Teaching: Dealing with the Roots of sin

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"I do not do what I want to do but what I hate....the desire to do right is there but not the power. What happens is that I do, not the good I will to do, but the evil I do not intend....This means that even though I want to do what is right, a law that leads to wrongdoing is always ready at hand. My inner self agrees with the law of God, but I see in my body's members another law at war with the law of my mind; this makes me the prisoner of the laws of sin in my members. What a wretched person I am! Who can free me from this body under the power of death? All praise to God, through Jesus Christ our Lord! So with my mind I serve the law of God but with my flesh the law of sin." (Rom 7:15-25)

"You must lay aside your former way of life and the old self which deteriorates through illusion and desire, and acquire a fresh, spiritual way of thinking. You must put on that new man created in God's image, whose justice and holiness are born of truth." (Eph 4:22-24)

"When the unclean spirit departs from a man, it roams through arid wastes searching for a place of rest and finding none. Then it says, 'I will go back where I came from,' and returns to find the dwelling unoccupied, though swept and tidied now. Off it goes again to bring back with it this time seven spirits more evil than itself. They move in and settle there. Thus the last state of that man becomes worse than the first." (Mt 12:43-45)

The story of the rich young man in the Gospel of Luke 18:18-23. He wanted to enter the kingdom of heaven but wasn't able to let go the one thing which was at the root of his problem.

1. There must be a sincere desire to recognize sin as sin and to have a horror of sin, to see sin as God sees sin.

2. There must be a sincere desire to deal with sin not on the surface but at its root cause. Example: Bad weeds will continue to grow and take over a garden if only we cut the tops off. There is need to dig to the core or nut of the weed, uproot it totally from the ground, if we wish to rid the garden of weeds.

3. One of the graces of the Sacrament of Reconciliation is the grace of destroying the root of sin. Sometimes we limit the Sacrament to the forgiveness of sins and fail to open ourselves to the additional grace of eradication.

4. Sometimes the root remains because we deal with the symptoms of sin and not the cause or source of sin. To get to this root cause or source I need to ask God to lead me into my past where this particular sin began to take root in me. Who, when , where, how are the questions to ask. Because a particular situation happened in my life either in fact or in perception which was never fully reconciled through mutual forgiveness, then the root of the past continues to lead me into sin today.

5. We are talking about the grace of healing of memories. A person may be struggling with anger not as an occasional sin but as a core sin in life. Each time we go to confession we confess the sin of anger. We never ask the question what is the root of my anger? We never ask God to lead us to the root or source. If we do and find that a certain person was the source of anger, then we need to bring this to the Lord.

5a Sometimes when God shows us the "thorn in the flesh" it is for us to realize that we can't of ourselves do anything, except cry out to God. God will not remove it before we deal with it in our weakness. We have refused to forgive, we have held on to the situation, either out of guilt or needing to hold the other under some control. We have exercised power, now we need in our weakness to forgive. "My grace is enough for you, for in weakness power reaches perfection." "And so I willingly boast of my weaknesses instead, that the power of Christ may rest upon me." (2 Cor 12: 9) I my weakness I refuse to forgive, but in the power of Christ I can and choose to forgive.

6. Process: Go with Jesus into the past. What are the memories which are scared and painful, memories we have suppressed over the years because of the pain attached to them. When we get to a particular painful memory, we need not relive it but get in touch with it momentarily in the presence of Jesus. We need to forgive the person who may have been the source of the anger; we need to ask that person's forgiveness; we may need to forgive ourselves. Remember forgiveness to be authentic must come from the heart. Also forgiveness is not for the sake of the other, but for our sake. We are the ones under the bondage of anger. Once we have forgiven from the heart, then we need to bring that painful memory and place it at the foot of the cross, believing that Jesus died for all sin and guilt. Then, leaving the memory there, we are to walk away. As we do we will find Jesus on the road waiting to embrace and heal us with his love.

7. The healing of memories is a process.

8. Sometimes we are not ready to give up a sin. We say to the Lord what the St. Augustine said to him: "Soon, Lord, but not now." Read the story from the Confessions.

" Your words had become deeply rooted in my heart, and I knew that I was surrounded by you on all sides (Job 1:10). I was certain that there was an eternal life, although I saw it 'through a glass darkly' (1 Cor 13:12). I had no doubt that you were made of an incorruptible substance, and that you had created all things (Col 1:15-17). My old sinful life was tottering away as my heart was being cleansed of 'old leaven' (e Cor 5:7). And the Way--the Savior himself-gave me great delight as I thought about Him.

