I’m Guilty And You May Be Too
I’m guilty and I bet you are too. I put people in baskets. It seems to be innate human nature. We boil people down into groups and put them into baskets. We put ourselves into baskets. Sometimes baskets are necessary, sometimes they just serve to divide. Through prayer and self-examination, I’ve come to realize not everything is black and white. People are more than their sins, race, gender, orientation or bad habits and addictions.
Allow The Holy Spirit To Work
Spoiler Alert. This essay is my treatise on a change in understanding the broken human condition and how we as people of faith relate to the changing world around us. Loving people, listening to them, empathizing with them and not condemning them is the spirit of Christ. It is true that many countercultural people are seeking approval and legitimacy by the Church for sinful behavior. I’m not suggesting the Church should do that. I am suggesting that we stop condemning and start introducing people to Jesus and then allow the Holy Spirit to do the rest.
Many conservative Christians are very good at sending people to hell. If you don’t do this or that you are going to hell. Many liberal Christians are good at diminishing sin, negating the Sacrifice of the Cross and sending everyone to heaven, except conservatives.
What I’m proposing here is a radical approach to our personal mission as Catholics. Parishes have become cold segregated silos. The Church in the western world is struggling with its mission. The reason for this is quite simple. In the West, Catholics are now indistinguishable from secular society. The citadel which protects faith-based communities is a co-dependent organism that gets its life, strength, and protection by maintaining a cohesive unity. A house divided can not stand. The reason we are divided is because we basket each other. Division is from the devil.
Open The Eyes of My Heart Lord
I need to stop putting people in baskets. It hinders me from seeing God in them. It hinders me in my ability to love as Christ loves. I have undertaken a personal challenge to think about and view people differently. To take each person out of a basket stripping the outer shell of individuals in my mind. I’m developing spiritual eyes. I imagine that God is in front of me. This person has the very spark of Divinity in them. God created us for this purpose, to share in His Divinity.
What Are You?
Growing up in Brooklyn back in the day everyone had an interest in identifying the people they interacted with. The common question when meeting someone new if it wasn’t obvious was “so what are you?” People bristle at that question today. It may not be asked now but people still basket people. It is done in business every day. Check the box that best describes you. We are asked to identify ourselves by race, sex and now genders.
The big bugaboos in Church circles recently are about divorced and remarried Catholics being allowed to receive Holy Communion and welcoming the LGBTQ community into the Church family with love and respect. Closed communion, in my opinion, is not what Jesus intended. I’m quite familiar with Corinthians and the warning about eating and drinking the body and blood of Christ unworthily unto condemnation. I think the real meaning of that warning is about not discerning the True Presence of Jesus in Holy Communion. How many of us are really worthy to receive Christ in Holy Communion? But I defer to the Magisterium in all things.
Everyone Is Unworthy
In truth, we are all unworthy. No one should approach the altar to receive. We seem to have the most severe recriminations for the LGBTQ community and divorced and remarried. Sin is sin and we often minimize faults which we may try and basket into venial versus mortal. In reality, many sins we may consider venial may not be. Gossip for one may be on par with murder. Surprised? It is considered killing a person’s reputation and is covered under the 6th Commandment. So then gossip can separate you from God as well as sodomy and adultery. There are many other sinful behaviors and habits which may render one unworthy to approach the altar. I listed a few below which depending on an individual’s disposition possibly could disqualify some people from receiving:
- Shopping on Sundays and Holy Days of Obligation
- Allowing one’s children to listen to current popular secular music
- Allowing children to play violent video games
- Going to Disneyland deemed anti-Christian and pro-gay
- Watching most television programs
- Discussing other people in conversations
- Attending the non-Church wedding of children, relatives or divorced and remarried Catholics
- Inordinate anger, road rage, angry thoughts
- Working, Gardening, playing sports, washing the car on Sundays or Holy Days of Obligation (that includes checking work e-mails on a Sunday)
- Not taking care of one’s health such as smoking, overeating, drinking too much, recreational drugs, eating unhealthy foods, e-cigs, not exercising, driving too fast or too slow
- Harboring resentment towards a spouse, parent, child, neighbor etc…
- Eating meat on Fridays, at least in Wales, throughout the year.
