As we humbly approach Holy Week, I hope you have already taken time to meditate on mortal sin and its effects upon your life and the lives of people around you. And hopefully, during this time, you have also seriously considered its eternal consequences as well. Assuming you have, I will offer you something further to ponder: venial sin.
Venial sin is one of those things frequently treated as an afterthought. Because it is not “mortal”, we too easily brush the thought aside, saying, “It is only a venial sin,” as if it didn’t matter much in the grander scheme of things. But it does.
In Fr. P. Lejeune’s book, Counsels of Perfection for Christian Mothers, he eloquently illustrates how serious venial sins actually are.
“Our Savior, in the hours of His agony, was tormented by a thirst which caused Him the most bitter suffering. You, like the executioners on Calvary, instead of offering Him a beverage which will quench His thirst, place to His lips the vinegar and gall of venial sin, which, far from satisfying His thirst, renders it yet more intolerable.
This is what you do when you deliberately commit a venial sin. Behold your treatment of Jesus during His passion! You are not among the numbers of His executioners, I grant, but you are one of those who cause Him to suffer.”
It is only in this light that we can see the seriousness of intentional venial sin. As we conquer mortal sin in our lives we remove ourselves from the group of executioners, but if we do not weed those intentional venial sins from our hearts, we are still not among the three who remained at the foot of the cross to console Him.
So how do we avoid causing such suffering? There are two very simple yet powerful rules that can keep any of us from choosing venial sin. The rules are: do everything with a smile and always do the better thing.
These rules come to us from a wonderful little book entitled Leading the Little Ones to Mary, which reminds children to do everything as Mary would have done. While the book may be for children, we all can benefit from following these simple instructions.
Do everything with a smile. Discontent breeds selfishness and the kind of bitter pride that makes us place ourselves above all others. A discontented heart easily justifies what it does to obtain what it wants. When we dwell in a state of discontent, we are primed and ready to fall into all sorts of sin. Therefore, the easiest way to avoid this and keep smiling is to nurture a humble and grateful heart.
To nurture humble and grateful hearts within your home, help your family members discover how much they really have. Every night, take five minutes as a family and talk about what you all are thankful for. Remind them that all gifts and blessings are from God and He chooses to give us these things out of love for us. We have them not because we deserve them, but because He has allowed us to have them. These things are not to be used for ourselves. Instead, God intends for us to find ways to share what we have with others and using these gifts as tools to help build His Kingdom for His glory.
A humble, grateful heart remembers that material goods and talents present a chance to give back to God a little of what He has given us. Suddenly our precious time, treasures and talents are shared willingly and with a genuine smile, and pride and selfishness have nowhere to take root.
Always do the better thing. This rule almost explains itself. But to be able to identify what the better thing is takes some practice. And to choose to do it takes grace.
Selfishness is an unfortunate byproduct of original sin, and the older we get, the harder it is to overcome. Train your children now to focus on doing what is good in God’s eyes instead of doing what may please themselves. When our children have this as their moral base, they are already way ahead of most people when training themselves to avoid sins of all kinds, be they mortal or venial.
For the rest of Lent, make a conscious effort as a family to follow these two rules. Remind them not to be the one offering Our Lord the vinegar and gall of venial sin as He hangs upon the cross. Rather, implore them to remain at His feet as ones who comfort and console. After all, no sin, no matter how “little” it may seem to be to us, was a little matter to Jesus. He still had to pay for them all.
Copyright 2011 Cassandra Poppe