Today, we’re talking about the sin of gloominess or grumpiness. We’ve probably never thought about it as a sin, but Jesus says in Mt 6:16: “Do not look gloomy like the hypocrites”; another translation says ‘dismal.’ We’re not talking about depression or something like seasonal affective disorder, but when we could be positive, we choose to be negative and irritable instead. There are times when being sad is appropriate, as when someone dies, and grieving is healthy. Grumpiness, however, is different.
Do you know what it’s like to be raised by gloomy parents, to be married to a gloomy person, to have gloomy friends and co-workers, to have gloomy children? If we act grumpily, it’s important to know that we’re bringing people down, making ourselves feel worse, and pushing ourselves away from Jesus—that’s why it’s a sin. During His life, Jesus was sad a few times, but never gloomy or grumpy, because He always had hope.
We have the choice to not bring others down. You know how we sometimes are sad and then someone calls us and we’re cheerful? That’s a choice. And if I offered you each $10,000 to smile for the rest of Mass, you would.
The First Reading is about hope, and this is what gloominess and grumpiness go against. The Lord says, “Do not remember the former things, or consider the things of old. I am about to do a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?” (Is 43:18-19). When He says, ‘Do not remember the former things,’ He’s not talking about forgetting past mistakes and hard times, though that’s important. He’s talking about the good things that have happened to us, and saying that He’s going to do even greater things!
The text reminds the Jewish people that they were saved from Egypt in a miraculous way—But God is saying, “I will do something better!” And this goes to an idea that a Church Father named Tertullian, asked: Which is greater: Saving people from slavery or saving them from sin? Which is greater: Defeating your enemies or praying for them? Which is greater: God’s taking away everything that makes us sad or our choosing to be hopeful when sad things happen?
God is always doing good things, and His greatest work is the transformation of our hearts. The First Reading asks, ‘Do you not perceive it?’ If we perceive that He’s trying to change us, then we have hope!
Some of you might remember Peter Lee, who worked here for two years. When Peter told me that he has a melancholic temperament, I didn’t believe it. He’s too joyful. But he told me that he learned to control his grumpy moods. That’s a true miracle!
For some of us, the temptation is very natural to our temperament. I admire many of you who are tempted to be gloomy, and have so many trials in life, and yet you have so much hope! Those of you who are naturally happy all the time, I don’t like you.
In the Second Reading, St. Paul says, “I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the sharing of his sufferings by becoming like him in his death, if somehow I may attain the resurrection from the dead” (Phil 3:10). St. Paul didn’t have a naturally joyful temperament; he matured into it. It was through sharing Jesus’ sufferings that he shared in Jesus’ Resurrection.
When St. Dominic Savio decided to become a saint, he stopped playing games with boys his age and became too serious. His mentor, St. John Bosco, praised his intention, but taught him that, even though the spiritual life is serious work, he should enjoy himself, as long as he never sinned.
Fr. Charles Ryan, F.S.S.P., once pointed out that some seminarians go through Angry Seminarian Syndrome: They see everything wrong with the world and so become angry—that’s a natural response but not a holy one. St. Teresa of Avila prayed against being gloomy, and she did more to overcome evil than excessively angry people.
Once, when St. Aloysius Gonzaga was playing games with his friends, someone asked what he would do if God told him he’d die in 15 minutes. He said he would go on playing, because, “I am certain that these games are pleasing God” (Fr. Joseph Esper, Saintly Solutions, 141-145). Being a saint means being very serious, avoiding sin at all costs, and being as cheerful as possible.
So, by the grace of God alone, let’s choose to be courteous and smile, insofar as it’s possible. Courtesy comes from the virtue of love; smiling from the virtue of hope. Always acknowledge people, greet them, and thank them, no matter what. When I was in New York and my father visited me, we bumped into Fr. Lynch, my history professor, and I introduced them, “Father, this is my father, Vincent.” He came over, shook my father’s hand, said, “Nice to meet you,” gave the best smile he could, given that he had been crying all day because his younger brother just died, and then he walked to the elevator. But he chose not to bring us down! He didn’t fake it, but did the best he could. That’s why I believe that not to say ‘Please’ or ‘Thank you’ and omit basic courtesy are venial sins.
When we come to Mass, please don’t be gloomy. Being reverent and attentive to God does not mean having tunnel vision and ignoring others.
If we really focused on Jesus and the power of His Resurrection, we would have more hope!
LifeSiteNews is a news service that emphasizes Judeo-Christian principles, fights the culture war, and does a tremendous amount of good. People often ask them how they stay joyful when so much of what they report is negative. They explained that, during one retreat, a priest shared with them a story about watching a hockey game. His team was down, but came back to win in overtime. Years later, when the priest watched the game again, he sat through it in peace, knowing what the outcome would be. And LifeSiteNews said, “We know that in the end Christ and His Truth will triumph over sin and evil. We know that life, family, and faith will one day be victorious”.
We know the outcome: Jesus, through His Death and Resurrection, has already defeated sin and death, so, we have the grace to choose to be hopeful.