"But I was unwilling to enter His narrow way. And it was becoming a heavy grief to me that I continued to act like a worldling, now that I longed for the sweetness and beauty of your eternal home. The reason for my unwillingness was that I was bound by my love for women.

"Oh yes, I was certain that it was better to commit myself to your love than to give in to my sensuality. Still I kept giving the slow, sleepy reply: 'Soon, Lord. I will come to you soon.'

"But 'soon' had no ending. Because I was so violently held by my evil habit, my mind was being torn. I wanted freedom, but I was being held as if against my will--and I suppose I contributed to this state of confusion, since I willingly allowed myself to slide into sin.

"But you, O Lord, used the changed lives of other men and women like a mirror to keep turning me around to face myself. You set me in front of my own face so that I might see how deformed, how crooked and sordid and stained and ulcerous I was. Horrified, I turned and tried to run from myself--only to find that you were there, too, thrusting me in front of myself. You wanted me to discover my iniquity and hate it, because it bound me and kept me from going with you.

"Yet my soul hung back. So I lived for a long while in a silent, trembling misery, for I was afraid of giving up my sin as much as I feared death--even though it was because of my evil that I was wasting away to death!

"Then one day, as I was reading the epistles of Paul, a great storm of agitation began to billow within my soul. My heart and mind and even my face became wild, as this inner storm built. There was a garden attached to our house, and I rushed out there so that no one would see me in such a wild state.

"And there I was, going mad on my way to sanity--dying on my way to life!

"My mind grew frantic: I boiled with anger at myself for not giving myself over to your law that brings life. All my bones cried out that if I surrendered fully to you I would find myself free and singing your praises to the skies. I knew that it took but one step--a distance no as far as I had run from my own house to this bench where I had collapsed in my grief. To go over to your side, to arrive fully on your side, required nothing other than the will to go--but to will strongly and totally, not to turn and twist an half-wounded will so that one part of me would keep rising up and struggling, while the other part kept me bound to earth.

"This inability to decide--for God or for my Self--was torturing me. I pulled at my hair, beat my forehead, locked my fingers together, gripped my knees with both hands. My whole body felt the agony of my desire to go over to you, but I could not will my soul to rise and cross over to God. I knew that what held me was such a small thing, and yet I turned and twisted as one held on a chain, as if my own agonizing might finally break it somehow.

"Inwardly, I cried: 'Let it be done now. Now!' And you, O Lord, were standing in the secret places of my soul all along! With your severe mercy, you redoubled the lashes of fear and shame, so that I would not give up again, which would mean that chain which bound me from you would bind me more strongly than ever before.

"I kept imagining the voices of mistresses, as they plucked at my garment of flesh, whispering, 'Can you really send us away? How can you live without us?' I ran farther from the house, into the garden, and flung myself down on the ground under a fig tree. Tears streamed and flooded from my eyes. I cried out, 'How long will I keep saying, "Soon" and "Tomorrow"? Why can't I put an end to my uncleanness this very minute?"

"And at that very moment I heard from a neighboring house a child's voice--whether a boy or a girl I couldn't tell--singing over and over: "Take and read, take and read....' It was like the song in a child's game, but I'd never heard it before.

"These words came into my heart with the force of a divine command: 'Take and read....' I forced myself to stop crying and got up off the ground. I went back into the garden to the place where I had left the Scriptures, which I had carried outside with me--for I believed I had heard nothing less than a divine command to open the book and read the first passage I found.

"I snatched the book, opened it and read the first passage my eye fell upon: 'Let us behave decently...not in orgies and drunkenness, not in sexual immorality or debauchery....Rather, clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ, and do not think about how to gratify the desires of the sinful nature' (Ro 13:13, 14).

"I did not need to read further. There was no need to. For as soon as I reached the end of the sentence, it was as though my heart was filled with light and with confidence. All the shadows of my doubt were swept away." (Confessions 8)

9. The more we fall in love with God the more we want to get rid of all sin in our lives, especially the habitual sins. That doesn't say we will never sin again, but sin will not be rooted.

10. It is not enough to get rid of the root of sin; we must put on the mind of Christ. "Do not conform yourselves to this age but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, so that you may judge what is God's will, what is good, pleasing and perfect" (Rom 12:2)

11. I must know beyond the shadow of a doubt that God loves me. I must choose to love God in return so that in the power of the love I can deal with the roots of sin in my life, no matter how long it takes.

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