Sunday, May 10, 2015

Recognising Habits

Sermon preached at Our Lady of Walsingham and St Francis on the Fifth Sunday after Easter

Schoolboys have some disgusting habits which are not going to be divulged at length. Shirts untucked, misplaced apostrophes, two plus two is five, et c. You can probably think of many of your own. Pity the poor teachers who have to try and break those habits so that schoolboys can grow to be part of society.

Why are habits so hard to break?


Habits are so called because they become part of how we live our lives. They are the things we do every day that we don’t even think about. Once upon a time, it was a struggle to tie our shoelaces or catch a train because we weren’t used to it. Now, it’s second nature to us. When we are little, everything seems difficult, yet with lots of times to practice, we don’t even think about what we do. That’s where our habits come in; they are things that we do on auto-pilot. We don’t think about them, and because we don’t think about them, it becomes very difficult to break them.

Have you noticed, though, how much you can recognise someone by their habits?


Think of it. You notice a plate in the washing up bowl with tomato ketchup residue, and you know that your husband put it there because a) he loves tomato ketchup and b) he never does the washing up. You can tell who is at home without actually seeing them because you know how people in your house move around. That familiarity is comforting and forms part of each person’s identity, whether they are good habits or bad. Indeed, we often miss someone the most when we don’t see those little habits.

For us Christians, the whole business of repentance is the forming of new Christian habits to replace old sinful habits. St James tells us, “Be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves. For if any be a hearer of the word, and not a doer, he is like unto a man beholding his natural face in a glass: For he beholdeth himself, and goeth his way, and straightway forgetteth what manner of man he was.”

Unless we practice what we hear and what we preach, we never really become the people that God wants us to be. If we live in the bad habits of sin, then we will never really see the person that God created us to be. We simply won’t be recognisable as Christians.

Our Lord says, “Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven. Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity.”


We have to make living our faith a good habit. We should pray daily ideally in the morning and in the evening. We should seek to love people as best as we can and to ensure that we make it a good habit to think of others’ well-being. Our faith must be visible for it to be recognisable because, if it is recognisable from what we do on the outside, our hearts must be in the right place on the inside.

This clearly matters to God who showed us His true self, and asks us to show Him our true selves willingly. Of course, He already know our true selves. That is not the point.

He wants us to show Him from our own desire for Him. God wants to know us through those habits which show that we want to know Him. And we get to know God by His habits. And they are very good habits indeed!

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