A parallel exists between a tonsillectomy and the spiritual life. Please indulge me…
For some people, tonsils infect easily and repeatedly. Infection leaves deep scars in the folds of the tissue, inviting further infection. The body struggles to be healthy, and oftentimes we are unaware of the weakened state of our immune system which weighs us down. It’s normal to us to the point where we don’t even notice how unhealthy we really are. Eliminating the source requires something radical – surgery, a complete excision of that which offends the body.
So it is in the spiritual life. Sin infects us, certain ones more than others. Sometimes a single infection occurs, and we immediately identify and find a lasting remedy. Other times, repeated infection persists wearing us down, and we don’t even notice it.
“We all fall short” (Rm 3:23) Big sins and little sins – we all have them. Turning to Jesus is the first step toward eradication. When I look back on my own journey, and when I witness the journey of others, a common pattern emerges. Big sins usually accompany our initial turning to God. Only by His grace and mercy do our habits and our attachments to those sins dwindle towards extinction. In time, the little sins remain. We can perceive them as either little or big depending on the circumstance. But one thing is for sure: they seem to become permanent fixtures. We bring the same ones over and over to confession, wondering if we will ever conquer them.
Have you ever read stories of the saints who lead lives of heroic virtue and yet talk about themselves like they’re mass murderers? I think, “Look at the life you lead, your holiness, and you talk about how horrible you are? What chance is there for me?”
Awareness of the chronic infection drives them and will drive us to seek something radical. Radical love is the remedy – a love that gives to the point of death and doesn’t count the cost.
Consider the words of David in Psalm 51. They provide the blueprint. You’ve probably heard this a thousand times, but I invite you to pray it as you read it and allow the Holy Spirit to move in you and show you the focus needed to heal the habitual sin:
Have mercy on me, God, in your goodness;
in your abundant compassion blot out my offense.
Wash away all my guilt;
from my sin cleanse me.
For I know my offense;
my sin is always before me.
Against you alone have I sinned;
I have done such evil in your sight
That you are just in your sentence,
blameless when you condemn.
True, I was born guilty, a sinner,
even as my mother conceived me.
Still, you insist on sincerity of heart;
in my inmost being teach me wisdom.
Cleanse me with hyssop, that I may be pure;
wash me, make me whiter than snow.
Let me hear sounds of joy and gladness;
let the bones you have crushed rejoice.
Turn away your face from my sins;
blot out all my guilt.
A clean heart create for me, God;
renew in me a steadfast spirit.
Do not drive me from your presence,
nor take from me your holy spirit.
Restore my joy in your salvation;
sustain in me a willing spirit.
I will teach the wicked your ways,
that sinners may return to you.
Rescue me from death, God, my saving God,
that my tongue may praise your healing power.
Lord, open my lips;
my mouth will proclaim your praise.
For you do not desire sacrifice;
a burnt offering you would not accept.
My sacrifice, God, is a broken spirit;
God, do not spurn a broken, humbled heart.
For me, my sin needs to be ever before me. I must recall my primary offense is against my all-loving father – I don’t want to hurt Him. My willing spirit falters and I need His help to sustain it. Praise will reorient my focus.
Something radical took place on Good Friday – the innocent suffered for the guilty atoning for the sin of Adam and sacrificing out of complete love.
Something radical took place on Easter Sunday – love conquered death and opened the gates of heaven for all.
Something radical took place on Pentecost – the very indwelling of the life of God became accessible to all.
Something radical can take place in us – Divine love is the radical surgical tool needed to eliminate the source of infection. Jesus is the surgeon. If we allow Him into the corners of infection in our souls, he will heal those places. It will be painful, but in the long run we will be better off.
My Jesus, I trust in you! Anne