Three years ago, my wife and I watched a documentary with our children on texting and driving, From One Second To The Next, that told the heart-wrenching stories of victims and victimizers whose lives were turned upside down by one person’s decision to text while driving. It withered any temptation I may have had in me to text while I drive.
It reminded me of a Sunday homily I heard several years ago by a priest who spoke of what he called, “the sins I am surprised I never hear confessed.” It was a sobering homily.
He mentioned two sins that are “especially conspicuous for their absence from Confession.” Here’s some of what he said (as I recall),
… Yet it’s crucial that we consider, as we examine our conscience, the ways we have failed to do what we can or what we ought, when circumstances call for action. For example, sometimes we’re obliged to speak up for someone when others bad mouth them when they aren’t there to defend themselves. We often sin in this way through cowardice — we are afraid to face the heat, to get criticized or shunned. Or maybe its just laziness — just too much energy to be confrontational. Or maybe we want others’ approval and can’t stomach the thought that they might not think well of me; and this might even compel us to join the toxic speech.
As people of faith, we confess it is, in those cases, Christ whom we deny, whom we fail to shield. He is always joined to the victim of every sin and injustice, present in every person unfairly maligned. He awaits us, the members of His Body, to come to His defense. Christ takes very personally what is done, or not done, for the least of His brethren. The implications of Matthew 25 are much greater than feeding the hungry and giving drink to the thirsty. And according to Matthew 25, judgement is primarily about sins of omission. “You did not…did not…did not…”
Then he took a surprising direction in his homily, one I’d never previously heard preached. He said:
But one of the most surprising omissions in Confession is the sin of breaking traffic laws, reckless driving. Did you know the Catechism of the Catholic Church says,
“Those incur grave guilt who, by drunkenness or a love of speed, endanger their own and others’ safety on the road, at sea, or in the air”?
Grave guilt! Let me ask you — please, though, don’t raise your hand! — how many of you have sped, had too much alcohol and gotten behind a wheel, texted while you were driving, blown through stop lights or done other irresponsible things while driving? This is, the Church tells us unequivocally, a grave matter. “Graviter” in Catechism’s Latin — which means it’s serious matter, the matter for mortal sin. In fact, the Catechism takes it so seriously that it places this consideration under the 5th commandment, “Thou shalt not kill.”
If Jesus says to grow angry with your brother in your heart is already murder, the Catechism adds, reckless driving contains an implicit consent to kill and can, in a sense, already be considered already murder. Whether you get caught or not.
I beg you, as your father in Christ, respect life by driving safely. Be a witness to temperance and justice, call others to be accountable and responsible. Maybe put a “Choose Life” bumper sticker on your car so that you become more conscious of being a witness to others. If someone sees you texting and driving, and then sees your bumper sticker, they may wonder: “Whose life are you choosing?”
You are your brother and sister’s keeper, a disciple of Christ, the giver of life.
There’s a stunning bumper sticker I’ve seen, “Honk if you love Jesus! Text if you want to meet Him!” [congregation laughter]. But I would add, on a much more serious note, that for me, personally, I would not want my last deed before entering the presence of Christ the Judge to be the violation of the 5th commandment. All to send a stupid text.
It is a very powerful human skill to rationalize this away. I am exempt; I can handle it; just this once. The families of victims of traffic accidents caused by texting would have much to say to you in response. As would the Lord.
So I encourage you: Go to Confession if you haven’t and unburden your sins before our merciful Lord, the Lover of life…
I know I sure have to next time.
This short film was made in 2013, so the texting and driving problem has exploded. It’s almost ubiquitous. If you can, it’s worth the watch: