your spirit strengthen, feel firm resolve, do not give up praying. That resolve you feel is of our Lord’s mercy. You didn’t make yourself feel resolved. It is a gift from our Triune God. Likewise remaining in firm resolve to “sin no more” depends not on you, but upon the mercy of Christ and the grace of God.

Now as for that angel who “stands guard over you…” Certainly it is true we all have Guardian Angels. Jesus says, “Take heed that you do not despise one of these little ones, for I say to you that in heaven their angels always see the face of My Father who is in heaven” (Matthew 18:10 NKJV). Jesus speaks this about the child who is His Disciple. But our Lord is not just talking about young people, but about all people who “become like little children.” We are all Christ’s “little ones,” dependent upon Him and our Heavenly Father. And Christ speaks of “their angels.”

These angels of ours may also be offended, as Christ continues to say that if we despise one of His children, we should watch out, for his angel sees “the face of My Father.” And St. Peter laments that there are some great sinners who are presumptuous enough to speak ill of angelic beings.

How does your angel “honor your perseverance?” I don’t know.