Small Sins

When I was in Florida, I was told never to feed alligators because otherwise they will want more and approach people demanding food. This reminded me of what happened in 1939 when a coast guard vessel was cruising the Canadian Arctic. There they spotted a polar bear stranded on a sheet of floating ice. Having never seen a polar beer, the sailors started throwing salami and chocolate bars to the bear.

Obviously the bear wanted more and soon he was on board the boat. The seamen were petrified and they tried desperately to ward him off shooting water from the fire hoses. He eventually returned to his ice pad but only after a terrible scare.

Some people make the same mistake. You cannot feed sin without suffering the consequences. I heard many 'good' Christians lament that bad things happen to good people. It may be true, but many get on the fast track to bad things happening to them, because they begin little by little to do those things they know they should not do! That will surely speed up the process of bringing those bad things about in life.

Solomon would say to us today just what he said so many years ago when his words were originally written down, "My son, if sinners entice you, do not consent."

Sin always enters gradually. A slight peek at an out-of-bounds internet webpage, a drink at the bar with a workmate of different sex, a light dipping in the money that is not yours, a can of beer with friends, a taste of light drugs… and the battle is practically lost. We cannot feed sin and expect that things will remain the same. Sin is like an animal. Be sure to give it daily attention and it will grow big and strong!

Around my parish in London Ontario Canada, there are a number of cattle ranches. Once in a while, a cow wanders off and gets lost . . . Speaking with a rancher, he explained to me what always happens. "Well, you see, the cow starts nibbling on a tuft of green grass, and when it finishes, it looks ahead to the next tuft of green grass and starts nibbling on that one, and then it nibbles on a tuft of grass right next to a hole in the fence. It then sees another tuft of green grass on the other side of the fence, so it nibbles on that one and then goes on to the next tuft. The next thing you know, the cow has nibbled itself into being lost."

The first nibble. The first step. 'It is just a small thing', we always try to rationalize ourselves out of the temptation. But it is the small things that bog us down. One man managed to walk from New York to San Francisco. When asked what the biggest hurdle was, he did not mention the steep slopes of the mountains or the crossing hot and dry stretches of desert. Instead, he said, "The thing that came the closest to defeating me was the sand in my shoes."

How many times small leads to big! You sow a thought and you will reap a deed. You sow a deed and you will reap a habit. You sow a habit and you will reap a character. You sow a character and you will reap a destiny! It goes rapidly from bad to worse.

So what can I do? Just follow the sequence of this message. Day 1: I walk down the street. There is a deep hole in the sidewalk. I fall in. I am lost. I am helpless. It isn't my fault. It takes forever to find my way out. Day 2: I walk down the street. There is a deep hole in the sidewalk. I pretend I don't see it. I fall in. I can't believe I am in the same place, but it wasn't my fault. It still takes me a long time to get out.

Day 3: I walk down the street. There is a deep hole in the sidewalk. I see it there. I still fall in. It's a habit. My eyes are open. I know where I am. It is my fault. I get out immediately. Day 4: I walk down the street. There is a deep hole in the sidewalk. I walk around it. Day 5: I walk down a different street.

It makes sense, no?

(c) Fr. Pius Sammut, OCD. Permission is hereby granted for any non-commercial use, provided that the content is unaltered from its original state, if this copyright notice is included.