May You Sleep the Sleep of the Just: A Short Meditation on the Burden that Sin Brings

112014There’s an old expression, seldom used today although I remember the old folks used it sometimes when I was young, “May you sleep the sleep of the just.” When my Great Aunt Polly used it, she meant simply, “May you sleep well.” But more richly and historically, the phrase speaks to a serenity that comes from having a quiet conscience, a conscience that is untroubled by the burden of unconfessed and unrepentant sin. A serene and clean conscience is an untroubled conscience, and thus we can sleep well and deeply.

Despite any claims that sinners have all the fun, the reality is that they really do not and cannot. Sin brings with it many burdens, among them a troubled conscience. Whatever efforts some make to try to suppress their consciences, deep down there is still that voice of God echoing in the heart of every person, the still, small voice of God, who has written his law into our hearts. Unrepentant sin and the bold, prideful attitude that insists on calling “good” or “no big deal” what God calls sin, are not the ingredients of a serene conscience and do not permit the sleep of the just.

In addition to a troubled conscience and stress, sin also brings many other complications to life. For example,

  • Intemperance and gluttony bring addiction and a whole host of problems that go with such addiction.
  • Alcohol and drug addictions are surely legendary for the troubles they bring. But excess (gluttony) in relation to food also brings terrible struggles such as diabetes, hypertension, joint pain and arthritis, and a sluggish mind.
  • Sins of lust bring many stressful and tragic situations into life such as sexually transmitted diseases (including AIDS), abortion, divorce, and single motherhood.
  • Fornicators and adulterers often pay, literally, for their sins through alimony, child support to different women, etc.
  • The sin of vanity makes people slaves to the mirror and they become obsessed and worry constantly about what others think of them.
  • Liars and deceivers live with the constant anxiety of being found out.

Yes, sin brings many stresses and crushing burdens. Much better, happier, and simpler is your life by resisting sin. It brings a serene conscience and the sleep of the just. A sinful life brings with it burdens, sleepless anxieties, and dissipation. Sin always promises happiness, but then sends the bill.

Pope St. Gregory the Great has some powerful words in this regard in his Pastoral Rule, especially regarding liars and deceivers. His references to the “insincere” are to those who lie, deceive, or live double lives:

The insincere are to be advised that they learn how heavy is the load of duplicity, which they sinfully bear. And because they fear being discovered, they always seek dishonest defenses and become agitated by fearful suspicions. But there is nothing that is safer for one’s defense and nothing easier than speaking the truth. For when one is forced to defend his deceit, his heart becomes wearied from the endeavor. Thus it is written, “The mischief of their lips overwhelms them!” (Psalm 140:9) … Because they refuse to live in sincerity, they will labor their whole life until death … always hiding what they are … struggling to excuse those sins that have already been made known … Let the insincere hear what is written: “Whoever walks in integrity, walks securely. But whoever takes crooked paths will be found out!” (Proverbs 10:9).  (Pastoral Rule III.11)

Perhaps it is best to end with those words of St. Gregory and with this wish: may you sleep the sleep of the just!

36 Replies to “May You Sleep the Sleep of the Just: A Short Meditation on the Burden that Sin Brings”

  1. Well my Lord and Savior King Jesus protects me from you because because I am repented and forgiven ♡

    1. Are you from the once saved always saved crowd?

      So, I guess you won’t be committing any sin for the rest of your life?

      That seems to contradict this verse: “….continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling…” – Philippians 2:12

      I guess you are perfected!

  2. I grew up in a Catholic home, and was pretty devout until about the age 18, when I went to college, and by my junior year turned away from the Faith. I lived a worldly existence that I ended up finding was not too much fun, as you describe in your reflections Msgr. By the time I was about 26 life had become one dark fearful mess, and I could not believe how lost I felt. By the grace of God (and probably many tearful prayers of my mother) I returned to God, going to confession and returning to the sacraments. As I began again to live a life of prayer and devotion, I came upon a passage in the book of Wisdom, and I was astounded, because it described exactly how I felt at night when I was in sin.

    Wisdom 17:11-21
    “For wickedness is a cowardly thing, condemned by its own testimony; distressed by conscience, it has always exaggerated the difficulties. For fear is nothing but surrender of the helps that come from reason; and the inner expectation of help, being weak, prefers ignorance of what causes the torment. But throughout the night, which was really powerless, and which beset them from the recesses of powerless Hades, they all slept the same sleep, and now were driven by monstrous specters, and now were paralyzed by their souls’ surrender, for sudden and unexpected fear overwhelmed them. And whoever was there fell down, and thus was kept shut up in a prison not made of iron; for whether he was a farmer or a shepherd or a workman who toiled in the wilderness, he was seized, and endured the inescapable fate; for with one chain of darkness they all were bound. Whether there came a whistling wind, or a melodious sound of birds in wide-spreading branches, or the rhythm of violently rushing water, or the harsh crash of rocks hurled down, or the unseen running of leaping animals, or the sound of the most savage roaring beasts, or an echo thrown back from a hollow of the mountains, it paralyzed them with terror. For the whole world was illumined with brilliant light, and was engaged in unhindered work, while over those men alone heavy night was spread, an image of the darkness that was destined to receive them; but still heavier than darkness were they to themselves.”

