Thursday, January 21, 2016

Villainous Vegas Vacation

I recently spent a long weekend in Las Vegas, on The Strip, with my 12 year-old son.  This was not my first (or second or third) choice of venue, but we were traveling with his team for a soccer tournament.  After Facebooking (can I make that a verb?) my awesome Blessed is She sisters in the Southwest Region, I had enough tips for the trip to feel adequately equipped to deal with our trip to Sin City.  Las Vegas is a beautiful place surrounded by snow tipped mountains and blue sky.  The Strip was less beautiful and provided the backdrop for a lesson on the various dangers of gambling, lust, greed, gluttony and general hedonism. Places like Las Vegas prey on the weak.  They provide the invitation to sin, not just normalizing but encouraging immoral behavior.  Think of their slogan “What happens in Vegas stay is Vegas” - it is a statement of permission that normal rules (and morality) should be suspended. Although surroundings can encourage and facilitate sinful behavior, the evil driving our own sin comes from within each of us. 

In the book of Mark (7:23), Jesus instructs us that evil comes from within, not from outside.  

“But what comes out of the man, that is what defiles him.
From within the man, from his heart,
come evil thoughts, unchastity, theft, murder,
adultery, greed, malice, deceit,
licentiousness, envy, blasphemy, arrogance, folly.
All these evils come from within and they defile.”

Places and situations are not responsible for our sins – WE are. WE make the choices to engage in the sinful behavior that is harmful to our souls.  If we can accept that we are personally responsible for the choices we make, and that the evil comes from within, not outside, then we are intellectually and emotionally better equip for battling that evil. 

Surrounding ourselves with people and situations that will help us in our battles against sin is helpful and prudent, but it is not the only way to deal with the evil within.
We have to be aware that pulling away from the world will not cure us of what ails us spiritually. There must be balance.  We still have to do the hard work to move forward on our path to holiness.  Reading about the lives of the saints, especially those who had taken Holy Orders, can provide us with great insight to the importance of continuing to strive for holiness even when traveling on a path that is straight and narrow.  None of us is free from sin and when we start thinking we are, that is time for some serious examination. 

So study, read, find others to encourage you, take the strength and grace of the sacraments and pray.  Let Jesus lead you to a cleaner heart today.  What is your battle now?  Are you fighting Envy? Greed? Pride? Folly?  What is your battle plan?

Postscript: Anthony and I had a great time in Vegas.  We ate well, he played some good soccer, we saw BlueMan Group, rode a roller-coaster, and most importantly talked about things that mattered! We talked a lot about addiction and temptation and virtue... but just had fun too.  It was a great trip! I talk more about the trip and the importance of 1:1 time here.  You can follow all of our family adventures in pictures on Instagram @parenting_with_peer_review

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