A couple of weeks ago, on the first Sunday of Lent, I spoke about how few motivations I have found for sin.  The amount and kinds of sins I have found over the past fourteen years are truly myriad.  But when I try to figure out why, only a few things subsist.   These reasons run deeper than the most of the Cardinal sins to the place where we find ourselves why are we doing this or that action. People murder for the same reason they are rude.  I suggested that among the very few reasons to sin are

  • pride, the fear of vulnerability
  • jealousy, the inability to accept what you have
  • lack of forgiveness, the darkness we carry against others or ourselves
  • and underlining them all, as I have written before, is fear.

Perhaps a closer look at why we sin might be more effective an examination of conscience than what we have done wrong.  After all, you can know full well that you are striking out as a batter and you should do that less.  But that does not mean you can merely stop it.  You have to look at your swing, your approach if you want another result.  Among the themes that I find myself repeating a great deal lately is that nothing changes until something changes.  How can we change our motivations that lead us away from God and one another?

There are general presumptions that encourage us to act in ways that lead to sin.  In being prideful, we try to hide our vulnerability because weakness is bad and there are those who would exploit it.   Again what might happens moves us before what should happen.   What if weakness were ok though, and our vulnerabilities allowed us to enter into each other’s lives in such a way to heal and not to harm.  Jealousy, the urge that made Eve grasp the forbidden fruit, is based on our sense that we can never have enough.  What we do not have, what others have, would be the thing that would make us fulfilled.  Yet, perhaps, what we have is, as the Psalms tell us, exactly what God intends us to have.  Finally, we can think that if we forgive someone the wrong that has been done to us no longer hurts or counts.  Or if we forgive ourselves we have insufficiently punished ourselves.  Yet, we plunge ourselves into prisons of our construction, making our anger and smallness dictate to the better angels of our nature.

When we justify the motivations of our bad behaviors, we are merely choosing fear as the guiding light in our lives.  Fear of weakness, fear of having too little, fear of mercy and reconciliation are the reasons we resort to that which we do not want to be.  Instead, there is a different path found in the life of Christ who shed the immortal life of God and embraced the vulnerability of humanity.  Who faced fear in the form of the cross and triumphed over it in the resurrection, a glory he would not have been able to share with us without the descent into fearful humanity.  His pride rested in only what God gave him; he could not be jealous for his only purpose was not to attain but to give away; he forgave recklessly to show true human freedom and release us from our bonds and he loved and allow love to touch, change and hurt him. 

This Lent, let our repentance also be a way forward.  Let us not just grieve our wrongs, but amend our lives by imitating not just the deeds but the attitude of our Lord.   And let us rejoice in the greatest freedom – to defeat fear and choose love.