Tag Archives: sin

5MM: The leaf that toppled my tomato plant

This year I attempted something that I never imagined I could accomplish: I grew tomatoes from seeds. Partially due to my neighbors’ magic potion they fed them while I was on vacation earlier in the summer, (I’m pretty sure), they have grown taller than me. I have even gotten some tomatoes off of them, though they are slow to make the transition from green to red. After a good harvest in mid August, there is now a new class on the vine, all green, playing beat the clock with the impending frost. I have my heart set on eating those remaining 15 or so tomatoes!

So, imagine my dismay when I went out on the deck yesterday to find one of my plants completely toppled over! Apparently, my makeshift method of propping up the 5-ft-tall plant finally gave out. That last leaf grew which was too much for my dear plant and it fell over, caging and all.

I have been working on my moral theology homework this week, where we have been studying virtue. Virtue is a habitual inclination to do the good. And, like a tomato plant, is built over time. Yes, we get supernatural grace for supernatural virtue, but grace still builds on nature. The ordinary way we gain virtue is through practice. We need to get used to doing a good act over and over, in all kinds of different circumstances.

The same is true for vice. We slowly build such a habit by practicing the bad act, over and over. Which is why we should not be surprised when a dysfunctional relationship suddenly boils over, or a situation which seemed under control yesterday now seems out of control. Like my tomato plant, it was just one leaf away the whole time we were adding vice to vice and it finally fell over.

Once we build up a habit of vice, we need to back peddle through all the acts we’ve built up, and that is hard! Grace aids greatly, but the acts still need to be committed rightly, over and over.

Well, after cutting off every branch that wasn’t already nurturing a tomato, I got my plant back up yesterday. Today, though, I have a more real-world situation to deal with before it bubbles over. Can you say a quick prayer for me for courage to practice virtue? Thanks!


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5MM: Beware of Millstones

Having been inspired by a friend of mine’s new family blog where she sets a timer every day to sit at the keyboard and make some notes about her life, I have decided that would also be a good idea for me. I have a ton of ideas for posts sitting in my draft folder because I am “too busy” to put aside time to develop them well. Though I believe it is important to put time into my writing, I simply don’t have much of it right now, so I will attempt to not let the good be the enemy of the perfect. I may not be able to write every day, but I will try to at least get to it a few times a week. The clock is ticking… so here goes!

As someone who gets paid to teach the faith to young people, yesterday’s Gospel sent chills down my spine: Anyone who leads a little one to sin would be better off sleeping with the fishes. It’s one of those moments that doesn’t dovetail nicely with the idea of a hippie Jesus who just goes around telling people to be nice. And to add to this Bizarro Jesus thing, he starts talking about cutting off our feet and plucking out our eyes? What the heck?

I think it’s pretty simple. Jesus takes sin really seriously. After all, that’s the whole reason he came down from heaven to suffer continuously for 33 years, culminating in the most humiliating, agonizing death in human history: he wanted to save us from sin!

The fact that this is lost on us as 21st Century Catholics is due to the fact that we have lost a sense of sin. This is a great tragedy in the modern world. We shook off guilt decades ago thinking it would liberate us, but it has done the opposite. Sin always enslaves. Reconciliation always liberates. Jesus came to be our Savior, and when we deny that we are sinners, we exclude ourselves from his services.

See, when Jesus talks harshly about sin, it’s not to condemn us, but to free us. He’s like a family having an intervention with an alcoholic: listen, bud. You have a big problem. I love you too much to let you drink yourself to death. If he needs to be candid and blunt, it’s because we need it told to us like it is. Not so we can sit around wallowing in shame, but so we can move from shame, to forgiveness, to joy, to mission.

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