Can a thought become a sin? It’s time to reflect.
As long back as I can remember, I had been a good Christian, going to Church regularly and getting involved in Church activities, but nobody could guess that I was simply going through the motions. In 2010 however, an incident shook me to the core and led me to hear the voice of God amidst the anguish. This revelation helped me begin my journey to becoming a true Christian.
Veronica and I were not the best of friends; we hung out together because our boys brought us together. But we were friends who genuinely liked each other and mothers who loved our children. She was sweet, beautiful, and a genuinely kind person. My son was her son’s best friend.
On August 28, 2010, Veronica called me and asked if my son could spend the night at her house. Though I had allowed him to, dozens of times before, that night, for some reason, I was uneasy. I told her no, but that he could go over and play for the afternoon and that I would pick him up before dinner. Around 4 o’clock, I drove over to her house to pick him up. As I stood in Veronica’s kitchen area and chatted about our boys, she told me how each of them had a gift and what special children they were. She had taken them to the grocery store to buy their favorite ice cream. My son also wanted cereal, which she generously bought for him and gave me to take home for him. I thanked her and drove away.
The next morning, I woke up to the news that she had been murdered. Right there, where I had stood talking to her the evening before…Her soon-to-be ex-husband had hired a hitman to murder her because they were separated, and really who knows why else. I felt like I’d been punched in the stomach. I couldn’t breathe. I couldn’t stop crying.
In my agony, I lay on my bedroom floor crying, wailing really. A beautiful young mother, 39 years old, murdered, leaving behind her 8-year-old son motherless. And for what? I cried out to God in anguish and anger. How could You let this happen? Why Lord?
In the midst of my anguish, a thought came over me. And for the first time in my life, I recognized this thought as the voice of God. God said, “I don’t want this; people choose this.” I asked God, “What, what in the world can I do in this awful place?” He answered me, “Susan, good in the world starts with you.” I began to think. I thought about how I had seen Veronica and her husband in church together, and I wondered how a person who was plotting murder could even attend church. God answered me again.
He told me that her husband did not start out as a murderer but that his sin had grown in his heart, gone unchecked, and he had been led down a long dark path. I remembered the Bible verse, “But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart” (Matthew 5:28). That moment, this verse made sense to me. I had always thought, “How can a thought be a sin?” After Veronica’s murder, it all made sense to me. Sin starts in your heart and takes over once you act on it with your hands. And if we never take the time to examine our conscience or think about what is right and what is wrong, chances are, we can really go down a wrong path.
So Lord, “What can I do?” He told me that the only person I could control was myself—that I could choose to love and spread that love outward. For me, this meant examining my own conscience and trying to become a better person. Did I love my enemy? Or even my neighbor, for that matter? The answer, unfortunately, was a resounding NO. I was dismayed when I realized I had not been loving towards the people around me.
In the Catholic Church, we have the Sacrament of Confession, where we go to a priest and confess our sins. I had always disliked this Sacrament and dreaded going for it. But here, in this place, crying on the ground, I found it to be a gift. A gift I was actually grateful for. In telling my sins, I was able to encounter Christ. I had a confession like I had never had before. In this Sacrament, I received the grace that Jesus offers to us when we choose to ask for it. I took a good hard look at myself, and my selfishness started to burn away because of my encounter with God’s unconditional love at the confessional. The Sacrament makes me try to do better, and though I know that I am a sinner and will continue to have failures, I can always look to receiving His sanctifying grace and forgiveness no matter what. This helps me to spread His goodness forward. I don’t think you have to be a Catholic to understand this.
Veronica’s murder was not my fault, but I would definitely not let her die in vain; I would not let her life be snuffed out without letting others know the impact it had on me and that good could come out of the ashes of such awful circumstances. Thus, my journey toward being truly Christian began.
