Okay, so it’s Saturday afternoon, and I am examining my conscience to make certain that I don’t need to go to Confession before Mass tomorrow. Like always, I go through the Ten Commandments. “No, I have not used God’s Name in vain. No, I haven’t murdered anybody. No, I haven’t been sassy to my parents…” After going through the entire examination of conscience booklet and responding “no” to all the little questions, I begin to think I have been doing pretty well. I haven’t done anything very bad or even anything sort of bad. In fact, I haven’t done anything at all. At that moment, I remember hearing once or twice that odd little phrase: Sins of Omission. Uh-oh.
Sins of Omission, in case you are unaware, are all those things which we should have done, but didn’t do. It means—as I so often need to be reminded—that ours is not a faith of passivity but of activity. The Commandments aren’t a list of “Thou shalt nots.” There are those in there which obviously call us, not to refrain from bad things, but to do good things. “Honor thy mother and father,” is not just a command to not lie to them, or not steal from them, or to not argue with them. Even those which say “No” are merely another way of saying “Yes.” To not bear false witness against our neighbor doesn’t mean to simply refrain from deceiving them; it obliges us to provide them with the truth in all things, to educate them, and to be fair in all our dealings with them. In short, it means to love them. In fact, Love is the ultimate calling of us all. And Love isn’t passive. It is a verb.
I hope I’m the only Catholic who needs to be reminded of this, because that would mean the rest of Catholics are fairly well off; but I seriously doubt that I am. See, there are a lot of Protestants out there, and even Catholic apologists, apparently, can be affected by sola fide. Yes, I think Catholics are affected by sola fide—that Lutheran belief that claims works do not matter for your salvation, but only your faith. If you have faith, these non-Catholics say, you are fine. And whether you are a second Mother Theresa or a lazy Refrainer, it doesn’t make a difference. Yet, Faith is not listed as the greatest of the virtues—Love is. We are called to Love. That four letter verb means action! It means to get off our duff and work! If you truly love your wife, or your husband, are you going to simply entertain warm fuzzy emotions about them? Or are you going to show them your love by doing things for them? If you truly love your children, are you going to stop at not abusing them? Or are you going to hug them, hold them, and try to give them the world? To Love means to go about visiting the people in prison, to feed the hungry, to take care of the sick, to teach children to read, and to donate clothes to people who can’t afford any of their own (sound familiar?). In fact, if we don’t do these things—if we merely sit on our duff pondering a general good will toward our fellow man—we will be rejected by Christ with the rest of the goats. These works are not a side-effect of Love. They are not physical evidence of Love. They are Love. Now, don’t get me wrong. I am not saying (as some would accuse me of) that we work our way to heaven by our lonesome. Hardly. That we can Love God at all is—with our sinful, selfish, fallen natures—a miraculous act of the Lord. What I am saying is that our work is our Love, and our Love is our Faith, and that without these verbs we are goners.
“But I do do things,” we automatically cry in our defense. “I mean, I go to Mass every Sunday, and give 10% of my income to the Church, and I go to Confession and Communion at least once a year. I do do things!” But, there’s a flaw here, because we are doing the bare minimum. Would you do the bare minimum to help your kids? No. If you loved them, you’d try to give them the world. Then why do we take this “bare-minimum” stance in our relationship with God? If we truly Love God with all our heart mind and souls, then every moment of our lives is going to be a work in His service. If you haven’t had a conversion of heart—if your life isn’t one giant work for the Lord by being a long series of small works for Him—then your Love and your Faith are imperfect. You’ve misunderstood the meaning of a “verb”. And you really need to confess all those sins of omission! So, that is all for now. I’m off to Confession.
Note to Readers: I use the word "Protestant," here and elsewhere in a very general way. I know there is no one set of beliefs that Protestants uniformly believe, and that they differ on a million little points. So, I use the word to describe any non-Catholic Christian who disagrees on such-and-such point with the Church. Please forgive the imprecise terminology, or my perhaps imperfect pairing of beliefs with the word "Protestant." It might not apply to you specifically... but it does apply to some Protestants.