For an easy-print A4 size PDF file of the discussion guide click here to download the document.
Start your meeting with the Sign of the Cross and a prayer
From 1 John 5:18-21
"We know that God's children do not make a practice of sinning, for God's Son holds them securely, and the evil one cannot touch them. We know that we are children of God and that the world around us is under the control of the evil one. And we know that the Son of God has come, and he has given us understanding so that we can know the true God. And now we live in fellowship with the true God because we live in fellowship with his Son, Jesus Christ. He is the only true God, and he is eternal life. Dear children, keep away from anything that might take God's place in your hearts."
Read the Reflection:
(By BMcD) I am experiencing trespassers in my home. They sneak in under cover of darkness and in the morning I find chaos. Ants! I am having a full-on war against ants. I wake up to an army of them invading my kitchen. Food is in ant-proof containers but they always seem to find something with the lid slightly ajar. I hate cleaning up after ants, but with pets and a little boy in the house I prefer to keep chemicals to a minimum. However I have admitted defeat and laid ant baits. The battle is on.
I have another even more disturbing resident; a rat in my rafters! Ugh.
Somehow it feels shameful to admit that. Owning up to a resident rat is not quite socially acceptable. I will need professional help to be rid of that unwelcome guest. Why am I telling you this - I hope you are wondering?
These incursions into my home got me thinking about temptation and sin and how it works. Yes, you may laugh at my quirky thinking, but just ponder with me for a moment. To deal with ants seems relatively simple. First we see one or two which I squash or spray, but a few get away. Then the consequences of those escapees create waves of ants that can take weeks to be rid of and need real concerted effort. Then there's the rat. We had been warned but we relaxed a little; the garden gets a bit wilder in winter, a tile comes loose, the screen over a drain slips and suddenly it's too late. The patter of feet is heard over our heads at night and we have a major problem.
The ants remind me of little daily temptations to sin that readily multiply if left unattended or are entertained in some way. The rat; well perhaps there's a metaphor of more serious issues that arise. When it comes to temptation and its development as sin, where we freely and deliberately turn against God's love, I notice some of what creeps in each day but always I am inattentive to some aspects. My desire for God and my desire to care for others can slowly drop in priority. The Youcat says "Just as sin burdens me with guilt, wounds me, and by its consequences ruins me, so too it poisons and damages the world I live in." Youcat 315. The distinctions between venial and mortal or serious sin can still be useful. Serious sin destroys the divine power of love in a person's heart... hence it is called 'mortal' sin – it kills. Serious sin breaks with God, whereas venial sin only strains the relationship. Serious sin cuts a person off from God. There are three requirements for recognising serious sin. It must be about a serious matter, something opposed to an important value; for instance, directed against life or God (e.g. murder, blasphemy, adultery and so on) and be committed with full knowledge and full consent. Venial sins are opposed to secondary values (honour, truth, property, and so on) or are committed without full knowledge of their seriousness or without full consent of the will. Such sins disrupt the relationship with God but do not sever it. (Youcat 316.) Even my rat, albeit a serious issue, can only be a metaphor for venial sin because I neither willed nor intended it and certainly lacked full knowledge about its arrival.
I do try to keep the home and garden of my life tidy with prayer and Sacraments. I tend the important relationships in my family, marriage, friendships but I also get complacent. That argument gets left unresolved for feelings to fester on both sides; I ignore hurt and bitterness because it's easier and discover too late that resentment has grown and found a home in me. I think about that letter or phone call of encouragement or consolation and intend to send it, but I never quite make the time or effort. I can easily take friends and family for granted and not encourage them, build them up or let them know I love and appreciate them. I can get sloppy about my own care, stay up too late, get over tired, eat too much and exercise too little and all of that affects my mood and health. The Youcat states that "Temptations and vices are negative habits that deaden and dull the conscience, inclining a person to evil and habitually prepare him or her for sin". (Youcat 318)
In this Year of Faith, how have you made an effort to keep your life free from the pests of negative habits, vices and complacency which open the door to sin? How have you tended the rebuilding or nurturing of your relationships of love and care? What have you done for your marriage today, or this week, or in the last month? How have you shown love and encouragement to those you live in community with? What good self-care are you putting in place in your physical, intellectual, emotional and spiritual life? What ways have you reached out with mercy to those who need help and support? Where are you building in some fun and relaxation with those you love? Are you managing to pay attention to the little warnings of temptation and growing complacency toward God, prayer and the Church, a growing coolness toward my wife or husband, child or friend, a growing cynicism, anger or negativity that is becoming a habit, anything not of God that is being given freedom to enter into the home of my heart and take up residence, becoming an attachment just like my invading rat and persistent little ants? Well, you get the picture. Like the weeds in the garden, all these things keep coming back needing regular attention to keep them in check with daily reflection and reconciliation when appropriate.
The Year of Faith could be called the 'Year of Grace and Favour'. On the 12th September we celebrate the feast of the Holy Name of Mary, our special Marist feast day. Before important celebrations we make an effort to prepare well. September is also Spring and time for Spring cleaning. So maybe we can use September for some renewed enthusiasm in our faith, do a bit of spring cleaning, make a maintenance check that the little areas of everyday life are scrubbed up and in a state of grace for our special Marist family celebration.
Blessings as you let the mercy of God help you spring-clean your heart, together with Mary, Bev
What struck you most about the reflection?
Today's Scripture says "God's Son holds them securely, and the evil one cannot touch them". Have you felt this protection? How can we help those who may suffer from scruples or feeling that they are 'unforgivable'?
What insights does the metaphor of the ants and the rat give you about temptation, negative habits, attachments or sin?
There were lots of questions in the reflection;
(e.g. what have you done for your marriage today,
how have you made an effort to keep free from the pests of negative habits, vices and complacency which open the door to sin? )
Which question struck you the most? Share anything appropriate about how you might 'Spring Clean' your heart?
No. 4 From our Charter – for your reflection this month
A Christian mother knows she is loved by God. God gives her many personal gifts;
Jesus offers His friendship and love; and the Holy Spirit strengthens her.
"What the Spirit brings is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, trustfulness, gentleness, and self– control."
For your own intentions and other needs
Conclude the meeting with the following:
Dear Heavenly Father,
Today I examine my life and I pray that if there are any bad habits in my life
that they be brought to the light.
Father, it all starts with a change of heart and mind
and today I choose to break with any bad habits in my life
that are keeping me from living a life fully devoted to You.
I love You Father and I thank You for this day!
In Jesus Name I pray, Amen
(from Christi Povolish blog)