The World Keeps Thinking It Knows But it Does Not

The World Keeps Thinking It Knows But it Does Not February 16, 2023

“We have met the enemy and it is us.”–Pogo.

I remember reading Pogo as a kid, because my dad brought home a compendium.  I didn’t get a lot of what I read, but I kept coming back and rereading. Not fully getting it, I recall having my breath taken away by the artist being willing to show the corrosive introduction and indoctrination of racism, and the possibility of grace when there was a lost child, dressed in a klansman outfit, and the father recognized the reality –and both left their sheets behind them.   It was a story of grace, love and forgiveness, of conversion and the big reveal took place off-panel, when father and son reunited, and all we heard were the words.

We live in a world that cannot bear to see its own errors, but wanders like a child wondering why everything is so wrong, and in a world of parents stumbling and passing on their own angers generationally, and not recognizing that in doing so, they lose themselves and the next generation.  There is not room in hearts that cannot forgive, that cannot apologize, and that cannot forebear, for anything but one’s own appetite –and we are becoming a hungry nation of consumers, who have no room for anything but our own wants.   We are our own prisons. We are our own enemies, and we do not recognize the fullness of God’s forbearance on us when we fail to exercise generosity of spirit towards others.

It doesn’t have to stay that way.

Grace is offered every day to us, like the sun melting away the darkness.  Grace is offered in every snow, and in every drop of water we drink, and in every smile we see, whether we see it or not.  God’s grace is the very air we breathe, even when the air quality isn’t great.  God’s gift is the part that sustains.   If we want a less destructive world, we must examine how we personally, both in big and small ways, contribute to the suffering of the world –by our careless words online and in real life, by our refusing to look at where we can help, or the make space in our busy lives to offer that help.   We must go out –the Holy Spirit must be sent out, if we are disciples –Christ longs to touch every heart, and we are called to be the means.

All this came up because I have teens and work at a high school, and I hear them in the hallways, in my classroom, and in the car rides when I’m driving my own home.   It is there online as well, with older people who name-drop and attack while blocking the persons who either seek to engage and address or defend whoever is being attacked.

Bashing takes place via shorthand, with codewords to signal to the internet mob, right or left, based on whether one agrees or disagrees.  It is not discussion or evangelization even if that was the intent.  People talk angrily about what others have done –and throw about words they’ve learned through the culture, to use at those who agitate, whether for valid or invalid reasons, without granting even for a moment, any reasoning or depth of feeling that might explain the motivations behind either the argument or the attack.

The reality is always so much more than the dismissive,  “She’s toxic.  He’s a bully.  They’re banned.  He’s a heretic.  She’s an idiot.”  and all the legion of names thrown at people, allow everyone to throw a rock and pretend they didn’t throw a rock.  Getting lots of people to cheer it on and prove how clever they can be with insults, validates one’s own position without having discussed or examined anything.   This is where we are in every argument, online and in our politics, yielding nothing but bitterness, despair, impotent rage, and deliberate indifferentism.   It is in the body of our Church, and it is rendering us less capable of bringing that grace we’ve been offered to others, like water or air that’s been polluted –the good remains within, but it is injured by what we’ve done that is not of God.

It doesn’t matter if you say, “I am for Father James Martin, S.J.” or “I am for Bishop Barron.” “I am for Pope Francis.” or “I am for the Latin mass.”  It doesn’t matter if you read the Reporter or the Register.  The devil thrives on our spitting at each other.  We can be in line to receive, and we are judging the masked and the unmasked, the kneeling and the taking in the hand.  We are very much interested in cleaning the outside of the cup.

But as Catholics, we profess the reality of “beginning again.” by going to confession –off-panel, so that we can let go of whatever we’ve embraced that precludes loving those we encounter as Christ would and does love them.   We have met the enemy, and it is sin.  We have also met our Savior, and it is Christ.   We cannot be who Christ calls us to be, if we’re interested in making sure some are not welcome.  We cannot be who Christ longs for us to be, if we actively want something other than conversion in our own hearts or anyone else’s.  God is interested in the totality of each of us, and loves us even in our sins, even as He calls us out of them.

Let us live, speak and witness, by encountering rather than dismissing or attacking, so that if they see anything when they see us, hear anything when they hear us, or receive anything from us, it is Christ.

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