A Christian Has No Private Sins
A lovely young lady, already my godchild, recently asked me to be her sponsor for Confirmation this fall. I took the required Sponsor Certificate for Confirmation form to my parish office to be signed and stamped with the parish seal. The church secretary handed me the completed form.
``Now you're set. That's all you have to do," she said with a smile.
I surprised both of us by responding, "That's all, except to try to act like a Christian for the rest of my life.'' We both laughed, but what I had said was not just a flippant answer. It came from the realization that sponsoring this young teenager for Confirmation meant that I was accepting more than just a social obligation to walk with her and give her a gift. The form I had just signed put it this way: "I solemnly promise to give my full support to the person I am sponsoring, by the Christian example of my daily life as a Roman Catholic, so help me God."
To me the key words in this statement are "Christian example." For us who are parents, teachers, pastors. friends, workers in other words, for all of us our example as Christians to those subject to our influence is so much more important than any words we might say.
People who are caught up in addictive or compulsive behavior for example drinking, drugs, gambling, or sex often try to compartmentalize their lives and seal off the area of their addiction from their families. They tell themselves that their behavior in this area has nothing to do with anyone else, and everyone should just leave them alone. The inevitable lying and deceit resulting from this attitude can be even more hurtful than the behavior itself.
Through recent news events involving President Clinton, we have seen the tremendous harm that can be done through the ripple effect of our behavior. As Christians, none of our behavior is private, affecting just ourselves alone. We are all connected. Whatever we do, even when alone. affects not just ourselves, but everyone around us and ultimately the whole Church and all humankind. One of the effects of sin, says the Catechism of the Catholic Church, is that it "injures human solidarity" (No. 1872). On at least a spiritual level, the most personal, private sin hurts everyone.
As a person recovering from alcoholism, I am responsible for not taking a drink today. Today I choose not to return to the unhealthy morass of alcoholism with its hidden, secret drinking. I cannot change the past, but now I want my present life to be an open book for my own children, my godchild, my husband and family. If there are any pages of my book that I do not want them to see, those are the areas I need to admit to myself and discuss honestly with another person. This is where I need to ask the Holy Spirit to shine his light. Among Christians, shameful secrets should have no place.
Mary D. is a Catholic member of Alcoholics Anonymous. Questions or comments may be sent to Mary D., c/o the Arlington Catholic HERALD, 200 N. Glebe Rd. Suite 607, Arlington, Va. 22203.
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