Striving for a holiness is a struggle – Rev. Fr. Amenuvor
Below is an exhortation delivered by Rev Fr Francis Destiny Amenuvor at the joint retreat organized by Council 48 & Court 40, Mataheko and Council 71 & Court 63, Dansoman at the St Paul’s Seminary, Sowutuom.
Theme: ” If you had done the right thing, you would be smiling; but because you have done evil, sin is crouching at your door. It wants to rule you, but you must overcome it. ” ( Gen 4: 7 )
These powerful words were directed by The Lord to Cain even before he killed his brother Abel. The Lord had warned Cain of the sin that was looming in his mind and heart but he did not heed the warning.
Background to the story
Adam and Eve after they were driven out of the garden settled and gave birth to Cain and Abel. Abel became a shepherd, but Cain was a farmer. It happened that Cain brought some of his harvest and gave it as an offering to The Lord. Then Abel also brought an offering to The Lord from his flock. The text records that Abel brought the best parts as offering so The Lord was pleased with him but not with Cain ( Gen 4:4 ). This made Cain furious and he scowled in anger.
The Lord who is omniscient( all- knowing ) read the mind and heart of Cain, tried to talk him out of his intended sin…
If you had done the right thing, you would be smiling; but because you
have done evil, sin is crouching at your door. It wants to rule you
but you must overcome it!
Upon all the warning, Cain nonetheless executed his plan. In verse 8 we are told; ” Cain turned on his brother and killed him. ” The after consequences were dire, to the extent that at a point, Cain had to cry out; ” this punishment is too hard for me to bear… ” ( Gen 4: 13 ).
The message and its relevance to our Christian lives:
This year 2015, the message that kept surging in my heart and which I reiterated in my exhortations at retreats, recollections and sermons is the truth that when as children of God, we refuse to walk with The Lord, we end up crawling in sin.
Let us attempt a graphic representation of this message.
In the developmental stages of every child, after a while of being carried by the mother, the child begins to crawl. However, after a short time interval, the child attempts to walk, tripping every now and then; crying loudly sometimes after some falls until the child walks steadily. When the child begins to crawl and for so many months, dragging into years and the child is still unable to walk, the parents get alarmed and intimate that something is definitely wrong.
So is the Christian life. We cannot remain crawling! We must walk! However, in our attempt to walk we stumble and fall several times. And that which makes us stumble and fall is SIN.
SIN can be not so pre-meditated ( venial ) and pre-meditated ( mortal )
On this matter, I consulted the COMPENDIUM OF THE CATECHISM OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH #s 391- 396 ( Pg 136 ) and I will wish to share insights from my reading; stating verbatim some of the facts:
a. It defines sin as ” a word, an act, or a desire contrary to the eternal law ” ( St. Augustine ). It is an offense against God in disobedience to his love. It wounds human nature and injures human solidarity…
b. …sin can be distinguished according to their object or according to the virtues or commandments which they violate. They can directly concern God, neighbor or ourselves. They can also be divided into sins of thought, of word, of deed, or of omission.
c. One commits a mortal sin when there are simultaneously present: grave matter, full knowledge, and deliberate consent. This sin destroys charity in us, deprives us of sanctifying grace, and if unrepented leads us to eternal death or hell. It can be forgiven in the ordinary way by means of the sacraments of Baptism and f Penance or Reconciliation.
d. One commits a venial sin, which is essentially different from a mortal sin, when the matter involved is less serious or, even if it is grave, when full knowledge or complete consent are absent. Venial sin does not break the covenant with God but it weakens charity and manifests a disordered affection for created goods. It impedes the progress of a soul in the exercise of the virtues and in the practice of moral good. It merits temporal punishment which purifies.
I made these references to draw our minds to the fact that we are all sinners. We can all identify in one way or the other with sin; either mortal or venial. And the whole phenomenon called sin never leaves us. It has followed human history ever since the sin of Adam and Eve. That led to the sin of Cain, and the whole human race. At a point, scripture records that when The Lord saw how wicked everyone on earth was and how evil their thoughts were, He was sorry that He had ever made them.( Gen 6:5-6 ). In Gen 6: 8, the word of God offered a consolation by stating that ” But The Lord was pleased with Noah. ” If you read further from Verse 9-10, scripture makes it clear that Noah had no faults, was the only good man of his time and he lived in fellowship with God. And because of that when God decided to destroy humanity for their sin, he preserved Noah and his family.
So if we are saying that sin is at our heels and wants to rule us, the only way we can overcome it is to be like Noah; to BELIEVE IN HOLINESS AND LIVE IN HOLINESS!
Lev12:1-2 you shall be holy for I The Lord your God I am holy
Pope Francis Ash Wednesday 2015 ” … it is possible to be holy though we are all sinners….. Don’t be afraid of holiness… ”
The truth is that many of us are afraid to be different! We say everybody is doing it! The fact that everybody is doing it, doesn’t make the wrong right
How do we get to holiness?
The Church provides avenues for us to be groomed in holiness. One of them is this grace-filled season called Lent.
Lent is a time of spiritual stock taking. A season to discipline oneself to get rid of sin by fighting it ruthlessly! No matter how much we have wallowed in sin, God’s grace abounds for holiness. Because His word in Isaiah 43:18-25 assures us that He does not hold our sins against us. Amen!
Friends, Holiness is our calling! Holiness is an activity of God’s grace.
What holiness is not:
1. Image of joyless existence. Putting on a gloomy face
2. Holiness is not about moralism. It is not restricted to dos and donts
3. The fact that you are not addicted to some particular sin ( sexual pleasure, alcohol) etc doesn’t make you holy
4. Holiness is not about a geographical location( going to a sanctuary or shrine )
5. Great acts of penance, kindness etc in themselves do not make you holy
6. Holiness is not theatrical ( too many actors in our Church today )
What then is Holiness?
1. A gratuitous gift from God, an activity of God’s grace
2. Holiness is what we do in our lives day by day( habit ) 1 Peter
3. Not conforming to the standards of this world
How do I know I am growing in Holiness?
St. Theresa will say holiness is doing the very ordinary things with extra ordinary love.
Gal 5: 16-26 gives us food for thought about what holiness is and lists the fruits of the Holy Spirit and these are marks to show you are growing in holiness.
1. Love 2. Joy 3. Peace 4. Patience 5. Kindness 6. Goodness 7. Faithfulness
8. Humility 9. Self-control.
I will give you ten ( 10 ) practical ways to grow in holiness;
1. Deal ruthlessly with sin. ( silence is not fraternal charity )
2. Renew your love for the sacrament of penance
3. Pray more
4. Dive deeply into the Eucharist
5. Nourish good friendship
6. Love the Church. Do your work according to the mind of the Church ( health workers, ….)
7. Practice gratitude
8. Embrace your crosses ( don’t just accept it. But embrace it. )
9. Relax and trust.
10. Abandon yourself into God’s hands.
The best way, if not the only way to overcome sin which seeks to rule us is to take a decision to grow in HOLINESS.
My spiritual director once told me, holiness is a big struggle, holiness is an hourly struggle!!! Holiness is a struggle for every minute of our lives!
Text for penitential service : Proverbs 28:13