While pleasantly smoking a pipe today, meditations on human nature and sin came to my mind. This meditation came to my mind while I was thinking of my response to a Scrooge who said that it would be smarter to save my money by not buying anyone Christmas gifts. I responded that I should be unhappy with myself if I took his advice. Indeed, I’m not sure whether I could live with myself!
But, why should I have phrased my response “be unhappy with myself”? Surely, I could buy myself more books, anime, tobacco, wine, and other things which generally please me? Though these things do please me, the fact that I should be depriving myself of the chance to make someone else happy would remove the pleasure I had in these things. That is because, as Bl. John Paul II beautifully wrote, we are called to be self-gifts. Indeed, the enjoyment of the above four goods could only be increased if I shared either the objects themselves or even my knowledge of them.
But, sin enters the picture, which is essentially selfishness. Fortunately, Our Lord entered the picture and bestowed on us the greatest example of self-gift: His Father becomes Our Father, His Spirit becomes the Spirit leading us into all truth, wisdom, and goodness, his mother becomes our mother, His divine Life becomes our divine Life, His Body no longer refers only to Himself but to the Church, and His Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity–His whole Being–becomes incorporated in us through the Holy Eucharist. Who could imagine grater gifts than these? Before Christ came down as the perfect revelation of the Father, this generosity would have been beyond the mind of man and produces mute wonder and utter astonishment in those who believe.
Yet, we still fall short of our election by sinning. In addition to selfishness, there is another cause of sin: frustration. That’s why “He who is slow to anger is better than the mighty, And he who rules his spirit, than he who captures a city” (Prov. 16:32). The impetus to offer oneself as a gift can easily lead people to doing so in the wrong way. Think of a strong man who, instead of waiting for the right opponents, takes to preying on whoever takes his fancy or a beautiful woman who lies with the first young man to take her fancy rather than having her husband as her first.
However, the price of acting out of frustration is more frustration, because nothing is communicated by sinning–there is no generosity. Someone may say, “But, an evil is communicated at least.” But, evil is the absence of being and therefore nothing. Rather than joining people together, sin separates them as it separates the people who sin from their true selves. Instead of being a warrior, like King Richard the Lionheart, the strong man becomes a forgettable punk. Instead of becoming a wife and mother of distinction, like Frances Cleveland (the wife of Grover Cleveland), the beauty becomes a body.
Therefore, let us exercise patience in our generosity and above all avoid the selfishness of sin.