Several years ago at a prayer meeting a friend placed a very large watermelon in my hands and said, “This is your sin.” Immediately the melon felt like a burden. I quickly realized that the melon was handicapping me. It took both hands and no small effort to hang on to it.

“So this is my sin?” I thought. It really was taking a lot of my focus and energy. All I could think of was, “Why in the world am I carrying this around?”

How could I do the work of God if I was holding on to this massive impediment of sin? How can I receive the graces and blessings God offers to me if my hands are being used to hang on to the vices and sins that drag me down?

Sin distances us from God and keeps us from being the authentic beings that he has created us to be. We are meant to be his hands here, loving our brother and sister with charity and selfless giving.

Yet we lose our focus and drift into sin. And sometimes we stay there. Sin is all about us, it is a selfish venture. As Scripture says, “Pride goeth before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall.” (Proverbs 16:18)

We give time and energy over to it and it begins to possess us. Sin begins small, and it always is accompanied by lies we tell ourselves. “It’s not that bad. Other people are worse than you. You deserve this.” The lies help us accept our small sin, and then they will eventually help accept something larger. Sin grows within us. If we don’t turn from them, our sins become larger and darker and multiply.

Sometimes someone in the news or someone we know has a dramatic sinful fall, and we find ourselves saying, “There but for the grace of God go I.” We know the capacity, that concupiscence for sin, exists within each of us. It is how we respond to temptation that then defines our spiritual path.

The Depeche Mode song “Strange Love” has a line that goes, “I give in to sin, because you have to make this life livable.” That is the big lie of sin: that being good, being holy, is very, very boring. You have to add a little sin into your life to keep it interesting and spice it up. The big problem is that you can’t just add a little bit of sin. That’s not the way sin works. It’s not the way Satan works.

A little bit of sin is a slippery slope. When small, venial sins become normalized and accepted, the door is open to more and greater sin. And sin waits to walk through that open door. The darkness attacks our weaknesses.

That weakness can be a need to feel accepted, a desire to feel interesting, a need to feel loved, feeling overlooked or taken advantage of, feeling unappreciated. Sin warps our perception and understanding of needs that are not bad in and of themselves, but sin provides false answers, false solutions which leave us empty and hurt because they are predicated on lies.

Our sin ultimately leads us nowhere.  Saint Paul asks us, “But then what return did you get from of which you are now ashamed?” He tells us that the thing we get in return for being a slave to sin is death. (Romans 6:21-22)

Carrying around that watermelon is killing you!

St. Paul urges us to be slaves of righteousness, to be slaves of God, because the return that you get then is “sanctification and its end, eternal life.” (Romans 6:22)

Saint Paul’s answer would be to put the watermelon down, turn your back on it and walk towards Christ. Paul, however, knows from personal experience, the same human experience that we all have, that we are carnal creatures and though we may hate sin, we may find ourselves doing the very things that we hate. (Romans 7:15)

We have to die to our sins. We have to die with Christ, who took on all of our sins on the cross, so that we can then live with him in grace. Sin is death, but God brings life from death. So we then must yield ourselves to God “as instruments of righteousness. For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace.” (Romans 6:13-14)

Grace

Remember that God has a desire to place gifts we need into our hands, but instead we decide to pick up, carry and cling to our heavy watermelon. We filled our hands with something else, sin, and block our avenue to God’s graces.

Through grace we participate in the life of Christ. Our participation in that life and cooperation with God’s graces leads us to eternal salvation.

Graces are supernatural blessings, gifts freely given into our hands for the good of God’s will. The Catechism of the Catholic Church states, “The grace of Christ is the gratuitous gift that God makes to us of his own life, infused by the Holy Spirit into our soul to heal it of sin and to sanctify it.” (CCC 1999)

The very gift from God that we deny by clinging to sin is the very thing that heals us of our sin. The really good news is that God loves us anyway. Even when we are dead in our sins, even when we have wandered so far from God we can’t feel his love, it is still there. He waits and watches for us like the Father of the Prodigal Son, ready to greet us with great joy when we turn back to him.

“But God, who is rich in mercy, out of great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead through our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved) and raised up with him.” (Ephesians 2:4-6)

It doesn’t matter how big your watermelon is or how long you’ve been carrying it, every day God is loving you just like he did the day you were baptized and became sinless. Every new day greets as full of opportunity to be reconciled to God.

Sometimes we hang on to our watermelons because they have become a habit or addiction. Sometimes because we feel they are so big or dark that we are too embarrassed and ashamed to confess them. Sometimes we lie to ourselves to blind ourselves to our sins. Sometimes we like the pleasure, despite the pains it brings along with it.

Sometimes we lie and tell ourselves that we need that sin, that we’d be miserable without it. After all, like Depeche Mode said, “You have to make this life livable.” But what about the next life? The wages of sin is death because it keeps us from eternal life. We have to make the next life livable. We need to remember to live with the end in mind. The desirable end is union with the Lord in life eternal.

Trust in the Lord. Trust in his love and mercy.

It’s a new year. It’s a new day. Begin fresh and clean.

Trust in the Sacrament of Reconciliation and use it often.

Find that one big thing. Identify that one big besetting sin and actively work on removing it.

Open your hands to God’s graces.

Put the watermelon down.

Kevin Theriault is a Lay Dominican writer, freelance journalist and photographer.

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