What I brought to confession on Saturday

What I brought to confession on Saturday September 6, 2017

The Sunday readings really spoke to me.  We’ve been spending a lot of time in Jeremiah and his perplexity speaks to me:

O LORD, you have deceived me,
and I was deceived;
you are stronger than I,
and you have prevailed.
I have become a laughingstock all the day;
every one mocks me.
For whenever I speak, I cry out,
I shout, “Violence and destruction!”
For the word of the LORD has become for me
a reproach and derision all day long.
If I say, “I will not mention him,
or speak any more in his name,”
there is in my heart as it were a burning fire
shut up in my bones,
and I am weary with holding it in,
and I cannot. (Je 20:7–9).

I don’t really feel deceived, because I’m the beneficiary of the gospel as he was not.  I know what the gospel says:

From that time Jesus began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised. And Peter took him and began to rebuke him, saying, “God forbid, Lord! This shall never happen to you.” ¶ But he turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a hindrance to me; for you are not on the side of God, but of men.”

¶ Then Jesus told his disciples, “If any man would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. For what will it profit a man, if he gains the whole world and forfeits his life?* Or what shall a man give in return for his life?* ¶ For the Son of man is to come with his angels in the glory of his Father, and then he will repay every man for what he has done. (Mt 16:21–27).

So I don’t feel duped or deceived or tricked by God when life goes to shit as a result of trying to obey the gospel.

But I do feel perplexed about what to do, exactly.  I hear all the time from people about how I need to shut up.  And I get that they have a point.  I am super abrasive and I know that.  More than that, something was brought back to me (and it’s why I needed to go to confession).

I have been appalled and furious at the evils Christians have been cheering for.  Excuses for Nazis.  Apologetics for a brutal sheriff whom Trump pardoned out of sheer spite. Cheers for a bullying, racist sex predator.  And now delight over striking terror of deportation into the lives of 800,000 innocent people who the Righteous have decided, like Javert, are criminals no matter how innocent they may be.

As one of my readers pointed out, the same people who complain that slavery was the crime of the ancestors for which we deserve no blame are the ones telling people brought here by their parent that they are somehow guilty of some crime and need to be punished with deportation.

The whole thing disgusts and infuriates me:

I shout, “Violence and destruction!”
For the word of the LORD has become for me
a reproach and derision all day long.
If I say, “I will not mention him,
or speak any more in his name,”
there is in my heart as it were a burning fire
shut up in my bones,
and I am weary with holding it in,
and I cannot.

I can’t be silent about it.  If I did I could not look God in the face.

And yet the disgust–the intensely personal loathing I feel for Trump and every Christian that supports this filth–is wrong.  The choices to do this evil are personal choices made by human persons, to be sure.

But something a priest once told me came back to me: Sin does not name us.  We are not Calvinists.  We do not, as Catholics, believe that sin is essential to us but that it is fundamentally alien to us.  It is not constitutive of the human person.  It does not make us human but destroys our humanity.

And so when I move from saying of any person “He does evil” to “He is evil” I am denying a crucial truth of the Faith.  Sin does not name us. It is normal, but not natural.  Virtue is not the mask on sin.  Sin, rather, is the mask and when the mask is taken away what is revealed is the true face, which is Christ’s.

So I’ve been wrong (again).  I must reject the temptation to name people by their sin and hold them in contempt, even as I reject the evils they do.  Mea culpa.  Please forgive me (again).

And I have no clear idea how to do that, but I have to give it a go.

So, anyway, that was what I confessed and I thought I should say so here since my disgust and fury at the evils I’m seeing done in the Name of God has been displayed here.

Curiously, my penance was to read and meditating on Ezekiel 47:1-12, in which the water trickling from the doorstep of the great visionary temple grow to a huge river that flows into the Dead Sea and makes it fresh.

I choose to take it as a sign that the gospel will make fresh and fruitful our temporarily beguiled Church in the US and liberate us from all this filth and rubbish we have embraced.  And, of course, that it will cleanse me of the filth and rubbish I have embraced too.

Anyway, it seemed like the Spirit told me to write this, so there it is.  Make of it what you will.

 


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