He was pretty content with his life that he never gave it a second thought that his actions would have consequences for himself and others. His worldview encompassed a need to satisfy his urges for fame, food, and the physical pleasures of the world. It was an afterthought that he would share his life with his ex-girlfriend or, even worse, marry her. If the premise of his life was to embrace the world’s pleasures, he was on his way to fulfilling his human desires.
The man I just described is a real person I encountered many years ago and was quite vocal in telling me that he enjoyed the sinful pleasures of life. He was not cavalier when he spoke to me about his lifestyle but rather a matter of fact. As we continued our conversation, I discussed proposing an alternative way of living. He was somewhat amused at the thought and asked me, what’s wrong with being a joyful sinner? I said nothing really if this is the lifestyle you are striving for. However, I asked him; what is so wrong with being a joyful disciple of Jesus Christ?
An understanding heart
When Solomon was made king, succeeding his father David, at a very young age, he asked God to guide him on how to act and behave as king. Exuding wisdom in becoming a king, Solomon asks God to grant him an understanding heart to judge the Lord’s people correctly and the wisdom to distinguish right from wrong. The Lord was greatly pleased with Solomon’s request because Solomon did not ask for riches or the longevity of life but instead chose virtues that would serve the people of Israel with integrity and love.
The example of Solomon, in contrast to the joyful sinner, reminds us of the importance of gradually surrendering ourselves to the will of God and distancing ourselves from the evil of sin. St. John Paul II reminds us that;
conversion requires convincing of sin, it includes the interior judgment of conscience, and this, being proof of the action of the Spirit of Truth in man’s inmost being, becomes at the same time the start of a new grant of grace and love.
Genuine conversion requires an admission of our faults and a firm purpose of amendment to reconcile ourselves with God through His son Jesus Christ actively—through the sacrament of reconciliation. The gift of grace, as revealed in the sacrament of confession, serves as the antidote to uncover sin, address it head-on and choose to avoid the near occasion of sin. The entire drama of our human existence is predicated on whether our joy comes from Jesus Christ or the false pleasures of the world the Devil willingly offers us.
St. John Marie Vianney, the great catechist and confessor of the Church and the patron saint of Diocesan Priests, was known to engage in daily spiritual battles with the devil. His witness of humility, servitude, and joy serves as a genuine model of faith to help us avoid becoming a joyful sinner. As we near his feast day-August 4th, I leave you with the following sermon: Do You Want to be Happy as a spiritual antidote to the joyful sinner. Enjoy.
Why, my dear brethren, are our lives full of so many miseries? If we consider the life of man carefully, it is nothing other than a succession of evils: the illnesses, the disappointments, the persecutions, and indeed the losses of goods fall unceasingly upon us so that whatever side the worldly man turns to or examines, he finds only crosses and afflictions. Go and ask anyone, from the humblest to the greatest, and they will all tell you the same thing. Indeed, my dear brethren, man on earth, unless he turns to the side of God, cannot be other than unhappy. Do you know why, my friends? No, you tell me.
Well, here is the real reason.
It is that God, having put us into this world as into a place of exile and of banishment, wishes to force us, by so many evils, not to attach our hearts to it but to aspire to greater, purer, and more lasting joys than those we can find in this life. To make us appreciate more keenly the necessity to turn our eyes to eternal blessings, God has filled our hearts with desires so vast and so magnificent that nothing in creation is capable of satisfying them. Thus it is that in the hope of finding some pleasure, we attach ourselves to created objects and that we have no sooner possessed and sampled that which we have so ardently desired than we turn to something else, hoping to find what we wanted. We are, then, through our own experience, constrained to admit that it is but useless for us to want to derive our happiness here below from transient things. If we hope to have any consolation in this world, it will only be by despising the things which are passing and which have no lasting value and in striving towards the noble and happy end for which God has created us. Do you want to be happy, my friends? Fix your eyes on Heaven; it is there that your hearts will find that which will satisfy them completely.
All the evils which you experience are the real means of leading you there. That is what I am going to show you, in as clear and brilliant way as shines the noon-day sun. First of all, I am going to tell you that Jesus Christ, by His sufferings and His death, has made all our actions meritorious, so that for the good Christian there is no motion of our hearts or of our bodies which will not be rewarded if we perform them for Him.
Perhaps you are already thinking: “That is not so very clear.”
Very well! If that will not do you, let us put it more simply.
Follow me for a moment and you will know the way in which to make all your actions meritorious for eternal life without changing anything in your way of behaving. All you have to do is to have in view the object of pleasing God in everything you do, and I will add that instead of making your actions more difficult by doing them for God, you will make them, on the contrary, much more pleasant and less arduous. In the morning, when you awake, think at once of God and quickly make the Sign of the Cross, saying to Him: “My God, I give you my heart, and since You are so good as to give me another day, give me the grace that everything I do will be for Your honour and for the salvation of my soul.”