Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Magnetic Mailboxes Speak to My Heart

Magnetic Mailboxes

Learning to ride a bicycle is an important event in a young boy’s life. I clearly remember the day when my dad took the training-wheels off of my bike. I grew up in a small town on a quiet side-street in Indiana. It was the perfect setting for my first attempt at riding solo like the big kids.

At first my dad held on to the seat while running behind the bike. Then the moment of truth arrived. Dad let go of the seat and I wobbled down the street on my own, similar to a baby deer taking its first steps. I remember the emotion of exhilaration turning into terror as I crashed into a neighbor’s mailbox on the edge of the street! My dad ran over and encouraged me to "get back on the horse that bucked me." Holding the seat he helped me get started again. Crash! I promptly smashed into the next mailbox. Like a moth into the searing light of a bug-zapper, this happened again and again as I tried to make my way up and down our street. I swore that those were magnetic mailboxes! The more I focused on avoiding the approaching mailbox, the faster I crashed into it (I had a similar tendency when I learned to drive a car years later)!

My capacity for crashing into mailboxes taught me about concupiscence. As a consequence of our frail and fallen human nature, we experience an attraction and inclination to sin. We have disordered desires (see The Catechism of the Catholic Church ##1264, 1426, 2515). Saint Paul once wrote, “I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate... For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I do. Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I that do it, but sin which dwells in me” (Rom 7:15, 19-20).

Yes, as we go through life we are faced with all sorts of temptations to sin. If sin was not fun, no one would give in to it. Even in sin there is something attractive, at least on the surface. “So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate; and she also gave some to her husband, and he ate” (Genesis 3:6). Saint Thomas Aquinas taught that the will always chooses a perceived good, even in choosing sin.

We need a conversion on many levels! The first step in repentance is acknowledging that we have a desire for sin, for what is not good for us, for crashing into mailboxes. Next, with the help of God’s grace, we struggle to make correct choices. When we make wrong choices, when we crash into mailboxes, let us get up - go to Confession - and try again. Hell is full of sinners. Heaven is full of sinners who kept getting up and trying again.

Pray, pray, pray,

Fr. Luke Mary Fletcher, CFR
St. Joseph Friary, New York, NY


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