- Reading the horoscope, going to fortune tellers, adherence to superstitions
- Voting Democrat given the platform on abortion alone
If you are honest with yourself, I bet you are guilty of at least two if not more of the above behaviors. I don’t see many people sitting down when Holy Communion is being distributed. I imagine that if everyone made a serious examination of conscience very few people would be getting up to receive. I’m not suggesting making a sacrilegious communion. On the contrary, I believe we should all do a serious examination of conscience and go to Confession regularly. What I am suggesting is that the faithful heed St. Paul’s warning. If you think you are on solid spiritual ground, think again. And Jesus’ admonition about the speck and the beam. I’m trying to illustrate that all too often we really don’t see the beam in our own eyes. We judge too quickly and then basket. That creates walls of separation which push people away rather than bring them together.
I desire the Lord’s Divine Mercy. For myself and my family first and foremost and then for the world.
Although we are not bound to believe in private revelation, I believe Sr. Faustina’s accounts of speaking with Jesus. The following excerpt is from St. Faustina’s Diary (entry 1485):
“Do not be afraid of your Savior, O sinful soul. I make the first move to come to you, for I know that by yourself you are unable to come to Me. Child, do not run away from your Father; be willing to talk openly with your God of mercy who wants to speak words of pardon and lavish His graces on you. … My Mercy is greater than your sins, and those of the entire world.”
God Does Not Hate His Creation
Our job is to invite people to approach God. If we are too busy pointing out their faults they will be too fearful to approach God. One of the saddest stories I heard was of a gay man dying of aids in Fr. Judge’s arms. Fr. Judge was the first person recorded as killed on 9/11. He was a celibate gay Roman Catholic priest. The man dying in his arms asked if God hates him. That is the saddest story I’ve ever heard because the message we as faithful people are communicating is that God hates His creation. God hates nothing He created. Not even Lucifer.
Understanding and Compassion
Suicides were once prohibited from being laid to rest in consecrated ground and refused the Rite of Christian burial. Through sciences and psychology, we have learned that mental illnesses like depression, for example, can lead to suicide. Such instances may remove culpability for mortal sin. There was one instance where a woman by the name Pelagia of Antioch committed suicide to avoid being abused by the Romans. Her suicide was viewed as martyrdom and she was canonized. As we begin to understand the human brain more and more we learn that certain actions may not necessarily be within a person’s ability to resist. The same may be said one day for sexual orientations thought to be voluntary in some circles. But that is not ours to decide. We are called simply to love and bring everyone to the mercy of Christ.
Encounters With Jesus Changes People
I think the examples of metanoia and obedience to God’s laws begin when we first encounter Jesus. Think about Zacchaeus the tax collector. Jesus didn’t condemn him, He simply invited Himself to dinner at Zaccheus’ home. That loving encounter sparked Zaccheus to turn from sin. And then we hear about the woman at the well, divorced and cohabitating with a man. He revealed Himself and His mission to her point blank. She was the first one to be told directly by Jesus Himself that He is Messiah. If we gently introduce people to the Lord, the seeds of change are sown. If the person opens their heart to the Lord, the Holy Spirit is allowed to work in them. Positive change will occur.
Jesus Is Inclusive
Jesus’ message to Sister Faustina is a wonderful exhortation from God to love Him and not fear Him. It does not condone being sinful. It de-baskets people and places them in the proper posture. The posture of a child towards a loving Father. A child who only fears to disappoint his or her Father out of extreme love. Not a fear of a vengeful god. Too often I’ve encountered people who are fearful of approaching God. They don’t even feel worthy enough to enter a church. If you are one of those people fear not God wants you. God loves you where you are and wants to bring you higher. You are welcome at His Church. There are no exclusions to His invitation. Jesus Himself said that he would not turn anyone away who comes to Him. If you have had an abortion, are transgender, gay, a Mafiosi, an adulterer, a gossip, a glutton, a church-going hypocrite I invite you to come to Christ. Speak to Him. Repent because He loves you and wants you. He wants us all. All we have to do is say yes to Him.
Accepting that in God every person is as valuable as the next person is the first step in acknowledging that we are all worthy of God’s love, mercy, and forgiveness. Everyone is worthy without exception. We don’t earn it, it is His gift. For God so loved the world that He sent His only begotten Son into it to save it. Nails did not fasten Jesus to that Cross, love did. If you desire to know, love and serve God, the Holy Spirit will reveal to your heart the way in which you are to walk with God. You will want to please Him as a good child wants to please their parents. It may happen overnight, or it might take a lifetime. We have ups and downs, successes and failures. He knows all of that. If we say yes, we can be sure Jesus will not turn us away. He will not judge us on our success but only on our desire and effort to know love and serve Him.
This Advent I plan to get rid of my baskets and share the joy of the Incarnation with everyone I meet. Jesus is coming. Get ready. Fear not. His Divine Mercy is greater than our sins.
Come Lord Jesus come.