Grace: a growing intense sorrow and, if God so wishes, even tears for my sins.
Reflection: I just finished reading a fictional novel that followed the life of a college professor whose life is a series of decisions that were petty and selfish as a young man, though he grew wiser and more generous as he aged. But even in his old age, he felt like something was always off. He finally came to understand his life as a construction project, where builders use levels and plumb bobs to insure the project is built right and true. In projects that are small and insignificant, carpenters can afford to be a little off with reading their level bubbles or their plumb lines — “not to worry, it’s plumb enough.” The story is different with bigger projects, like building a life of virtue over the years. When the small measurements at the base are off by a bit, the building rises at an angle that can be increasingly dangerous for the overall project. What was “plumb enough” suddenly threatens the success and security of the whole project.
We have the opportunity this Lent to be like the supervisor of the construction site of our spiritual life. Is it not salutary to stop periodically to assess how the project has been going? To see where our measurements are off by just a hair and need correcting? We’re not talking about major, obvious omissions, but the small day-to-day deviations that lead us away from God and set our life project off on the wrong foot. It can be hard to face these mistakes (do I really have to do this?). We understand these small deviations, where we are ‘plumb enough’, as venial sins. Venial sin damages our relationship with God without destroying it. If mortal sin is when a building collapses, destroying the whole construction project, venial sins are like when we cut corners and overlook things in our spiritual life. By themselves, they are not entirely destructive, but taken together through time and habit, they lead to bigger problems. Thus, they need God’s light to set them plumb and true.
Prayer and Questions: It can be daunting to pitch everything and start anew at the foundation. Fortunately, we know that in Christ we have forgiveness and fullness of redemption — that in honest conversation with Jesus, even these faults can be righted. But first, we must ask for His light to see them. And unlike the precariously leaning building which was ‘plumb enough’ at its foundation, Christ can right any wayward life, making all things new again. Consider a time in life when you thought that a compartmentalized life of smaller deviations were ‘plumb enough’ to the true life. Perhaps it was a series of white lies, patterns of addiction, or attachment to materials or honors. Did those small deviations lead you, unexpectedly, to larger patterns or problems? Ask God for the grace to face these venial sins with courage and patient love.