Contained in every life advancement or achievement, there is both a "no" and a "yes" involved. If I want to compete in a triathlon, I must say "no" to lazy Saturday mornings and I must say "yes" to scheduled training. If I want to spend more time with my friends, I must say "no" to useless time sucks and "yes" to carving out intentional planning. If I want to keep an organized home, I must say "no" to clutter and "yes" to consistent cleaning and purging routines.
Virtue works the same way. Virtue involves a "no" to sin. But it can't stop there. Because as frail humans, we can easily drift into the dangerous waters of sin through the coaxing currents of adaptation. If we refuse a particular sin, but don't work to cultivate its opposite virtue, then eventually our culture, our flesh, or even our friends and family may gradually contribute to temptation that can lead us to fall into the very sin we thought we were safe from committing.
Virtue, then, must also involve a "yes" to something greater than sin. Virtue seeks not only to avoid the illness of sin but to also formulate a vaccine for its future prevention.
If I want to eradicate lust in my life, I must say "no" to impure behavior and other triggers for my lust, and "yes" to prayers for purity, accountability, and inspiration from the Saints. If I want to leave anger behind, I must say "no" to faulty relationship or circumstantial boundaries and "yes" to prayers for my enemies and opportunities to grow in patience and humility. If I want to be rid of greed or jealousy, I must say "no" to that which causes me to seek the lavishes of this world and produces discontentment in my heart and "yes" to practicing gratitude throughout the day.
Actively seeking virtue may sometimes lead to the division Christ references in today's Gospel. But it is also what will lead to the sanctification and happiness Saint Paul promises in the First Reading. Spending eternity with Christ is worth the sacrifice of sin and earthly comforts for the discipline and rewards of virtue. Gaining Him is everything.
Sisters, how can we actively grow in virtue today? What will you say "no" to? What will you say "yes" to?
Olivia Spears is a middle school religion teacher turned SAHM who is married to her high school best friend. You can find out more about her here.