Such a Nuisance!

This attitude reminds me of a story a young mom told. She had a holy card of the Sacred Heart of Jesus on her refrigerator and her three year-old was throwing a tantrum and being, well, naughty. As he was wiping his tears and demanding his own way he caught sight of the picture of Jesus, paused, and cried, “Why is He looking at me that way?!” His mother calmly explained that perhaps Jesus was not pleased with his behavior. (I won't comment on the Christological implications or moral theology of that remark but it seems moms have a special license to co-opt Jesus to their side in certain cases).

Anyway, when things were finally cleared up and harmony and reconciliation prevailed once again, the little boy said “It's okay now Mommy, Jesus is smiling again!”

Now what happened? Did the picture of Jesus change expression? Perhaps, but I doubt it. More likely, the little boy's perception was colored by his conscience. If we perceive ourselves to be under condemnation by the Church, we are like that little boy. The Church condemns no one; she merely lets us know where we stand. If we “feel” guilty because the Church makes a moral pronouncement, we probably need to examine what is occurring in our hearts.

Sin is addictive and as with all addictions its addicts tend to get heavily into denial: “I don't have a problem! You have a problem!” the alcoholic tells his wife the morning after he parks the car in the neighbor's flowerbed and slept it off in their shrubbery. “The whole world's wrong not me!”


The proper and healthy attitude towards the Church's (that is, the Lord's) moral teaching is gratitude. Gratitude that Jesus died for us to free us from the power of sin. Like St. Paul we may continue to do “the things we hate,” that we know are wrong, but we can get up and dust ourselves off again with the sacrament of reconciliation so we can avoid falling deeper into sin through the slavery of denial. We cannot avoid sin on our own power, only by God's grace. That should console us. When we fail it is pride to get discouraged over it, and it is humility to acknowledge that we need God's help.

The Church, like that holy card, is not frowning at us, but calling us home with open arms. Calling us to get up and get back in the race, to live life to the fullest and arrive at the finish line.

To avail ourselves to the power of this truth we must, as Catholics, acknowledge that the Church's positions on faith and morals are true and are the voice of the Lord to us today. If we are having a disagreement with God, guess who's wrong! The Church's teachings on faith and morals are not man made. They are from God. There are other disciplines in the Church that can change according to the needs of a given period of history, although we are still bound to accept them. But bedrock teachings on faith and morals are unchangeable.

Did you ever see someone throw in the towel, and say, “I give up, God. You win. You are right, I've been wrong.” They come out of the confessional like that little boy at peace with God and Mother Church: “It's OK. Jesus is smiling at me now!”

He was smiling at us all along, loving us home.

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