    Your reflections are spot on, and the torments of sin on the mind are many, even to the point where reason seems to fail. If sinners only knew the blessed peace and sense of security that comes from living according to the Faith!

  3. That is an interesting saying in light of my own experience with addiction. For many years, I struggled with pornography addiction. During that period of my life I was unable to recall any dreams, as if I wasn’t entering the deepest sleep. It was not until I started to gain control of the addiction that I began to remember my dreams again. I have read many other accounts of people who have had the same experience.

  4. With fear and trembling, work out your Salvation (Phl 2:12), not presumption, MM. It’s is not the state that you are in now but the state that you are in at the end. The Evil One smiles at those who think that they are beyond his evil effort; he’s really dangerously adept at what he has been doing since the Fall of Adam. Remember that the “righteous one is barely saved” (1 Pe 4:18).

    I have been saved.
    Romans 8:24 – for in hope you were saved
    Ephesians 2:5, 8 – by grace you have been saved through faith
    2 Timothy 1:9 – he saved us, called us, according to his grace
    Titus 3:5 – he saved us through the bath of rebirth, renewed by the Holy Spirit

    I am being saved.
    Philippians 2:12 – work out your salvation with fear and trembling
    1 Peter 1:9 – as you attain the goal of your faith, salvation

    I hope to be saved.
    Matthew 10:22 – he who endures to the end will be saved
    Matthew 24:13 – he who perseveres to the end will be saved
    Mark 8:3-5 – whoever loses his life for my sake will save it
    Acts 15:11 – we will be saved through the grace of Jesus
    Romans 5:9-10 – since we are justified, we shall be saved
    Romans 13:11 – salvation is nearer now, than first believed
    1 Corinthians 3:15 – he will be saved, but only as through fire
    1 Corinthians 5:5 – deliver the evil man’s natural life to Satan so his spirit may be saved on the Day of the Lord
    Hebrews 9:28 – Jesus will appear a second time to bring salvation

    May God Bless and Save us all with His Grace of Perseverance.
    Pax Christi!

  5. The catalogue of sins opened my eyes yet again. I wept as I prayed the litany of reparation and went to confession as soon as I could. It’s probably a good thing that the Holy Spirit does not reveal our complete state of sinfulness, because surely we would die from the horror of the realizing how deeply we have wounded our blessed Lord, our Father, our Creator. Thank you for your clear teaching. God bless you.

  6. Monsignor Pope,

    Is Markie Marie forgiven of her FUTURE sins if she does not repent of them AFTERWARDS? Can someone repent of future sins BEFOREHAND? Is this not one of the consequences of bad theology? People’s salvation can be stake?

    1. That is up to God. We only live in the present. How we live that moment (repentant or not) is our choice and God will see our hearts and know what is true. He sees you quite clearly, just as He sees all of us.

    2. Yes, that’s very sad she received bad theology. However, if you apply logic to the “once saved always saved” theology, the followers of this bad theology should realize that they are lying to themselves.

      1. Sounds like a reverse mortgage. That would be like buying a stairway to heaven.

  7. I really am inspired by Pope Gregory the Great’s words. Many of us today are certainly “laboring to hide what we are.” We have been compelled by our culture to be more beautiful, more successful, have the most perfect pictures of our families, our vacations and our social lives on Facebook. There are relentless messages sent to us that we need to achieve a certain standard or we are fairly worthless.
    Therefore we spend far too much time on makeup, clothes shopping, body toning, grooming our children for the best colleges , needless home upgrades; the list could go on forever. In doing so, we often fall into overspending, neglecting the needy, pride, and spiritual sloth.
    Spiritual beauty has very little currency. I wonder if we are even laboring to actually hide our sins? It seems they are either not considered sins today or they are celebrated. I think it’s likely we labor much harder to hide any physical flaws or social/financial/professional flaws that could affect our acceptance by others.

  8. King David the great Psalmist was right. Sin does, indeed, speak to the sinner in the depths of his heart. Which might be a good thing because that could very well be his first step toward repentance.

