As humans, we have a tendency to do things that feel good. Conversely, we like to avoid things that are unpleasant. When we are young, this practice often keeps us out of trouble. Speaking from personal experience, very few kids are going to put the metal key in the electrical socket more than once. One “zap” is usually all it takes to make them realize that it’s not a “fun” experience! Unfortunately, while this attitude can be a big help when we are young, it can work against us when we are older, ESPECIALLY when we use it as the basis for making moral decisions.
There is no question that sometimes what God wants us to do is not pleasant. If we want to grow closer to Him, however, it’s necessary to do these unpleasant things. When we study the life of Christ and the saints, we see them constantly rising above what “feels good”, choosing instead what is necessary. If you need an example, look at the life of Jesus and remove everything that wasn’t pleasant. What would be left? If you take away His most painful agony, suffering and dying on cross, where would you and I be today? Quite often, what is most painful in life bears the most fruit. If we want to get closer to Christ, we have to learn to put aside what WE want to do and do what HE wants us to do.
While it’s important for us to understand the necessity of sometimes doing the unpleasant, it’s even more important to understand the danger of ALWAYS doing the pleasant. Want to know the easiest way end up in hell? Always do those things that “feel good” or look attractive! No matter how much we want to deny it, sin feels good (at least for the moment). If it didn’t, we wouldn’t be tempted to sin. Let’s face it…if it was a sin to drink sour milk or eat moldy bread, it wouldn’t be too hard to avoid. Satan may be a liar, but he’s not stupid. If he wants you to sin (and he does!), he’s going to tempt you by appealing to your sense of pleasure. The “harmless” link on the Internet that teases you with pictures of a celebrity’s revealing dress, the thought of “sleeping in” and missing Mass on Sunday, the gratification of not forgiving someone who offended you…these are ways that he fools you into sinning and putting your salvation in jeopardy.
Fortunately for us, the Church gives us the season of Lent to work on practicing self-denial. If we train ourselves to voluntarily give up small pleasures, we’ll be better able to avoid the evil of mortal sin. While abstaining from sweets or television has no direct bearing on our salvation, it teaches us to better control our desires. Self-mastery is the key to becoming a saint. Learning to control our impulses will better prepare us to overcome the devil’s onslaughts. Give it some thought…
It really is THAT important!
“It is not always in the soul’s power not to feel a temptation. But it is always in its power not to consent to it.” (Saint Francis de Sales)