Thursday, October 24, 2013

Much...Much...Better...Than...We...Think.


 “At the center of our being is a point of nothingness which is untouched by sin, and by illusion, a point of pure truth, a point or spark which belongs entirely to God, which is never at our disposal, from which God disposes our lives, which is inaccessible to the fantasies of our mind or the brutalities of our will. This point of nothingness and of ABSOLUTE POVERTY is the pure glory of God in us...It is like a pure diamond, blazing with the invisible light of heaven. It is in EVERYBODY, and if we could see it we would see these billions of points of light coming together in the face of a sun that would make all the darkness and cruelty of life vanish completely...I have no program for this seeing. It is only given. But the gate of heaven is everywhere.” These are the famous words of Thomas Merton which I first read as I was reading a book of Henri Nouwen's thoughts. They really startled me, and have been food for thought over the years. What great treasure lies, sometimes undiscovered, in our spiritual tradition. Thank God our Pope is leading us, as one writer has so aptly put it, down “dusty roads.” These so called “dusty roads” are leading us back so we can again be encouraged, and revitalized.

             Our Pope is not saying anything that is really new. All he is brave enough to do is to remind us of who we really are in “the unconditioned, unlimited, unrestricted love” of our Gracious Prodigal Father. He is not saying in which has not already been taught in theology class. Maybe because there has been a lack of healthy theology flowing from the pulpits, that we are not aware of whom we really are in the love of our Mother/Father God. How many sermons are given on how difficult it is to commit a mortal sin?  Those words “mortal sin” are thrown around like shamrocks on St. Patrick's Day. There is no teaching of what state of consciousness is required by church law for the committal of such a sin? It appears that grave matter, perfect knowledge, and full consent are not preached anymore. This leads to people confessing as mortal sin that which is venial sin. It results in Catholics living in unnecessary guilt, because they are not informed as to the true teaching of Catholic Morality. There is a constant struggle to bring penitents to a healthy understanding of what sin really is. This actually takes up a great deal of time in the celebration of the sacrament of Reconciliation. When asked what sin really is, so very, very few can give a theologically correct answer. There is always the possibility you are told you do not know how to do your job, because one does not buy into their messed up theology. There can quiet a conversation!!! It at times leads to the confession of a root sin, which has never been really been dealt with. It was “glamorous” enough. Really!!!!  There is so much to be done in this field. That is why now we hear so many shocked gasps when the Pope is only teaching the REAL TRUE theology of the church. Some want to make excuses, “He really did not really mean that.” Let us be honest, the emphasis has not been on what is right with us, i.e. Merton’s  words above, so we are not geared, disposed to hear the good news. We are not disposed to readily accept the fact that we are ever and always the beloved of our gracious Father/Mother creator. That is why I love that quote; “God help me to believe the truth about myself, no matter how beautiful.”

      As I reflect on my days in Dr.Lennon's Moral theology class I remember that the first thing that was pointed out was that mortal sin was as the result of the human action of a person. A human act was the result of a knowing mind and a consenting will. No one can judge the individual state of mind of another person. That is why a confessor is taught to listen to the person’s story. Any story has so many levels to it. That which we are conscious of and then there is the unconscious acting out. Any action can only be judged to be such a sin by the informed conscious of the individual. Not in the estimation of the confessor. The confessor can point out the gravity of the action. What sin it is, mortal or venial, lies in the existential, the here-and-now, and state of mind. Our action will reflect the relationship, as it is being lived out right now, between us and God. Sin has to do with the frame of mind of the person at the moment, not 5 seconds later, nor 5 minutes later, nor 5 years later. We must remember all the circumstances of the moment will have an effect on our freedom, and our ability to respond, and so, be responsible.

          Sin is the free, deliberate, conscious decision to knowingly reject God's love and choose that which is opposite. It has to be the deliberate, thought-full rejection of Goodness so as to choose a destructive evil. It is to say to God, consciously, “I am by this action rejecting your love, and the possibility of heaven, and choosing to go to hell, a place where Your love is not. I want to be separated from You, beginning here and now and for all eternity.” We must also keep in mind that of all the billions who have passed through this world the church has never taught that even one of those billions is in hell. There have been some bad “dudes” and "dudettes" on this space ship of ours and we teach no one is definitely in hell. Here is something I have said so often, I can now use it in a sermon without a note:  “God’s mercy is greater than our sins. There is an awareness of sin that does not lead to God but rather to self-preoccupation. Our temptation is to be so impressed by our sins and our failings, and so overwhelmed by our lack of generosity we get stuck in a paralyzing guilt. It is the guilt that says I am too sinful to deserve God's Mercy. It is the guilt that leads to introspection instead of directing our eyes to God. It is the guilt that has become an idol and therefore a form of pride” Henri Nouwen “A cry for Mercy.”