From Hitler to the BTK Killer, How Do You Forgive a Monster?

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by Tony Webster https://www.flickr.com/photos/diversey/

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by Tony Webster https://www.flickr.com/photos/diversey/

When a train goes through a tunnel and it gets dark, you don’t throw away the ticket and jump off. You sit still and trust the engineer. Corrie Ten Boom

Corrie Ten Boom’s story was pivotal in my growth as a Christian.

My conversion to Christ happened when I was alone, driving my car. No other person, no church or clergy, participated in it. It was literally Jesus, reaching out to me and filing me with His love.

I knew that what I had experienced was real. I knew that I had encountered Another, and that this Being bore no resemblance to the poisoned descriptions of Him that had been used as a club against me so many times in my life.

This was a Being of ecstatic love and joy.

I was changed by the experience, changed further by the on-going relationship with this Being, who I later came to understand was the Holy Spirit. However, even though this direct encounter and relationship with the Divine gave me an understanding of His nature, I had no parallel understanding of Christianity itself.

I did not hate Christianity with the frothing at the mouth propagandized carry-on of today’s Christian bashers. But I had experienced cruelty and dishonesty at the hands of Christians. I had also drunk deeply at the cultural well of Christianity deconstruction. I honestly believed many of the lies I had been told about Christian history.

One of my first encounters with positive Christian witness was when I picked up a book called “The Hiding Place” at a used book sale. I don’t know why I paid the fifteen cents to buy that book. I only know that it was the first time I’d read or heard anything about Christians who had stood against the evils of the Nazis based on their faith in Christ.

Every bit of information on the subject of Christianity and the Nazis that I had seen, read or heard up until that time had been a version of the many Christian bashing tropes that are circulated today. Nobody told me that Christians had worked against the Nazis to their great personal peril and had been themselves been persecuted and murdered for their defiance of the evils of that time.

Corrie Ten Boom was a saint of World War II and the years after. She was an unmarried watchmaker’s daughter and a highly skilled watchmaker herself when the Nazis invaded Holland. She was a woman in her fifties who lived a quiet life with her family, in the home where she had grown up.

She was also a devoted follower of Jesus Christ in a family of devoted followers of Jesus Christ.

Corrie Ten Boom’s family hid many Jews from the Nazis. They were betrayed by a man they had helped and sent to the concentration camps themselves. Corrie’s father, brother and beloved sister died at the hands of the Nazis.

Her sister Betsy was Corey Ten Boom’s best friend, companion and solace in the nightmare of the camps. After the war, Corey encountered the guard who beat Betsy and whose cruelty probably contributed to her death.

This past week has given me the opportunity to reflect on Corrie’s life. I originally intended to pray for the grace of forgiveness during Lent. But other things got in the way. Then last week I got clipped by some sort of flu-like illness. This bug has forced solitude on me. It has freed me to do what I should have been doing all along.

I have prayed deeply about issues of forgiveness in my own life. I’ve also watched more television this past week than I have in the entire year before it. Among other things, I watched a documentary about a man whose family was murdered by the BTK killer in Wichita Kansas. I also watched a documentary about Corrie Ten Boom.

The difference in how these two people responded to the horrific things that had been done to them was stark. I understand the man’s reaction. I’m not in any way condemning or criticizing him. I see a lot of myself in him.

He was a young person with a casual faith. He did not have the underpinning of years of walking with the Lord that Corrie had when tragedy overtook her. He was unable to look at the savage murder of the people he loved from an eternal perspective.

He did not have the sustaining relationship with God that upheld and sustained her even when she was, as she put it, in the pit. He was much like I was when bad things happened to me early in my life.

His life was savaged by the murder of his family. Hers was magnified. Corrie Ten Boom survived the camps and went on to become a great international speaker and evangelist for Christ.

She wrote books and traveled the globe, speaking to people everywhere about the power of forgiveness. “There is no pit so deep that His love is not deeper still,” she told people, and they believed her because she had been in the deepest pit of human devising.

The young man whose family was murdered spent time in prison. He fathered a son he did not raise and has spent his days trying to paste the shattered pieces of himself back together again.

The difference between these two people is faith and the grace of God. It is also the grace of forgiveness.

God used Corrie Ten Boom, but He did not give her an easy life. Not only did she endure personal suffering in the concentration camps, she lost the people she loved there. As if that wasn’t enough, God sent the man who had beaten her sister to her to ask for forgiveness.

