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"You did it to me": Don't forget sins of omission

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Tom Hoopes - published on 12/30/19

When you die, Jesus won’t ask: Did you feel positive about humanity?

Here’s a resolution every Christian needs to make: Attack the sins of omission in your life.

If you’re like me, you are more likely to feel guilty about things you did than things you didn’t do — you said what you shouldn’t have said, hurt who you shouldn’t have hurt, went where you shouldn’t have gone.

Jesus’ priorities are broader. He focuses on what we didn’t do.

In the Gospels, when Jesus speaks about people being damned, it is for sins of omission.

Think about it: In the Parable of the Talents, the man with one talent is rejected because he did nothing with it. The Foolish Virgins are the ones who ran out of oil and got shut out of the banquet.

In Matthew, “Not every one who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven,” Jesus says “but he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.”

In fact, in the parable of the Last Judgment, salvation comes down to one thing: “I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.”

Where to start? First, confess the sins of omission in your life.

Mortal sins are the only ones you are absolutely obliged to mention in confession. To commit a mortal sin means to sin in what is grave matter, and to do so deliberately and with knowledge. 

There are certain sins of omission that are grave matter, for instance skipping Mass on Sunday or a Holy Day of Obligation, or not going to confession at least once each year. 

But there are other sins of omission you can bring to confession. Ask yourself: Is there a talent in my life that I haven’t put at God’s service in some way? Have I neglected service or prayer? And tell God.

Then, make a plan to start avoiding sins of omission. Start with the works of mercy.

The seven corporal works of mercy are: Feed the hungry, give drink to the thirsty, clothe the naked, shelter the homeless, visit the sick, visit the imprisoned, bury the dead.

The seven spiritual works of mercy are: Counsel the doubtful, instruct the ignorant, admonish sinners, comfort the afflicted, forgive offenses, bear wrongs patiently, pray for the living and the dead.

Mother Teresa summed up the idea behind the works of mercy with her “Gospel on five fingers,” which quoted the words of Jesus in the Parable of the Last Judgment: “You. Did. It. To. Me.”

Father Michael Gaitley borrowed that for the title of a great book giving practical tips for the work of mercy, You Did It To Me.

Aleteia authors have also offered some ways to do them, on the way to the lake, online, and in everyday life. Inspired by Holy Family Sunday, home is a great place to start.

Next, look at the beatitudes.

The beatitudes are “the heart of the Gospel” that “purify our hearts in order to teach us to love God above all things” and yet I, for one, rarely set about actually including them in my life. 

If the works of mercy define how a Christian acts toward others, the beatitudes define a Christian’s attitude toward God and self.

To live the beatitudes means to be poor in spirit, meek instead of pushy, hungry for holiness instead of praise, and merciful instead of bitter.

Pope Francis has often explained how to live them, pointing out that they do not require dramatic gestures but that we must not omit them.

Be ready for what Jesus will ask you when you die.

When you die, Jesus won’t ask: Did you feel positive about humanity, generally and vaguely? He will ask what you did for others. He won’t ask: Were you good to your friends? He will ask if you were good to strangers. He won’t ask: What does the Catechism say about mercy? He will ask what your life says about it.

Act now to have something to say.




Read more:
You may be suffering from acedia — and it’s deadly

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ConfessionSpiritual Life
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