St. Teresa of Avila once stated, “We always find that those who walked closest to Christ were those who had to bear the greatest trials.”
Shoes, Comfort, Sin, and Appearances
I recently saw a woman wobbling down the street and having great difficulty walking. The other woman she was with kept pointing to this woman’s shoes and shaking her head. Ultimately, the stumbling woman simply took off her shoes and began to walk barefoot. From what I could decipher from a distance, it appears that the woman had been sacrificing comfort for appearances. While the shoes looked great and clearly fit the rest of her outfit, they did not fit her feet and proved more trouble than they were worth.
This recent Lent provided me with many opportunities to think about comfort, sin, and appearances.
Comfort is a Relative Thing
According to St. Paul, “For there shall be a time when they will not endure sound doctrine; but according to their own desires, they will heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears. And will indeed turn away their hearing from the truth, but will be turned unto fables.” (2 Tim 4:1-4)
Our world tells us that we can never have too much comfort. After all, what rational person would ever reject a more comfortable chair in favor of an uncomfortable one? Comfort is often equated in this world with money, such that most see having a lot of money as the way to find greater comfort. In the sense, many of us would question the sanity of someone like St. Francis of Assisi, who turned his back on a great fortune to live a life of poverty and want. Having too much money or too much comfort will not get anyone in this society any sympathy.
However, comfort is a relative thing. We probably all need at least some of it to function on a long-term basis. On the other hand, too much comfort may do us as much, if not more, harm than good. Comfort tends to slip us into the mentality of forgetting God and His blessings. Comfort tends to make us complacent and lukewarm in our faith. Comfort even fools us into believing that our happiness is wholly our own doing.
Comfort is a vicious cycle into self-obsession. The more comfortable we feel, the more selfish and self-absorbed we tend to become. Content in our own convenient abundance, we tend to forget the need and suffering of others.
We need only look at Christ to remember that comfort and Christianity are often polar opposites in this world. Our Lord was born into and regularly faced poverty, rejection, and inconvenience. If we aspire to follow Christ, we must likewise aspire to, and even embrace, discomfort as the price.
Tolerance for Sin as Compromise for Comfort
Fulton Sheen said, “Tolerance applies only to persons, never to truth…or principles. About these things, we must be intolerant.”
Psychologists tell us that people tend to seek stability and consistency in their lives while instinctively pulling away from discomfort and chaos. It would be wonderful if this all meant that everyone lined up in neat lines marching toward heaven and salvation and away from the chaos of sin. However, human nature is an arrogant fool. Sadly, we find that this world increasingly views sin as sanity and rejection of sin as chaos. Charity and mercy call on us to be tolerant of the sinner, but intolerant of the sin—most especially our own.
Increasingly surrounded and enticed by sin, we often find it much more comfortable to accept, rationalize, and even embrace sin as the path of least upheaval and greater acceptance by this world. We wear the distorted shoes of sin so often that we soon see our limp as the accepted way to walk.
Reject the Appearances and Moral Fashions of this World
This society immerses itself in the notion of tolerance as a universal good without accepting the reality that not all tolerance is a good thing. What would happen if we tolerated murder, rape, and other violent crimes? Is it even rational to be a Catholic who supports abortion? Obsessed with appearances and superficial morality, we too often stumble along in shoes of sin we got in the habit of wearing.
We cannot be tolerant of sin in our lives. We must foster a personality and nature that rejects the sin that will surely come across our way with each passing day. Being weak and inconsistent human beings, we will often fall in some way during this year. Rather than spend all of our time and efforts avoiding the falls, we must dedicate a good portion of our preparation and fortitude to constructively dealing with the falls that will surely come.
As members of this society and world, we can all fall for the lure of acceptance, popularity, and group pressure. If we get too used to wearing the warped shoes of sin, we will eventually become so accustomed to their fit that all confession, contrition, or remorse will seem useless and unnecessary.
Lukewarm compromise and those who sold out their morals become increasingly tepid in our faith. The greatest evil and lie is feeling hopeless under the weight of our sins. Divine Mercy reminds us that Christ will always reach out to us if we reach out to him. We reach out to Our Lord by frequent confession and Communion, prayer, and good works for others.
Stop stumbling along in the distorted shoes of sin just for acceptance or the sake of appearances. Do not seek the comfort and convenience of this world over the struggles of following Christ. Embrace the discomfort of your sin as the sign that you have not compromised your faith and values. Likewise, embrace Divine Mercy as Our Lord’s promise to reach out to you as long as you find sin uncomfortable in your life. Above all, love God so much that you will always see sin as an intolerable and uncomfortable pair of shoes you simply refuse to wear.
2018 Gabriel Garnica