This forgiveness was the decisive cleansing of Corrie Ten Boom. It was the surrender she had to make in order to be useful to Him and His purposes. If you pray to become a saint, pray carefully. God asks all of you.

This video is Corrie’s account of her post war encounter with the concentration camp guard who had tortured her sister. It describes the healing power of the Cross, which gives peace that passes all understanding.

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If You Get Real with God. He Will Get Real with You.

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by pcstratman https://www.flickr.com/photos/32495192@N07/

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by pcstratman https://www.flickr.com/photos/32495192@N07/

Corrie ten Boom called it dying grace.

St Paul referred to it as “the peace that passes all understanding.”

I have described it as a bell jar that was over me, protecting me.

It is the grace of God, and it comes to us when we need it to do His will.

There are many caveats about this grace, none of which I’ve read in books, but which I’ve learned by walking with Christ.

First, you don’t get this grace when you don’t need it. Dying grace is for the dying. The peace that passes all understanding is for times when you’re in such deep trouble that peace of any sort would confound. The bell jar was for a time when I was being attacked while trying to pass pro life legislation.

The elements I’ve observed about this big-time, empowering grace are that (1) It is not given just because you ask for it, because, say, the hot water tank broke and flooded the floor, (2) It is given when you need it and (3) It is given when you need it to do His will, and (4) You can count on it on those times.

Dying grace comes to the dying; not those who are twenty years from dying and hypering themselves into a panic over what will happen one day.

The peace that passes all understanding comes when you are faced with that which cannot be borne without the grace of God.

The bell jar came to me — unbidden, I might add — when I was gritting my teeth to bull dog my way through doing His will, no matter what.

Dying grace/the peace that passes all understanding/the bell jar are a function of the deepest humility there is: When you are on your knees before the cross with the full knowledge of your unworthiness.

If you want to follow Jesus, you need to be ready to find yourself in situations where you need this grace. Because they will come.

How do you get ready for situations where you face anger, gossip, slander, loss of livelihood, even death, attacks, and unfathomable terror as the price of your faithfulness to the Lord?

The Bible tells us quite clearly how we do this. The message is repeated all through it.

You reject burnt offerings, a broken and contrite heart you will accept. King David prayed that when he was lost in sin. We pray the same words every Lent.

But do we “get” what the words are telling us?

Jesus told the parable of the Pharisee and the tax collector who went to pray. The Pharisee in the story stands for every holier-than-thou-sure-of-their-own-righteousness person in the world today. The tax collector stands in for the drug dealers, corporatists, rapists, murderers, adulterers, Christian bashers, abortionists, pornographers, bribe-taking officials — the in-your-face sinners among us.

The Pharisee stood before God and pointed to the tax collector. I thank you that I am not like that sinner, he prayed. The tax collector bowed down before God in misery because of his remorse for his sins and prayed Have mercy on me, a sinner. 

Jesus made it clear that the tax collector, not the Pharisee, went home that day justified before God.

You reject burnt offerings which means, among other things, all the good works we are so proud of and the goodness we see in ourselves. A broken and contrite heart you will accept, meaning, among other things, genuine sorrow for the things we’ve done to hurt other people.

When we get to heaven, I think the biggest surprise may be who else shows up. There is a universal (as in, I do it too) impulse to justify and understand our own sins while condemning without mercy those of other people. But if you stand before God, clothed in the garments of your own self-annointed righteousness, the Scriptures tell us that you will be clothed in filthy rags rather than heavenly garments.

Twenty-one Christians died proclaiming their faith in Christ on a beach in Libya a couple of weeks ago. Christians live the hell of violent persecution throughout that region of the world. Christian girls are sold into sex slavery, which, in my opinion, is a much deeper and more hideous martyrdom than the one those men suffered on the beach. If I had to chose, I would chose the beach over sex slavery any day.

How do they keep their faith? How do they find the grace to proclaim Jesus in those circumstances? How does a parent whose daughter has been taken, whose son has been beheaded, find the grace to continue their walk with Christ?

The answer is, they don’t. That grace comes from God. We don’t create it or deserve it. It is given to us, like eternal life, out of His love for us.

But what of those who stumble? What of those who recant their faith and “convert” to Islam to save their lives? What of those who wet their pants in terror and cry for their mamas? What of those who fall into the alone of being helpless in the hands of human monsters and crack apart, unable to pull themselves back from the horror?

