Every Friday in Lent I wake up with an overwhelming desire to eat meat. Usually a Big Mac.
This is an unusual craving for me.
We are, in this house, meat eaters and I enjoy a hanburger as much as the next person but I can’t think of another time when I have actually craved meat. I look forward to the Thanksgiving turkey and enjoy cold fried chicken on a hot summer day but it is hardly a passionate response.
So why the craving, especially for a Big Mac? On the rare occasion that I have eaten one of them, they are good, but they leave me feeling slightly sick. It’s just too big of an indulgence.
You might think my explanation a trifle odd but I honestly think these small temptations come directly from the Evil One.
Stick with me a minute.
It would serve no purpose to tempt me to rob a bank. I have no ability to get out of the house without five children trailing behind me and that would make me somewhat conspicuous as a bank robber. The only disguise I could adopt while sporting this large pregnant belly is Santa Claus and I can’t think where I would get a Santa suit in March. That coupled with the fact that it is an absolute that stealing, all stealing, is a sin would make trying to tempt me to rob a bank pointless.
Same thing with murder. I honestly can’t think of anyone I feel that strongly should be out of the world. I also have watched enough CSI to know that no matter how careful you think you are -you are going to get caught.
For a person like me these “BIG TEN” sins are fairly easy to avoid. I might look longingly at my neighbor’s lovely new house with the pretty porch and the new landscaping but I don’t covet it in a sinful way. More of a wistful way (my yard is decorated with bikes, basketballs and buckets). My life is fairly sheltered in that it revolves around my faith, my husband and children, and our loving circle of friends and family – all of whom share our values.
So the Evil One, who is not dumb, tries to chip away at my soul a little here and a little there. I am reminded of a lesson I teach to my first communicants (I teach an autism CCD class in our parish program). My little guys are visual learners so I cut out a large circle of white posterboard and thread a long string of yarn through the top, so they can wear it around their necks. On one side of my demonstration piece I mark it up with little black marks all over. “This is your soul when you are born” I explain holding up the perfectly white side. Every time we sin it is like a black mark dirtying up your soul. Then I show them the marked side. If you commit a mortal sin you actually lose pieces of your soul. Then I show them a circle with other big circles cut out of it. I then go on to explain that going to confession, receiving forgiveness and completing our penance will wipe their souls clean and make them whole again. So my little guys march up to the confessional with their marked souls and their lists (they are not functionally verbal) and walk out with clean shiny, souls and bright, beautiful faces.
A simple lesson for children of diminished understanding – but a visual we could all do better to keep in mind. Or at least I could.
These small temptations can lead to small sins and thereby destroy our souls and our wills a tiny bit at a time. I think after a long time of succumbing to little temptations that we become weakened to resist the big things. So little by little the soul gets marked and dirty and chipped and we think that big things aren’t so big. I could go fro thinking a Big Mac on a Friday is no big deal to – Why shouldn’t I have more money? Why not do something dishonest to acquire some? Other people have big houses and nice things, why shouldn’t I? All of this is, of course, very wrong and very destructive.
So I persevere. I didn’t eat the Big Mac. I had tuna. I don’t pass on that tibit of news I heard at the parish fundraiser, I don’t cut corners in my work around the house and I try to keep my temper when I am tired and feeling like it’s all too much. I go to confession often (I should go more) and I endeavor to be like those sweet little boys I have had the privilege to teach. A clean soul and a clean heart.