"Everyone who commits sin is a slave to sin." (John 8:34)
That must mean that we are all slaves to sin. What should we do with such a statement? First, we should understand that all of us are called to holiness. And God doesn’t call us to something he won’t equip us to fulfill. So none of us should feel helpless or powerless in the face of our sin.
Second, we need to learn to depend fully on Jesus, the source of all holiness. St. Alphonsus of Liguori once said: “Habitual sin and prayer cannot co-exist. Either we will stop sinning or stop praying.” We need to continually be drawing strength from Jesus in all the ways that he comes to us: prayer, Scripture, the sacraments, spiritual direction, Christian fellowship. To strive for holiness apart from Jesus will only leave us frustrated.
Third, we need to learn how to overcome our attractions to sin. St. Francis de Sales compares the person who indulges in “affection for sin” to the Israelites who left slavery in Egypt but longed for its comforts while journeying through the desert. But the Israelites had to ask the same question we do: Do I really want to return to a life of slavery for just a few moments of pleasure?
Finally, if we want to get free from sin, we need to develop a plan. If you are prone to pride, dedicate yourself to humility. If you are prone to lust, do everything you can to pursue purity. Remember, you cannot think your way into being virtuous; you must act your way. At the start of each day, ask the Holy Spirit to give you the grace you need to make the right choices. Then, every few hours evaluate how you are doing and ask the Lord again for his help. In the evening, examine your conscience and ask Jesus’ forgiveness for those times you failed. Over time, you will find real and measurable progress. As we said above, each of us really can become holy!
“Father, I want to hate sin. I no longer want to tolerate it or to water down its effects. Lord, help me to keep my conscience sharp. Give me the grace I need to live in freedom from bondage. Holy Spirit, come and keep me in the truth of Christ, because I simply cannot do it on my own.”
meditation: The Word Among Us