Does God stop loving them?

Are we called to punish them?

The answers are no, and no.

There is another grace that comes to believers, and it is the grace of forgiveness. It isn’t so flashy as dying grace/the peace that passes all understanding/bell jar grace. But it is the their forerunner.

If you want grace that will see you through you personal apocalypse, you have to begin by living the graces of ordinary life. Perhaps the first and foremost grace we should consider in this Lenten season is the grace of forgiveness.

Lent is not just about going to confession and getting yourself cleaned up from your sins. It is not just about no meat on Fridays and “doing” the stations of the cross. Lent is also, and most painfully for just about all of us, about forgiving.

Look into your hearts this Lent, and if there is someone who is like a running sore in your life, someone who has wronged you and hurt you and who perhaps continues to hurt you, take a moment and pray for them. Ask God to be merciful to them and take care of them. You will be amazed what this will do for you. You pray for them, and God gives to you, as well.

If you want dying grace/the peace that passes all understanding/bell jar grace when you need it, you have to do the little things now. If you cannot do them in love, then do them in obedience.

Practice forgiveness this Lent. Even if you don’t show up for the Stations and you forget and eat chicken salad instead of tuna salad on Friday, remember to pray for those who persecute you and use you unjustly. Ask God to take the beam of resentment, self-righteousness and self-pity out of your eye. Do that instead of obsessing over whether or not you hit your head on the cabinet and took the Lord’s name in vain.

Get real with God. If you do that, believe me, He will get real with you.

 

Former Communist Leader Recants at the End, Receives Last Rites

There will be rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents. Jesus Christ

There must have been rejoicing in heaven a few weeks ago. That’s when Wojeiech Jaruzelski, the former Communist dictator or Poland asked for last rites.

Mr Jaruzelski was also the former and the commander of the Soviet Military forces that put down an attempted move toward democracy in Czechoslovakia. He was an avowed atheist for most of his adult life.  

True to its way of doing things, the Church accepted him back and rejoiced in his salvation. Mr Jaruzelski died May 25, following a stroke and was given a funeral Mass on May 30. He had recanted of his atheism and asked for the rites of the Church two weeks before his death. 

“What a … beautiful thing, that the head of the government which was at war with the Church should in the end be reconciled with the Church. That’s cause to ring the bells of glory, isn’t it?” said Fr Raymond Gawronski. 

From CNA:

.- The recent funeral Mass said for Wojciech Jaruzelski, who was a Polish military commander and communist politician during the Cold War, has been received as an occasion for rejoicing.

“What a very odd but beautiful thing, that the head of the government which was at war with the Church should in the end be reconciled with the Church. That’s cause to ring the bells of glory, isn’t it?” said Fr. Raymond Gawronski, a priest of Society of Jesus’ Maryland province and a Polish-American, in an interview this month with CNA.

Jaruzelski, who was for many years an avowed atheist, died May 25 following a stroke. He was given a funeral Mass in Warsaw May 30, said by Bishop Jozef Guzdek of the Polish Military Ordinariate.

A priest at the ordinariate’s cathedral announced that two weeks prior to his death, Jaruzelski had requested last rites.

Jaruzelski was born in 1923 to a prominent Catholic family of Poland, and shortly after country’s invasion by both Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union, he and his family were deported to Siberia, and he was later made to work in coal mines in Kazakhstan.

Before World War II ended, he had joined the Soviet-backed Polish army to fight the Nazis. He continued to fight the anti-communist Polish Home Army after the world war, defending the Soviet-backed Polish government.

Jaruzelski formally joined Poland’s communist party in 1948, and 20 years later became Poland’s defense secretary; that year, he occupied Czechoslovakia during the Prague Spring, an effort at democratization.

In 1981, he seized power in Poland and soon declared martial law in an effort to suppress Solidarity, an anti-communist trade union inspired by Catholic social doctrine. Tens of thousands were arrested, and some 100 were killed in the crackdown; Jaruzelski’s imposition of martial law lasted until 1983.

Atonement and the Undoable

Note: This is a re-post of an earlier post. I hope you enjoy reading it again.

Forgive

Eve Tushnet and a friend went to see a presentation at the Jewish Community Center in Washington, DC. The presentation was designed to prepare people for the High Holy Days.

