The Subtle Lie
In St. Paul’s letter to the Philippians, he brings up the scary reality of sin, that those who give in to sin shall end up consumed by the very gods they profess to praise in place of the One, True God. But, he describes sinners in a unique way declaring that “their glory is in their ‘shame’” (1 Phil 3:19). Now, we understand that Paul is referring to the sin in which sinners live (a.k.a all of us), so one could easily simplify this Scripture Passage as telling us not to sin, like the rest of Scripture. However, this clues us into a feeling common to all human beings (except Jesus and Mary), namely a deep shame at the sins we commit on a regular basis.
Why do we feel such shame in our sins? I find in my own heart that I am ashamed of my sin not so much because I am afraid of what I have done but because I believe others will see how truly terrible I am. I often equate my sin with my own identity and value. The more virtuous I am the better I am as a person, but the more sinful I am the worse I am as a person. Rooting our value in the sin that we do or don’t commit makes us hide behind shame as our true glory, which is the very reality that St. Paul is deterring us from.
This is the subtle lie that the devil is constantly trying to make us believe. He tries to tell us that we aren’t good, that God does not love us when we commit sin. It is subtle because God truly becomes wrathful at all sin since it is the absence of Love, but His Love for us never decreases due to the sin we commit against Him. We are made good and are essentially good. We were made to be good because God has made us for Himself, the Supreme Good. Our hearts are made for God and they are restless until they rest in Him (cf. Augustine, The Confessions Book I). But, because of the Fall, we have been corrupted to believe that we are inherently evil because evil things come forth from our hearts now. We lie, cheat, judge, betray, abandon, etc. If there is one Catholic teaching that all people agree upon, it is that evil exists and plagues our world. So, taking the Truth of the Fall and sin, the devil shows us our weakness and that we cannot seem to be anything but evil. “So then,” he says, “we must be made for disobedience and evil, and it is for our benefit to take our glory in this “shame” in rebellion against the God who has made us to be evil.”
Our goodness is never based on the virtue we build or the deeds we perform in this life. Our goodness is fundamentally based on being made in God’s Image and Likeness. As the Book of Genesis attests after God made all of creation, inlcuding humanity, “God looked at everything he had made, and found it very good” (Gen 1:31). Though we have been disobedient and sinful throughout history, we cannot take away the original blessing given to us as human beings in the Image and Likeness of God. And Jesus Christ came down to redeem humanity back to its full stature in the Image and Likeness of God. Furthermore, we have been elevated to a higher level of Love than Adam and Eve because we are now raised to unity with God Himself through the Mystical Body of Christ. As St. Paul says, “our citizenship is in Heaven,” so don’t put your value in the deeds that you do or don’t accomplish (1 Phil 3:20). Rather, be still and put your confidence in God, the One who made us good and has destined us for Eternal Goodness in Him. In this way, “stand firm in the Lord” knowing that the Lord will redeem us soul and body in the end of time (1 Phil 4:1). He has made us for goodness, and one day we shall be perfectly good in Him. May the Lord bless you with fortitude and strength to trust that you are indeed His Beloved Child who is made for goodness. Amen.
Join with others in being imitators of me, brothers and sisters,
and observe those who thus conduct themselves
according to the model you have in us.
For many, as I have often told you
and now tell you even in tears,
conduct themselves as enemies of the cross of Christ.
Their end is destruction.
Their God is their stomach;
their glory is in their “shame.”
Their minds are occupied with earthly things.
But our citizenship is in heaven,
and from it we also await a savior, the Lord Jesus Christ.
He will change our lowly body
to conform with his glorified body
by the power that enables him also
to bring all things into subjection to himself.
Therefore, my brothers and sisters,
whom I love and long for, my joy and crown,
in this way stand firm in the Lord.
This Tuesday of the 2nd Week in Lent
Memorial of Servant of God, Akash Bashir