Published January 5, 2006
Published: January 5, 2006
The party hats are back in the closet, the tree has seen better days, and the scale indicates that yours truly had one eggnog latte too many during her Christmas break.
Welcome to January, the month of dreaded resolutions.
Over the years, my resolutions have tended to be fairly me-centered. I would join spas, take up weightlifting and go for long walks.
This year, however, I’m making some spiritual resolutions. The first is trying to turn my back on some of the “smaller” sins.
As for these supposedly “smaller” sins, there are deceptions called white lies, to differentiate them from the darker, more serious variety.
It is tempting to tell a white lie to avoid an embarrassing social situation. Say a friend has invited you to a dinner party, but all you want to do is stay home in your pajamas that night.
The white lie presents itself so neatly. You can say you are coming down with a cold.
White lies are tempting because the consequences of telling the truth might be angering one’s friend and looking bad in her eyes.
But Christ died for all sins, so wouldn’t that mean He died for the little lies as well as the big? And wouldn’t it be better to risk a friend’s displeasure than to add to the load of sins that weighed Him down?
Another “small” sin that I grapple with is my tendency to feel so gloomy and downhearted that I would make Eeyore in “Winnie the Pooh” look like Mr. Party Animal.
The gloominess erupts from the chorus of voices in my head that nip at me and drag me down.
They whisper that I am too fat, too old and too dumb. Remind me that I was always last chosen for every team and it is a miracle I have any friends at all.
As a wise priest told me, these voices of gloom and doom cannot be coming from God, since God would not spin out a web of negative, ugly thoughts.
So they must be coming from someone else, and I suspect his identity is well known.
He is the one who used deception to engineer the fall from the Garden of Eden. The father of lies who “slipped” into Judas’ heart right before Judas betrayed Christ.
Yes, it is Satan himself, and he is still on the prowl today.
Perhaps he whispered to Judas: “Here is a chance to make some easy money. Everyone turns their backs on a friend now and again. Besides, was he really your friend?”
There is a moving moment in the Eastern Catholic liturgy, right before Communion, when the congregation promises Jesus that they won’t betray him to His enemies or “give (Him) a kiss like Judas.”
Perhaps we need to assure ourselves that we will not give in to the main enemy, who is Satan, and, instead, will fight against his mental attacks.
All these thoughts about my first resolution are on my mind on the day when I walk into the chapel to launch my second resolution.
Which is trying to spend more time praying in silence before the Blessed Sacrament.
There is an old saying that the devil is most active on the steps of the altar, and I confess that I am astonished at just how busy he can be in a simple chapel devoted to round-the-clock adoration.
There are so many distractions, which seem to come out of nowhere.
I may be savoring a delicious moment of peace, when suddenly I find myself critiquing the stained glass windows or studying the carpet for signs of lint.
One day when I was in the chapel, basking in the silence, two women began talking in a loud tone of voice as if they were at the mall. Another day, someone fell asleep and began snoring.
The heartfelt challenge for me was to recognize that one lady was nearly deaf and the dozing person was tired, and that God certainly would forgive these transgressions.
The other challenge was to realize that distractions come and go, and they are part of being human.
But the still, mysterious presence at the center of the altar remains forever.
The world outside can be coming apart at the seams. Perhaps there are traffic jams all over town, chain saws felling trees, crime waves breaking out and more horrors unfolding in the Middle East.
Maybe in your own home, earlier that day, the dog was chasing the cat, which had its eye on the gerbil, and the baby had painted a mural in peanut butter on the wall.
But when you walk into the chapel, there is peace.
All the external static dies out, as you take your place in what can be called the spiritual equivalent of the eye of a storm.
In this silent and holy center, as the Christmas carol says, “All is calm. All is bright.”
Of course, there may be mental thunder threatening. Some days, I can barely sit still because my mind is busy churning out a list of projects.
Suddenly, I feel an overwhelming compulsion to go grocery shopping, write letters, clean the house or call my aunt, and a certainty that I must do these tasks immediately.
In short, the big distraction on those days is me. And I can just hear the devil chuckling.
I am well aware that spiritual resolutions are easy to make but difficult to keep. There will be days, even weeks, when I will no doubt fall off the path, or even forget where the path is.
Still, my prayer is that God will send me an angel of peace to guide me on my way. To help me turn my back on the darkness of sin, large and small, and turn, instead, my face toward the light, which is Christ.
Lorraine V. Murray is a member of St. John Chrysostom Melkite Greek Catholic Church. She is the author of “Grace Notes. Embracing the Joy of Christ in a Broken World” and “How Shall We Celebrate? Embracing Jesus in Every Season.” You may write to her at firstname.lastname@example.org and visit her Web site at www.lorrainevmurray.com. Artwork by Jef Murray.