Since the High Holy Days are about repentance, it tracks that the presentation was on atonement. However, Eve finished the evening more bemused that enlightened. As she put it,

All of the stories were interesting and for the most part well-told–but literally none of them followed the form I was most hoping for: “I sinned, I realized I was wrong, and I made amends, here’s how.” Several of the stories explored related questions of conscience: Ritija Gupta turned the story of how a bad-girl friend persuaded her to steal sixty cents’ worth of beads, at age seven, into a sharp little parable on how we misunderstand the gravity of our actions, condemning ourselves for peccadilloes while assimilating huge ongoing sins into our sense of what’s normal and acceptable. The host, Amy Saidman, did a funny shtik about the war between “Citizen Amy,” whose conscience would never allow her to damage a car and not even leave a note, and “Spray-Tan Amy,” who can’t stop because she is receiving an award that night, who is special and above the rules.

… The most powerful story came from the most intensely compelling storyteller, Colin Murchie. He’s someone I’ll be looking out for at future Speakeasy events. I don’t want to tell his story for him, but it was about a night when he was forced to completely reassess the motives which had led him to become a volunteer firefighter in a very tough Maryland suburb.

Based on Eve’s description, I would say that one reason the stories didn’t lead to atonement is that they weren’t about serious sin. I understand why, or at least I think I do.

The evening wouldn’t have been entertaining if the story tellers had talked about their adulteries, abortions, shoplifting and the night the guys all got drunk at the fraternity house and passed the girl around. If the wife-beater among them had confessed to beating his wife, and the woman who was sleeping with her husband’s best friend had told all, the evening might have ended early.

But the truth is that the first requirement for atonement has to be an action that wounds someone else.

Let me give you an example. Back in my misspent youth, I was the NARAL Director for Oklahoma. I referred women for abortions. I helped organize the first abortion clinic in Oklahoma and got it up and running.

In short, I helped kill people.

Lots of people.

Helpless little people that I denied were people while I was advocating for their deaths.

Now there’s something that needs a little atonement.

But how? How does anyone atone for so heinous a crime?

For those of you who are reading this with baited breath, waiting for me to give you an answer, I’ll cut to the bottom line: You can’t. You can not atone for sins as black as the ones I’ve committed.

Can’t do it.

Nothing you can do, nothing you can say, nothing, but nothing, but nothing will ever make right again what you have done wrong.

But if, for reasons that confound all comprehending, God still loves you, even after what you’ve done; if He welcomes you home to Him with joy that defies your ability to find words to describe it, and if He then puts you back into the same place where you committed some of your worst sins in the past –

– If He does all that, then, just maybe, you get the chance to … not do it over, because nobody ever gets the chance to do anything over … but to do it again, and this time to do it better.

How does an adulterer atone for his or her adultery? By being faithful to their spouse.

How does a wife-beater atone for beating his wife? By loving her the way God intended.

But even this kind of living atonement cannot undo the harm you have done. One of the hardest penalties of committing grave sin is that you can’t un-sin it. 

You can’t unadulter, unbeat, unrape, unkill anyone.

Without Jesus Christ you are stuck there in the pit of your sin and remorse forever. You will be a murderer/adulterer/liar/beater all your days. This is why I sometimes get so impatient with people who come on this blog and demand that the Catholic Church change the rules to tell them that their sins aren’t sins. They never do this about eating too many cookies or being a volunteer firefighter for the “wrong” motives.

Nope. They’re ok with those things and the Church’s teachings about them.

It’s the biggies that get them on here demanding a hall pass to heaven. They want the Church to tell them that their adulteries, abortions, disordered sex and lying, cheating ways are not a sin. They claim that anyone, anywhere, who says otherwise is “judging” them.

There are days when I want to put my arms around these lost souls and hug them. There are other days I want to ask, Are you kidding? Where do you get the arrogance to do these things and then demand that the Church — the Church — say that they are not sins?

Do you know what saved me?

The knowledge that I had sinned.

Without that, I would still be lost.

As for atonement, that came long afterwards, when I was mature enough in Christ to survive it. Atonement for me was being given an extra measure of forgiveness I most assuredly did not deserve. God put me in the place and almost coerced events so that I would be given the opportunity to pass pro life legislation. Atonement for me was being pilloried by pro abortion people. I was forced (against my will, I have to admit) to suffer public hazing for the babies.

