A better act


Divine Intimacy
#102 – Imperfections

While venial sin always consists in a more or less slight transgression of one of God’s laws, imperfection is the omission of some good act to which we are not obliged by any law, but one which charity invites us to do. … my refusal to perform a better act cannot be judged to be good, nor can it be justified by the thought that I am free to omit this better action since no law or commandment obliges me. This would be an abuse of that liberty which was given me by God for the sole purpose of making me capable of adhering to the good, uninfluenced by my passions. In fact, in the last analysis, my refusal to perform the better act always implies a lack of generosity, motivated by a little selfishness, laziness, meanness, or fondness for my own comfort, all of which are evidently contrary to perfection.

For the last few days we’ve been talking about sin, both mortal and venial. But what about a sin of omission? What about when we consciously choose not to do something? Something that we are not obligated to do by a commandment or even a law, but something that is certainly something we should do.

  • Holding the elevator door open for a little longer while waiting for someone to approach.
  • Walking out of our way, perhaps across the street, to close the door on a car for someone who had forgotten to do so.
  • Letting that car next to you merge into your lane when their lane has been blocked off by emergency vehicles attending the scene of an accident.

All of these are things we certainly are not obligated to do and I’m not suggested we all become citizens-on-patrol and get into situations where we have no place. Certainly some common sense and awareness needs to be involved.

However, there is no “Thou shalt hold the door open for anyone at least ten seconds behind you” commandment anywhere. What these simple acts represent are an awareness of other needs besides our own. Selflessness as opposed to selfishness. Doing something that brings comfort to the Body of Christ to which we all belong.

Every kind of imperfection in fact always comes from a want of effort, energy, and fervor in the spiritual life. It is always selfishness which, in one way or another, takes something away from God to satisfy the ego. We are too calculating, afraid of giving too much, and so selfishness clips our wings and keeps us from reaching full union with God.

Step outside yourself this Lent. Take your eyes off your smartphone screen or your own ego. Look around and pay attention to what’s happening around you. Is there something you are missing? Is there a very simple need that you can fulfill?

What’s stopping you?

From the colloquy: Grant me, I beg You, O my God, a strong, generous charity, capable of destroying my selfishness down to its very roots. Amen.


For Lent I’m taking a daily walk through Divine Intimacy by Fr. Gabriel of St. Mary Magdalen. It is a book of meditations steeped in Carmelite spirituality and has been a favorite of mine for over a decade.


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