Memorial of St. Elizabeth Ann Seton
The person who acts in righteousness is righteous, just as [God] is righteous. Whoever sins belongs to the Devil. . . . (1 Jn 3:7)
We may imagine that our sins are separate from ourselves. Yet we form our own character by the choices we make and the actions we practice. If sin is just something we can wipe away through confession and absolution, we are tempted to say, “Oh dear, I sinned. Well, I will be going to confession on Saturday, so I might as well enjoy some more sin since it will be wiped away then.” But acts of sin develop habits. Just as repeated exercises develop habits and skills, so repeated good or bad actions develop good or bad habits and character. Once character is formed, it makes repeated acts easy, “second nature.”
Do we really want to say, “Oh dear, I sinned. Well, I will be going to confession on Saturday, so I might as well get in some good sin practice so as to develop a sinful character that will make selfishness, lack of compassion, cowardice, deceit, and lack of self-control habitual, 'second nature?'"
As our character develops, we tend to associate with others like ourselves. If we develop bad character, we will “belong to the devil” and draw energy from his family. In this life, that association may not look disastrous. We and our “gang” can take advantage of good people–sinners are parasites on good people. There is no point being a thief unless others have gained wealth that you can steal. But what if in the future all the good people are somewhere else, and all your neighbors are thieves like yourself?
Once we are introduced to Jesus, he invites us to join his family; to cooperate in his adventure of bringing love and transformation into a broken world. The first step is to come, see where he lives, and spend time with him. Then, energized by his spirit and practicing his way of life, we develop the habits and character that make compassion, love, courage, honesty, and self-control “second nature.”
Where do we get our insight and energy from: God, or the devil?
When we are united to God, we aren’t attracted to sin.
When we are united to the devil, sin feels natural.
Whose family would you like to spend eternity with?
Fr. David Smith, Emeritus Professor of Theology, part-time Campus Ministry