It was that suffering, that character assassination and constant emotional battering, that finally set me free.

God forgave me, and, after a period of intense grief, I realized that I could not refuse His forgiveness by hanging onto my grief any longer. To do otherwise would be to say that my sins were greater than His mercy.

But it was the atonement — which in my case amounted to a kind of social death — that finally set me completely free of my sins.

I could not undo what I had done. I could not unkill those I had helped kill. I was powerless to rewind the havoc I had wreaked with my sinfulness.

But God could heal me of this grief, and He did. He gave me the chance to suffer just a bit, and the suffering cleansed me in my heart and mind.

I read somewhere — I think it was In This House of Brede, but I’m not sure — that atonement is really at-one-ment. That is a beautiful thought, and I think a true one. Atonement heals the person who atones and allows them to fully rejoin the human race, including those they have harmed, with a renewed self and a new purpose.

Now I, the former advocate of abortion, champion the unborn. I moved from who I was to who I am, from my then to God’s now. In the process, I found a wholeness and forgiveness that only someone who has gone to Jesus in the hopelessness and desperation of knowing that nothing they do can ever undo what they have already done can understand.

None of this belongs in a play, of course. At least not an entertaining one.

But it is the truth.

I’ve Got a Lot of Past, and Not All of It’s Good

 

Like everybody my age, I’ve got a lot of past.

Not all of my past is good.

In fact, a portion of it is seriously miserable.

I try to forget.

And forgive myself for the things I’ve done.

I try to forget.

And forgive others for the things that have been done to me.

But there are days when that load of past can get heavy. Especially in church. My miserable past includes a couple of bad times with church. I’ve experienced the rejection of unforgiveness. Even though I forgive as best I can, the memory still comes back from time to time, like an ache in an old break in a bone when the weather changes.

The two greatest challenges this poses are a loss of trust and a deep feeling of unworthiness. The bad opinions of others can imprint on a person and leave their ugly image. Trust, once it’s cut away, doesn’t re-grow. It callouses over, but the nerves are dead.

I have periods of time in my life when the hardest thing I have to do is go to mass. Not because of any latent anger, but because of the deep sense of unworthiness. I have no right to be there in the presence of the Presence, and I know it.

I had an exceptionally rough bout with this recently. I actually left the church during mass, left my husband there, holding the hymnal and looking at me with uncomprehending eyes as I left, driven away by the unworthiness that is branded into me.

I used those moments away to gather myself to myself and then I went back in. But it wasn’t easy. I got through that mass by looking at the tabernacle and talking to Him.

Because it’s true, you know. I have no right to be there, in the presence of the Presence. I am unworthy, as John the Baptist said, to untie His sandal. Yet the reason, the only reason, that I am there is that He invited me.

In the final analysis, the Presence does not belong to any priest, or even to the Church itself. They are its guardians, and the conduit by which God graciously consents to dwell among us in the Eucharist. But the Presence is God Himself, and as such, that Presence belongs to no human being. It is It’s Own Self.

I came to the Catholic Church and asked to come into full communion because Christ in the Eucharist called me to Himself. It was a call that was so clear, persistent and patient, that, in the end, it worked its way past all the obstacles to what was at the time a rather bold step of faith.

Jesus called me to Himself in the Eucharist. That is why I am Catholic.

And on that day when my own unworthiness flared into a blistering flame inside me, when I wanted to run away, to paraphrase St Peter, because I am a sinful woman, He was there, not to call, but to strengthen me past my focus on me and bring me into a fresh focus on Him.

I kept looking at the tabernacle, at Jesus, present in our midst. I don’t know if it was a prayer, or a conversation, or a vow of a sort. I only know I spoke directly to Him and He heard me.

“You are my Lord,” I told Him. “You are the reason I am here. You are the One I trust. You and only You.”

There was more. But that’s the gist of it. Shattered trust is like an amputation. It can’t grow back. We can never undo the things we’ve done or forget the lessons of the things that are done to us. Forgive, yes. But forgetfulness would be to unlearn the life lessons and forego the spiritual depth these things give us.

If you live long enough and do enough hard things, you will lose your trust in people, in fate, in your own good luck. The illusions of personal invincibility die a hard death, but Christ can and will raise up a new trust and a new invincibility from the ashes on that pyre of self-sufficiency.