I thought of Veronica in the Bible. While Jesus suffered during His Passion, making His way to Golgotha, bloodied and beaten, He came across a woman also named Veronica. Veronica wiped the face of Jesus. A small act of kindness. This man, this God-man, was bloodied, beaten, tired, and in agony, yet this woman, Veronica, provided a brief respite. A few seconds where the sweat and blood were wiped away, and for a moment, however short, he felt love from this woman. It did not stop His Passion nor His suffering, but in a world that was mocking Him, scourging Him, that woman’s touch with the cloth must have felt glorious. So, He imprinted His image on her cloth.
The name “Veronica” means “True Image.” Jesus left Veronica the mark of His love. And so, because of my friend, Veronica, who also provided me with love and respite during a tough time in my life, I must spread love and kindness wherever I go. I cannot stop suffering, but I can offer that respite to those who are lost, poor, lonely, unwanted, or unloved. And so, for me, I will wipe the Face of Jesus for as long as His grace and mercy allow me to.
Susan Skinner is a wife, mom, caregiver, and writer. Currently, she is the director of Adult Faith Formation and RCIA at Saint Philip Catholic Church in Franklin, TN.
I was driving home when I noticed two street signs that seemed incongruous. The train station and shop signs were pointing in the wrong directions; the exact opposite ones, to be precise. If I were a tourist, a traveler who is not familiar with the suburb, I would have followed the sign and got lost. I guess somebody had moved the street signs as a prank or even as an intentional deception. In our walk with the Lord too, we need to know who is navigating us—God, ourselves, others, or the evil one. If we are not aware of our surroundings, we can easily get lost or misled. This Lent, whose voice will we listen to? Judas…the crowd…Pilate…or Jesus…?
To be good at anything, we have to put time, effort, and practice into it. The same applies to our preparation for eternity. How well are we going to do at the end of year exams if we have put little or no time towards studying during the year? Similarly, how well will we stand up on judgment day when we are held accountable for our lives? In our preparation period on earth for eternity, how much of our life was spent in prayer, good works, and sacrifice? Our Lord paid the ultimate price for our salvation, but we have to play our part. As He has graciously allowed us to be part of that sacrifice, let us not waste this valuable opportunity. He, through Calvary, has given us a chance to be part of His redemption, to be part of His sanctity, consequently allowing mere humans to be called into sainthood. What a privilege! As my mother would always remind us, children, this life of ours on earth, short or long, is but a preparation period, the springboard to eternity. How we fare in the structure of eternal life will be determined not only by Jesus’ death and resurrection, but by every thought, word, and deed we perpetrated during the time we spent on earth.
If your sacrifices are dragging you down and causing you to dread Lent—take heart. Our Lady at Fatima gave the children a prayer which offers compelling reasons to sacrifice. Her words may help dispel your Lenten dreads. The prayer begins: “O Jesus, it (this sacrifice I am making) is for love of You.” Why not borrow those words and make them your own? Telling Jesus you are doing this hard Lenten thing for love of Him may remind you why you are denying yourself in the first place: you are making room in your heart, so that you may love Him more. Further, the prayer helped the children offer their sacrifices for “the conversion of sinners.” You can do the same. When you make a Lenten sacrifice, offer it for a specific loved one who is living far from God. “O Jesus, this is for love of You, for the conversion of......” Praying in Our Lady’s words will not lessen the difficulty of your sacrifices; but, because it sweetens them with love for Jesus and for lost souls, her words may truly help to dispel your Lenten dreads.
I am not one of those holy souls who look forward to Lent. However, I do have a few friends and family members who do. So, I try to take note of why that is the case. Just last week, my mom mentioned she was looking forward to Lent so she could invite her band, who are all senior citizens, to her parish fish fry. She said she’s really looking forward to it, since most of them aren’t Catholic but have mentioned that they like attending fish fries. After enjoying their traditional fish and chips, my mom is planning on reserving a room in the parish hall so the band can make music together after dinner. They call themselves the Silver Foxes and often visit nursing homes together to spread a little joy. My mom is a joyful evangelist, even at age 80! And she has unlocked the secret that Lent is for more than making penitential acts, but it is a time for growing the Kingdom of God by growing the Body of Christ.
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