    Ames, Iowa

  9. When I was a child (1970s) the family dentist had as part of his waiting-room reading material a children’s book of moral/religious stories. One of those stories was about a young farmhand who could not be awakened during a night when a howling storm was approaching. The indignant farmer gave up on the farmhand and frantically ran out to batten down the hatches…only to find that the young farmhand had already prepared for the storm. The animals were safely in the barn, the equipment put away and the doors tightly shut. The farmer realized that the farmhand was sleeping the sleep of the just, and I believe that those were the very words in the story.

  10. Uh, oh I think I’ve been found out 🙂 lol’s 🙂

    Right now I feel insincere or like a liar and deceiver.

    I wanted to be at the Univ. Of Central Florida this week, (and wrote that in a comment) but the weather wasn’t that great and I couldn’t get cooperation with transportation. (Car situation presently).

    I was up at the bridge though for four days in a row it may of been and here right now with the banners.

    I’m not worried too much with Evangelism at UCF — been at the school a lot, except this Semester – which is ok, because a little re-grouping may of been needed.

    I think I’ve got a good approach for Preaching next Semester, if all works out with me — have four concerns presently.

    My preaching was getting a little harsh, because I will tell you it is wholesale lustful clothing with the girls and has been for years.

    I’ve got a good sermon to preach if all goes well next semester: Marriage Banquet/The Ancient Jewish Wedding — End Times will be good to Preach and preaching/teaching against sexual sin.

    Monday heading up to Seminole State College for the last time this Semester it may be, if all goes well and it doesn’t rain — (Scripture Booklet Sowing).

    These may be pretty serious days — Jesus Return is something to possibly be mature about as it could be near.

    A future Feast of Trumpets (Rosh Hashana) may see the beginning of the end. The Feast of Trumpets is known as the day where no man knows the day or the hour. Next year it may be from Sept. 13 – 15.

    God’s Blessings, Shalom, Maranatha,


  11. Thank you for the vanity reference. That was a sin that I had overlooked (it’s a sneaky little bugger).

    I do think some big time sinners sleep well and some really devout souls do not. Perhaps God allows those sinners to sleep because they can’t add to their sin load when they sleep, perhaps the devout are really good at praying at 3:30 in the morning. God, in His divine providence allows these exceptions. Who are we to question Him?

    Sleep is a wonderful gift that I enjoy when I am free from racing thoughts. The thoughts come when I believe I own or control certain situations in my life that are clearly in God’s hands. It’s as if I’m trying to wrestle them away from Him. When I finally let go, I again am able to sleep, resting in the strong capable hands of our Lord.

  12. Question about sin and the formation of conscience: does sin deform the conscience? If sin does then might you expect that a hardened sinner might sleep just fine – due to wounded and thereby silenced conscience. I’ve heard sociopaths feel no remorse. If true then conscience is like physical pain in that if you’re wounded and feel pain you can act to correct it, but if you’re wounded and feel nothing it’s extraordinarily bad. So good sleep in a long term sinner may indicate hardening of the heart and God’s judgement. I would expect that if sin does not eventually deaden the conscience then extreme sinners would be overcome by remorse and anxiety. Perhaps some are but many seem pretty confirmed in their state – at least superficially.

  13. It can’t be a coincidence that we get this just a couple of days after that long, long list of possible sins that Msgr. recently published. I have to scrub my conscience with a wire brush. Wait, isn’t that confession?

  14. Shalom, Police officer just visited, he got a call from someone — he was totally friendly, said no problems 🙂

    P.s. with preaching above: was getting burned out with maybe everything too – with my life 🙂 lot of people at the school also, can maybe wear on a person – UCF, 2nd largest school in the U.S. it may be — With the girls though, it may be sexual wholesale lustful, clothes rebellion at ucf and at seminole state college.

    Jesus Return soon will work – Just got to get Worthier —

    p.p.s. 4 days in a row at the bridge was last week and this past Sunday it may of been —- here’s a view from the bike/walk way (pedestrian bridge) [3:30pm est.] — stay warm –

    Blessings 🙂

    1. just to clarify my conscience, the police officer’s attitude was like no problem at all, (don’t know if he said no problem or not) — victor — me very honest man 🙂

      1. the link to the picture just above (good picture) or one like it, I was going to post earlier (or maybe I did) but the picture link wasn’t working — (doing something new with taking a picture with a samsung galaxy small tablet and uploading to photobucket and getting a link to post here — kind of learning new stuff a bit

        I apologize for the not so great picture of the highway — lol’s 🙂 Maranatha, Much Love to everyone, Victor, brother or son in the Lord to everyone 🙂

  15. Doesn’t matter whether the name is John or Judas, if somebody seems to have the favor of the Lord who we think shouldn’t – the answer is the same: not our business.