“You are my Lord,” I told Him, and it was as much vow as prayer; an open acknowledgement of the truth of things, bound up in a promise. “You — and You only — are my Lord.”

“You are the reason I am here.” I said, not because I enjoy the liturgy or find affirmation in the friendships, but “You — and You only — are the reason I am here.”

“You are the One I trust,” because You have proven Yourself trustworthy time and time again, because You loved me first and because You forgave me and walk with me and endure me and keep forgiving me over and over again.

“You and only You,” because people, even the most lovable and precious of people, will let you down. Because, I, you and everyone, will let ourselves down. We will betray one another and we will also betray ourselves. Only Christ will never fail us.

I was not the only wounded person in the church that day. I am never am. We are all wounded, in one way or another. We shatter our self-righteousness by the things we do, and we face the terrible isolation and aloneness of the things that are done to us.

The many cruelties people practice against one another — our gossip and slanders, violence, lies, betrayals and deliberate degradations — are all at base an isolation of the other person, a way of putting them outside while we remain inside.

We draw lines around ourselves and our group, whoever that group may be, and then we push everyone outside that line into a sub-class of one sort or another. This hurts and maims all of us.

So many times on this blog I see angry, harsh comments, coming from people who at base are just trying to express their sense of isolation and rejection. The truth is, no one of us, not a single person of us, has the right to stand before God.

But He is our Lord. And He has invited all of us — ALL of us — to His table. No one of us has a right to be there. But, by the miracle of His love, no one of us is too wounded, too sin-sick, too disreputable, too female, too gay, too poor, too fat, too ugly, stupid or lost to be refused a place at that table. We are all welcome.

He is always with us, even when others fail us or turn us away. He is always ready to accept us and forgive us. We don’t have to stop sinning and get perfect to come to Him. He accepts us just, as the old hymn says, as we are.

We may have to jump through more hoops that we can manage to find surcease and acceptance from other people. But all we ever have to be or will ever have to do with Him is put our hand in His and say “Yes.”

“You are my Lord,” I told him. It is as simple as that.

Judas, called Iscariot

Then Satan entered Judas, called Iscariot, who was one of the twelve.

According to the folks at the History Channel, NatGeo and other purveyors of revisionist Christianity, Judas Iscariot was a well-meaning, misunderstood victim of his own good intentions.

Every year at this time, we are treated to shows that expose us to experts we’ve never heard of before expounding on how Judas didn’t really mean it. He was, they tell us with remarkable certainty, just trying to provoke Jesus into defending Himself and starting a revolution. Judas wanted a warrior messiah who would throw off the Roman yoke and return Israel to the glory days of Kings David and Solomon, they say.

Instead, he got this gentle healer and teacher who refused, as Scripture tells us, to bruise a reed.

So, Judas took things into his own hands. He set Jesus up with the intention of having Him throw off his attackers like Samson slaying the Philistines. What he got instead was a crucified Lord and guilt that destroyed him.

It’s difficult, 2,000 years later, to determine Judas’ intentions. Whatever he intended to happen, his failure of faith doomed him in the end.

Notice, I do not say that his betrayal of our Lord doomed him. I don’t say it, because that didn’t do it.

Peter betrayed Jesus, as did all the Apostles except John. Peter suffered the ignominy of denying that he even knew Jesus. He denied Jesus repeatedly, and then, at the critical moment, when he was actively cursing Jesus, he turned and saw his Master looking at him while he did it.

That black night was such a welter of misery and betrayal. It was, as Jesus said, Satan’s hour.

There is such poignance to the things Jesus said during this time. The hurt echoes in the statement, Judas, do you betray the Son of Man with a kiss?

Think about it for a moment. Judas knew Him. He had traveled with Him, ate with Him, followed, listened and been near Him for years. He’d seen the miracles, experienced the love. Then, whatever his motives, he betrayed Jesus for 30 pieces of silver. And he did it with a kiss.

Jesus’ sadness, not for Himself, but for Judas, reverberates down the centuries. Judas, do you betray the Son of Man with a kiss?

But it wasn’t the kiss the doomed Judas. It wasn’t the thirty pieces of silver or the betrayal. It was Judas’ lack of faith.

In the final analysis, the thing that separates Judas and Peter is faith.

Is it faith, or is it weakness to turn to God with our sins and confess them to the depths of their utter blackness? Is it faith or is it brokenness that makes us throw ourselves on His mercy and seek forgiveness we know we do not deserve and can never earn?

