I’m in Bluffton, South Carolina leading a Lenten parish mission on the topic of sin. The first night I told my conversion story with a perspective on the difference between Catholic and Protestant understandings of sin. Last night the session was a discussion of sin using Dante’s Inferno as a guide for examination of conscience. This evening I’ll be focussing on the best way to overcome sin and lead a perfect happy life.
It is, of course, necessary to attempt to battle against sin and overcome evil, but as I wrote in my book Praying the Rosary for Spiritual Warfare, the best way to overcome evil is to focus on the good. Evil is, after all, never anything more than a distortion or destruction of what is good. As darkness is the absence of light and cold is the absence of heat, so evil is the absence or the destruction or distortion of good.
It follows that the best way to banish the dark is to light a candle. The best way to get rid of the cold it to light a fire. The best way to overcome evil is to pursue all that is beautiful, good and true.
Therefore, using Dante’s structure of hell, here are ten things you can pursue to not only avoid sin, but to lead a full, happy, peaceful, abundant and holy life. The key to remember is that Dante considers every sin to be a sin against love. Do these things and you will therefore lead a life of love.
- Get Up and Get Going! – The vestibule of hell is for the indifferent. It is for those who have not done anything terrible wrong, but also have not done anything wonderfully good. The first step is to take charge and to get involved and get off your butt and decide to do something wonderfully good with your life.
- Honor Marriage – The first circle of hell is for the lustful. Instead of all that sordid stuff you think, watch and do….love your wife. Love your husband. Be joyful in marriage and give to them 100%. If you’re not married, support those of your acquaintance who are. Celebrate life and love. Be fruitful and multiply. Have children and with them all the joys and sorrows of love.
- Eat, Drink and Be Merry… – …for tomorrow you live! The second circle is the gluttonous. Enjoy food. Enjoy drink, but enjoy them in moderation and delight. Don’t just eat for the pleasure. Enjoy growing food, buying food, cooking food and sharing food. Be convivial. Food and drink nurture relationships. Have family dinners. Eat out with friends. Throw dinner parties, barbecue, cookouts and picnics. Also feed the hungry, volunteer at the soup kitchen, the food pantry and the parish fish fry.
- Love All Things According to their Worth – The fourth circle is reserved for the hoarders and spenders. This is the punishment for those who are hopelessly materialistic and those who hoard their wealth in a stingy way. Forget that. Love your material possessions according to their worth. They are good, but what are they good for? A car is to get you from A to B safely and in comfort and some style. Its not a trophy or a status symbol. Your house should be a home–a place to bring up a family, a place to be safe and secure, a place to entertain others and welcome them to share your blessings. It is not primarily an investment or a sign of your success. Your money is given to you for the safety and security of your family, but also for you to share and give generously to others and to God’s work. Enjoy all the good things you have. Live modestly and be generous and you will be happy.
- Work for Justice and Peace – The fifth circle is that of the wrathful–those who harbor bitterness and anger in their hearts. Instead of this seek righteous anger. Be angry at injustice, cruelty, persecution of the innocent and roll up your sleeves and get involved at a local level to bring about peace and justice in the world. Fight for the rights of the down trodden. Protest abortion. Protest unjust war. Stand up for those who are innocently persecuted and your anger and frustration will disappear.