It was a Friday evening as I sat in line for confession. I thought to myself, “This certainly isn’t how the average twenty-something gal spends a Friday night.” I sat in a quiet church with the Blessed Sacrament exposed, waiting for my turn to get my soul scrubbed clean. As I waited, I pulled out my rosary and began to pray the sorrowful mysteries. While I prayed and prepared myself to come face to face with my sins before God’s mercy, I couldn’t help but connect Christ’s suffering and passion to the choices I make when I sin.
More often than not I know something is a sin before I do it. There are even times when I reason with myself and try to “logically” convince myself that what I’m about to do isn’t in fact a sin, despite the fact that I’ve confessed it before without a priest stopping me to tell me otherwise. In meditating upon the sorrowful mysteries I realized that Christ already gave us the perfect solution to sin: imitate Him. I know it sounds obvious, but the sorrowful mysteries shed new light on what it means to imitate Christ when we are faced with sin.
Agony in the Garden
Our agony in the garden moments come when we wrestle with ourselves. Is this really a sin? Or, my other go-to favorite: Well, I’ve already done X once since my last confession, why not enjoy it a few more times before I go to confession again? Christ’s agony in the garden shows us that there is a temptation to go one way or the other. He desired for the cup to pass from Him, we desire to give in to that sin just one more time.
Scourging at the Pillar
Christ made the decision to choose God’s will and freely suffer for us. When we find ourselves agonizing in the garden we have two choices: give in to the sin or fight temptation. The holier choice, of course, is to fight the temptation. But, as C.S. Lewis describes, “We never find out the strength of the evil impulse inside us until we try to fight it.” When we try to fight the temptation we often find ourselves being scourged: the temptation increases, begging us to give in, to surrender. However, like Christ, we are invited to hold fast to His love and strength as we endure the temptation to give in and give up.
Crowning with Thorns
The pain and the agony increase as we fight temptation. Sometimes, as it takes all of our might to fight the temptations before us, it can feel like a crown of thorns is being forced on to our heads. In fact, sometimes we put this crown there ourselves: thinking like God and choosing what God wills over our desire feels like thorns being driven into our will as the temptation to sin slowly leaves.
Carrying the Cross
At what seems like long last, we pick up our cross. Our desire for whatever sin we are most tempted with is buried under the weight of the cross. Following Christ’s command, we pick up our cross and follow Him, not sin. He shows us that even though the weight of the cross is massive, God will always send us help along the way. Whether that comes in the form of a Veronica who wipes our faces and encourages onward, or a Simon of Cyrene who shares the weight of the cross with us, the Lord will provide.
When we feel tempted we look to Christ and see the perfect answer for our temptation: spreading out our arms and commending our spirit into His hands. When we spread out our arms it is a physical reminder that there is something bigger than us out there, something our hands and arms cannot hold. When we tell God, “This is too much for me, I thirst, into Your hands I commend my spirit” He comes to us with His grace, mercy and strength. He holds us under the shadow of our wings, but we have to be willing to surrender our desire to His will.
St. Teresa of Avila said, “You pay God a compliment by asking great things of Him.” Invite Him into the temptation and invite Him into your sin. Lay your burdens on Him as you take up the words of Jesus, “Into Your hands I commend my spirit.” The choice to run to or away from sin is ours.