It is lack of faith, or is it pride that keeps others from admitting their crimes against God? What causes one person to seal themselves inside their sinfulness and die there, while another reaches out like they were drowning and grasps the nail-scarred hand?

I think all these things are factors to differing degrees with different people. But in Judas’ case, it was most likely a lack of faith. Judas had no pride when he went to the priests and threw the money at them. “I have betrayed an innocent man,” he said.

He had no problem admitting the truth of what he had done. He just didn’t admit it to the right person. The priests, now that they had their prey, no longer found Judas useful. “What is that to us,” they replied to his anguished admission. “See to it yourself.”

One might ask what kind of priests these really were who would turn away a sin-sick man so coldly. But such a question would be redundant. They were corrupt priests who had plotted, bribed and bullied their way to the execution of an innocent man in order to preserve their delicately balanced position of power in occupied Israel.

Did they know this innocent man was God? I don’t think so. After all, Jesus, when He prayed for them, said they know not what they do.

But they did know He was innocent. They did know the lies, bribes and political maneuvering they had committed to bring about His death. They knew what they had done, and they were, as Jesus described them earlier in His ministry, indifferent with great hardness of heart. 

Judas confessed his sin. But he confessed it to the wrong person. He went to corrupt priests who told him to “see to it” himself.

Peter, after enduring what must have been unbearable grief and shame, took his sin to Christ.

Judas could and would have been forgiven. All he had to do was humble himself and ask for it of the Man he had betrayed.

The lesson in all this for us is not so much that we should never betray a friend — although that is certainly a worthwhile lesson to learn. The lesson is that, no matter what we have done, we can find forgiveness in the merciful heart of Jesus.

No matter what we have done. No matter how many times we have done it. No matter how horrible or trivial it is. We are sinners. And we need the forgiveness of the only One who has the right to forgive. We need tthe forgiveness of the Living Christ.

Confession is not a way of sidestepping this forgiveness, it is a conduit of its grace. The priest does not and cannot forgive us. He does not and cannot confer newness of life on us. Those things come only from Christ Jesus.

Confession is a simple and accessible way to meet the Risen Lord. it is contact with Christ through the graces of the Church.

However, the healing comes from one place only, and that is the Heart of Our Lord. Even though we should all go to confession, we should never wait to take our sins to Jesus.

If you have sinned — and we all have — turn to Him immediately and ask forgiveness. Then, go to confession when it’s available to you.

Then, Satan entered Judas, called Iscariot, Scripture tells us.

Simon, Satan has asked to have you, that he may sift you like wheat, Jesus warned Peter.

Satan had his day with both these men. One of them emerged stronger, the rock on which Christ would build His Church.

The other went out and hanged himself.

They both repented of their sins, and grieved them deeply. The difference is who they asked for forgiveness.

Forgiveness

Forgive.

It sounds easy. People often claim that they have forgiven, when, in fact, they are a long way out from anything that approaches actual forgiveness.

To forgive when there is no love is a practical impossibility. To forgive when the person or people who have harmed you refuse to admit that they’ve done anything wrong can seem as if you are agreeing with them. To forgive when they are actively continuing to harm either you or other people feels as if you are cooperating with your own abuse.

The greatest challenge of forgiveness in the face of truly horrific harms against you as a person such as rape, battering, murder and prolonged, vicious slander is that it raises the specter in your mind that you are in fact acquiescing to the thing that was done.

Too often, people say they have forgiven when what they are doing is becoming passive in the face of crimes against their own person. Forgiveness of horrific crimes against your humanity has to count the cost and know the full measure of the crime which is being forgiven.

People oftentimes push forgiveness on a victim of great violence and trauma far too soon. Everyone deserves the dignity of their anger. Anger can cleanse and heal. It can be an assertion of your humanity in the face of actions and people who have denied by what they have done to you that you are human. Anger is a necessary claim to your own worth and to the fact that those who hurt you were and are deeply wrong to do this to you.

It harms people to try to deny them their anger and push them into a faux forgiveness. When this happens, the forgiveness is not real, and the anger festers and turns inward.

Forgiveness comes after anger, not before it. Anger comes after numbness and shame and denial. Anger is the first step out of the darkness, and it is, at this point, a righteous assertion of your right as a child of God not to be treated this way.

