Friday, March 9, 2012

It's the little things

One of the things that puzzled me about older practices of the Sacrament of Reconciliation is the confession of venial sins.  The reason for this is that it seemed so unnecessary.  Venial sins are remitted via the reception of the Eucharist.  So why would anyone waste time on such a thing?

I'm not sure when it occurred to me but I began to realize that the "habit" of receiving the sacrament of Reconciliation was important.  It struck me that if I could not confess small things I had done wrong (I stole a penny) then what were the odds I actually would confess something more serious (I killed three people).  It is hard enough to own up to something minor.  Imagine when one would have to admit to a more serious fault.

Just as small evils lead toward bigger ones if left unchecked, doing small good works, if continued, lead toward higher and nobler actions.  A person who gives often will find it easier to give during the Bishop's Appeal.  A person who offers small things during Lent will find the grace and strength to sacrifice for greater needs.  The actions we do in small things prepare our souls for larger things, both good and evil.

So what does this have to do with truth?  Like other habits, telling the truth and pursuing the truth are actions that require a foundation.  If one is inclined to tell the truth in small things, the capacity to tell the truth in greater matters is increased.  Likewise, pursuing the truth and being faithful to truth in smaller matters builds us up to confront the truth in greater matters.

One of the things that motivated me to leave the Evangelical group that I hung out with in college was the anti-Catholic rhetoric that I encountered from time to time.  It wasn't so much the ignorance of the Catholic position, but the unwillingness to be corrected.  It was as if the misunderstanding was necessarily a part of the creed of certain individuals in the group.

My thinking was that how could those who are not concerned about the truth in small matters could be trusted in their pursuit of bigger matters?  The kind of truths that make you question fundamental assumptions about humanity and the Divine.  If we cannot be bothered to be corrected about small matters what are the odds we will be willing to be corrected about the things we do wrong.  This is not to say that they were evil by any means, but that there is a blind spot in this way of thinking.

The small things we do matter.  When we tell a small lie, cheat a little on a test, or even pose online as someone we are not, we misrepresent ourselves and compromise our ability to be honest with the things that matter.  We do ourselves no favors when we compromise our integrity in small matters.

 We can only do our best.  And we must do our best.  A life of virtue is one built in small steps.  Without constant vigilance for the truth in all things we leave ourselves open to the lies we tell ourselves to make life easier.  Embrace truth.  It's good for you.

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