Friday Week OT; Year II
He said again to the crowds, 'When you see a cloud looming up in the west you say at once that rain is coming, and so it does.
And when the wind is from the south you say it's going to be hot, and it is.
Hypocrites! You know how to interpret the face of the earth and the sky. How is it you do not know how to interpret these times?
'Why not judge for yourselves what is upright?
58 For example: when you are going to court with your opponent, make an effort to settle with him on the way, or he may drag you before the judge and the judge hand you over to the officer and the officer have you thrown into prison.
I tell you, you will not get out till you have paid the very last penny.'
When you walk through a forest and you see a path cutting through it you know that deer have walked there. Through repeated action over the same spot the deer have created a habit of going through that area and therefore grass does not grow in that path. The same thing happens when human have cut a path across a patch of ground. Just as deer cut paths by habitually going over the same repeatedly, our habits are created by us doing the same thing again and again and again. Our habits form pathways of thinking and pathways of responding inside ourselves that are difficult to break once we set our foot on that first step of the path.
Now those paths can either be positive or they can be negative. They can lead to virtue or they can lead to vice. The devils greatest effort to confuse us is at the moment of that first step on the path that we chose. That is the time when he gets us to lie to ourselves more than in any other moment in our spiritual and moral lives. We can see this struggle when it comes to exercise or prayer.
I don’t know if you have had the experience of coming up to the moment in time when you know you should exercise or go for a walk. You know now is the right time but five minutes later you are sitting in your lazy boy saying to yourself, “I’m should go for a walk. Now is the right time…” but two more minutes go by. What is funny about that initial battle of “I need to get out and go” is once you get up and you start going the exercise becomes easy. However the energy to get over that initial hump was huge.
It is the same way with prayer. We say to ourselves, “I know I need to pray. Prayer is an awesome thing. Now is the right time for me to pray. The kids are in bed, I’m by myself. Or mom and dad are out of the house and I have a few moments. I need to pray.” Yet we go through this process inside ourselves by saying “I could go play games, I could go work, I could go wash the dishes.” We could all go do a thousand different things. Yet after we get over that initial hump of “I need to pray” and we actually start doing it we return to the habit of prayer and it becomes a little easier.
The same can be said of our negative decisions. If we have habitual sins in our life it is because we have made the same choices again, and again, and again in our life. The same type of struggle that went into a positive decision actually happens in a negative decision because we start to think to ourselves, “I shouldn’t do this. I know that it’s right there. If I do this then I am going to go all the way down that wrong path.” And the devil tries to get us to think that it’s not that big of a deal, “Just take the first step. Just do that one thing.” Then, just like when we take the first step toward exercise or towards prayer, the negative choice becomes easier. Once we take the first step towards sin or towards vice it become easy and it almost takes on a life of its own because we’ve created a path.
Today’s Gospel is about discernment. “When you see a cloud rising in the west you immediately say it’s going to rain and so it does.” We have to find a way to discern our heart so that we can stop lying to ourselves at the first moment of our human decisions. Lying to ourselves that, “I either don’t want to go exercise” or lying to ourselves by saying, “That choice really doesn’t lead down that same sinful path.”
Through discernment of spirits I stop and look at the habits of my life and start saying “I know where that path leads. I know where that goes. My foot can never fall in that first decision again.” For the battle is in the smallest but in the first decision. So let us ask the Holy Spirit to guide our life, to reshape the patterns of our life. To overcome that hump for us to do what is right, and to avoid that first decision that can lead us to sin. In this we will be imitating our Savior Jesus Christ.