Thursday, March 22, 2012

On the Verge of Pouncing

Sin has become a suppressed subject… [which] has nonetheless remained real. What is remarkable to me is the aggressiveness, always on the verge of pouncing, which we experience openly in our society—the lurking readiness to demean the other person, to hold him guilty whenever misfortune occurs to him.
In the Beginning, 80

Reflection – Ratzinger again shows just how aware he is of the dynamics of contemporary society. It is a tremendous irony, this aggressive censoriousness of secular society. We reject the idea of good and evil, but denounce Obama/Santorum/Romney/ Gingrich/Harper/whoever as ‘evil’. We reject the notion of sin, but delight in ill-natured gossip about the misdeeds of the rich and famous. We preach tolerance and relativism, and fiercely attack those of different political or religious persuasions than ourselves.

And all this happens in the secular sphere. It seems that this is an application of the old saying about kicking nature out the door only to have it come in by the window. We can kick our sinful nature out, but it sneaks back in.

Of course, the trouble with the secular reappropriation of sin and evil (generally using other language, of course) is that once God is taken out of the picture, we are left to the judgment of man. And hence, judgment without pity, without mercy, without compassion. And so we have this ‘agressiveness… the lurking readiness to demean the other person, to hold him guilty…’

If we’re going to have sin, and it seems like we can’t really navigate our human waters without having some concept of it, then we had better have forgiveness, too. Otherwise we are truly trapped in a cycle of sin and blame, condemnation and contempt. We are named by our sins these days, at least by those of the ‘opposing’ camp. Our stumbles, our wrongs, our failures, our sins are understood to reveal the true person, the true reality of our situation.

Religion—authentic Christianity, anyhow—names us differently. We are not named by our sins, but by the love of the Father. We are not defined by what is wrong with us, but by what God has given us. Sin is not master in our life or the world’s life; Jesus is.

And because of this, we have no fear of looking at our sins, frankly acknowledging them, refusing to rationalize them away. Because there is mercy, and mercy is stronger than sin, we don’t need to hide our sins.

And in that same awareness of mercy, we have no need to be harsh or aggressive or judgmental of anyone. We’re all sinners; we’re all in need of mercy; mercy is poured out for all who wish to receive it. This is the spirit of Lent, and as we head into its final weeks, let’s pray for a gift of mercy to descend upon all hearts, so that hatred and contempt be washed away by the love of God given to us in Jesus Christ.

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