But anger, if it takes on a life of its own, can become pernicious. Anger, if you stay there in it and just wind and rewind yourself around the shame and bitterness of what happened, becomes a cancer, eating at your soul. It can separate you from God. It, and the denial it feeds, the shame it covers, can isolate you in a small room with what happened to you. Either that, or it can push you into little enclaves of fellow sufferers who seem to be the only people who “get” you, who understand what you’re about.

The antidote for this illness — and at this point, your anger and shame have become a spiritual and emotional illness — is to face what happened to you in its full, hideously painful ugliness, and forgive.

But how to forgive without implying that what was done to you was nothing? Many times, victims of violence, in particular such things as rape, are faced with a world that belittles both them and what happened to them. They are sometimes called liars, or told that it was their fault. People back away from them and treat them as if they are not the same as they were before.

Rage is the only defense they feel they have. The humiliated rage of the victim is a shield against the claims that what happened was nothing and that they are nothing.

How do they lay down this shield of rage, which has been for many of them their only defense? When anger and resentment are the slender shards of broken self-respect that you hold onto in the face of what feels like public disregard, it can be more than you can face to lay them down and forgive.

That is the point where the grace of God is your only friend. The human portrait of that grace is Jesus, your fellow sufferer of injustice, shame and pain, hanging on the cross. The grace you need to forgive is found in the memory of God, almost bled out from a savage beating, staggering under the weight of the cross on which He was going to be murdered while the crowds jeered and the soldiers beat Him more.

You don’t need a circle of fellow sufferers to understand you and what you are going through.

He understands.

And because He forgave those who murdered Him, because He forgives you now of everything, including your anger and the hurtful things it’s made you do, you can forgive too.

Forgiveness, at this level, isn’t an act of will. It is an act of trust.

That trust is in Jesus Who tells you that even the hairs on your head are numbered, that there are many mansions in His Father’s kingdom, and He has prepared one for you.

You are a child of God, and this brutality you have suffered is an offense to God.

The world needs forgiveness. Without it, we will eventually destroy everything we love, including our civilization.

On an individual scale, you need forgiveness. We need to forgive one another and lay these heavy burdens of shame and bitterness down. We need to forgive. And we need to be forgiven.

This is Advent. Emmanuel is coming.

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I Confess

 

Pope Francis on confession. I included two videos because together they give a fuller understanding of what the Holy Father said.

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Doing Good

 

I’ve talked quite a bit about people who — without being aware of it — are guided by satan in their actions.

Is there another side?

Of course there is! For every rapist, batterer, abortionist, thief, pederast there is any number of good people, living the Gospel day by day.

Here are some examples:

1. Sister Angelique Namaika, a Roman Catholic nun, received United Nations recognition for her work helping women whose lives have been destroyed by the atrocities committed against them in Congo’s civil war.

2. Hernan Prado of Argentina lost his brother when he was murdered as he sat in his car with his two children on September 6. “I am a Catholic and I believe in Jesus Christ,” Prado said, “If God forgives us every day and gives us the chance to start over, how can I not forgive somebody else?”

3. Little Sisters of the Poor filed the first class-action suit about the HHS Mandate. “Like all the Little Sisters, I have vowed to God and the Roman Catholic Church that I will treat all life as valuable, and I have dedicated my life to that work,” Mother Loraine Marie Clare Maguire, superior of the congregation’s Baltimore province said.

Abby Johnson Speaks to Abortion Workers

Abby Johnson, the former Planned Parenthood Abortion Clinic director, speaks from her heart to abortion workers in this video.

I understand how she feels. No one could be more pro choice that I was at one time. God rescued me and forgave me. Once I realized the full horror of what I had done, the hardest part was forgiving myself and accepting God’s forgiveness. I finally came to the realization that I had to let go of it because doing anything else would be refusing God’s forgiveness; it would be a way of saying that my sins were greater than His love, which is a lie.

However, I have never lost the awareness of myself as a sinner saved by unmerited grace. I also still feel sadness over the people I know who are still in that place where I was. I once told a group of people I was speaking to that it was like being in a terrible car wreck and by a miracle getting out of it unscratched but being unable to go on and forget it because I knew that there were still people trapped inside.

Abby Johnson’s love and concern for those people who are still trapped inside the abortion industry is apparent in this video.

I am posting it here in the prayerful hope that it will touch the life some abortion worker who might see it and be changed by it.

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