Reflection on venial sin.
Grace: a growing intense sorrow and, if God so wishes, even tears for my sins.
Text for Prayer: 2 Samuel 11
Reflection: The devil is like a cunning general. If he sees a strongly defended city, he will retreat and reorient his attack. Inspecting the fortifications, he looks for the weak points and tries to exploit them. Perhaps a small attack here, a sortie there, will eventually compromise the strength of the walls and weaken the resolve of the inhabitants to defend themselves. This is a good metaphor for how human beings are led through venial sin toward a total rejection of God’s love through mortal sin. Venial sins are like small cracks in the walls of our defenses which then become gaping cavities.
Venial sin, by definition, damages our relationship with God without destroying it. If mortal sin destroys the grace of our salvation by willfully rejecting God’s offer of salvation, venial sin prepares the path by slowly weakening our trust in God and commitment to the life He offers us. As one Jesuit has explained the matter: “Besides mortal sin, venial sin is the worst thing in the world you can do.”
Today we can pray with story of David and Bathsheba in 2 Sam 11. We know where David’s sin ended: Uriah dead and Bathsheba pregnant with the king’s child. But let’s not forget where David’s disgrace began. Walking upon his roof in the early evening, his gaze fell upon Bathsheba and remained there. Then he had inquiries made about her. He sent for her. His mind plotted. How many small betrayals made his eventual demise possible? At how many points could the process have been reversed? But David carried on with tragic momentum.
Venial sins expose what St. Ignatius calls “undue attachments” to this world. Yes, the world was made by God for His glory and our enjoyment, but always in a measure that is directed back toward God. We are to use the world—but only in the way God wants us to use it. We, however, become unduly attached to elements of this world and grasp them for ourselves. We become like children with a toy, unwilling to relinquish our prized possession. Thus, we cordon off a section of our lives from God’s influence. During the first week of the Spiritual Exercises we want to shed light on these areas of our lives. We want to name them and present them to Jesus who intercedes for us at the right hand of the Father.
Prayer and Questions: Perhaps it will help your meditation upon this text by thinking of David, not in the process of gazing upon Bathsheba, but afterward. See David as he sits alone on his roof, plotting and scheming, wrapped up inside himself. As he builds up walls against God, he allows his walls of protection against evil to crumble. What would you say to David in this moment?
Turn your attention to yourself. What areas of your life have you cordoned off against God? If God were to ask you about some aspect of your life, would your first reaction be “Don’t go there!” What does it feel like to stand before God in my sinfullness? These are difficult questions, but Lent is the perfect time to ask them.
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