    However, I’ll say this, maybe it will help. I was told once that one possible reason for the blessings showered on awful sinners is that God in his justice must reward the good deeds of even evil men, and in some cases when He foresees that someone won’t repent and will in the end go to hell, he rewards the few good deeds of that person in this life, since they won’t be receiving an eternal reward for them. In other cases, the reason for the generous blessings is that God foresees that the person will eventually be grateful for all of the blessings and be moved to repent out of gratitude for God’s immense goodness (like Aesop’s fable of the sun and the wind).

  16. Annmarie, I share your concerns. When I came back to the Catholic Church after an absence of many years, I went to confession & was restored to the state of sanctifying grace. Very quickly indeed, I noticed that I no longer had the darkness and oppression; the sense that I was liviing a lie; and the most incredible sense of spiritual well-being (I think one of the psalms says, “thy heart is right towards Me; and My heart is right towards thee.” As Father points out, one sleeps the sleep of the just. Further, being in the state of sanctifying grace, over time, turned out to be something like having a hidden light turned on, or something being activated in the soul. It is like living in one more dimension than previously.
    These benefits were so great, and so overwhelming, that I tried with all my might to get everyone in my circle of family & friends to do likewise. Some did. Most however did not. I got a lot of, “I’ll go back some day but not just now,” “I don’t want to talk about it,” “I’m quite satisfied with my life just as it is,” and so on.
    In heartfelt prayer, I lifted this up to the Lord (why are so many persons who know they are in the state of mortal sin, total abandonment of the faith, etc., refusing to convert? Or else, deferring their conversion to the end of their life?) and got quite a jolt.
    It was as though Our Lord were standing in my bedroom, right next to my rocking chair, and said, “Almost every single one of them firmly believes that they are going to deceive Me. And I am not deceived.”
    It kind of got poured into my soul (I don’t know how else to put this) that almost every single one of them knows in his/her heart that they are in the state of lifelong unrepentant mortal sin, and that they need to repent, confess and return to the practice of the faith to be saved. However, they all have deceived themselves that there is still plenty of time to convert. That they are going to be able to convert on their deathbed, snickering at Jesus for His stupidity, that whatever they say or do on their deathbed will suffice for salvation. They are completely wrong.
    In other words, far too many lapsed Catholics have duped themselves (not Jesus Christ) into the false belief that (1) they have all the time in the world to convert; (2) that at their time of death, they will be in full consciousness, able to think clearly, to remember all of the mortal sins of their entire life; (3) that a Catholic priest with faculties will be supplied to them and that they will make a total, valid confession.
    But they will not be sorry for having lived their lives in the fasion that they did. And, if they could be assured that they would recover their health, they would go right back to the same sins all over again. In other words, that by making a sacrilegious confession at a time and place of their own fantasy, God will be fully deceived, and they will be saved, having successfully “gamed the system.”
    Keep on praying and offering for their conversion in your morning offering, as one of your personal intentions. And do not ever let them get away with the above bogus scenario! While one cannot beat others over the head and shoulders all day, every day, about this matter, still, one should recall that as Father John Corapi used to say, it is not an act of Christian charity to confirm another person in their mortal sins. More prayer, less argumentation, but do not give up.

  17. Sin deforms the very atmosphere, like a cancerous cloud. It deafens us to the voice of conscience and Christ. Sin is spiritual cyanide. It doesn’t just deform the mind, it twists it. Sin is an all pervading oppressive weight that brings us to our knees at times. Sin, like it author is a liar, and as the man in the video says it wants to kill you. In a world so filled with people who are refusing the love of Jesus Christ in a world that is saturated with sin, we are definitely pushing God’s envelope. He broke me, then shattered my chains and set me free. Now, though my heart be torn in two, i have peace love and freedom. i who once embraced sin as a lover, have found my true and only love in Jesus Christ. My Knight In Shining Armor and my Saviour.

  18. To get rid of sin, I must repent. Before I can repent, I must admit I sinned.
    Admission demands humility and humility means that I must get rid of my pride. That’s where the rubber meets the road. Because pride, like greed is always the OTHER guy. Not me!

  19. “…sinners have all the fun.”
    Then, a bit later, you mention the escape from reality into addiction. My recollection on years of progressing addiction includes getting emotionally and spiritually so numb that I felt none of the emotional?spiritual pain, which was my constant companion, but none of the peace of a just life either.
    Then, I was so devastated that I would actually, and metaphorically, jump up and down yelling “Yahoo” and the like so as to convince myself that I was having fun.
    It seemed to only convince those who lived in the same state.
    There was also an illusion of the sleep of the just when I passed out for a long time into a chemically induced sort of coma, only to eventually wake up in a state of extreme remorse.

    1. This seemed to jump out of sequence. That hasn’t seemed to happen in involvement with any of my posts in a little over 4 years. Back on my comment on a Coronation.
      The post that’s now before mine helps show humility as the great strength which it can be. hmm.

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