Pleading for a Drop of Water

Pleading for a Drop of Water

Do you want to know the worst sin? Betrayal,” the priest said in his homily as he reflected on the cup Christ invites us to drink in imitation of Him.

While on one hand my mind was pondering if this was indeed the worst sin, the other was considering moments of betrayal in my own life. In doing so, I was reminded, once again, how easy it is to be the victim, the wounded one. Betrayal, or any other sort of deep emotional pain, can leave an imprint hard to remove, as well as a deep sense of injustice. When wronged, it can be so simple to hang onto the knowledge that someone else is clearly, obviously in error. It can be a sort of comfort, cold though it may be, to know that this instance of betrayal is one where the other is on the wrong side of justice.

I have the blessing and, at times, the inconvenience of having a rather good memory. My sister has told me stories and when something similar comes up again, and I retell the story, she doesn’t even remember all of the details she shared. While far from infallible or complete, my memory is riddled with innumerable moments of life, stamped upon my mind. Some are beautifully grace-filled and others are achingly sharp and jagged. So when it comes to matters of betrayal or pain, I have a painfully accurate memory of words said, emotions felt, and the significance of the moment compounded by time. Add to this memory a heart which is so slow to forgive and perhaps the priest was right that betrayal is the worst thing you can do to me.

Recurrent throughout the Gospel is the call, or rather the command, to forgive. This was the thought during the priest’s homily which immediately followed my acknowledgement of the wounds of betrayal and injustice. Despite my desire for Christ’s words to be slightly more lenient or open to difficult situations, they are not. What my frail humanity wants is for Jesus to say, “Forgive others, unless it was really unjust” or “Forgive those who have wronged you, unless you think they haven’t fully understood the gravity of what they have done.” In my weakness, I want a caveat, a footnote, some indication that perhaps He doesn’t mean forgive always.

He does not give me these easy exits, but He does show what the act of loving forgiveness looks like. With arms stretched out on the cross and as He was mocked by His persecutors, Jesus asked the Father to forgive those who were in the act of killing Him. Without waiting for an apology or any glimmer of sincerity, Christ poured Himself out, generously, unconditionally, faithfully. My stance so often is one of arms crossed over my heart, bracing for impact, looking for a way to soften the blow, striving to ward off the spear which may come to injure my heart. It isn’t necessarily my desire to live this way; it simply seems safer than the unguarded way Christ models on the cross.

Last night, I was praying Evening Prayer and as I came to the Canticle of Mary, I was struck by the offered antiphon.

“The rich man, who had refused Lazarus a crust of bread, pleaded for a drop of water.”

Evening Prayer for Thursday in the 2nd Week of Lent
Continue reading “Pleading for a Drop of Water”

Your sins aren’t that special

“Your sins aren’t that special.”

The girls giggle, perhaps a little shocked by what I said, simply because it came as a surprise.  They were concerned about going to Confession to a priest they knew.

“He’ll know my voice….”
“He’ll hear my sins and judge me.  Later, when he sees me, he’ll judge me more.”  She smiles and I know she is joking.  Partially.

“No, he won’t.  He isn’t going to remember your sins.  Your sins aren’t that special.”  I pause for a moment as they giggle.  “You’re special, but your sins aren’t.”

I myself was struck by that phrase, in a way.  How often I live my life as though my sins are special, as though they are my determining factor.  After thousands of years of beautiful, broken humanity, I doubt there is a way one could sin “originally” anymore.  Sin isn’t unique, novel, or groundbreaking.

Do you know what is special and unique?  Virtue.  It has a depth, breadth, and richness that cannot be matched by any vice, no matter how shocking or seemingly gratifying it may be.  We think our sins set us apart, for better or worse, and make us into the individuals we are.  We find our flaws to be infinitely more memorable than our strengths or triumphs.  

We are wrong.  It is our virtue and our quest for virtue that truly distinguishes us.  Look at the vast array of saints in the Catholic Church.  The ways they reflect God are manifold but each is different, highlighting a different attribute of the ineffable God.  We see in them incarnational realities of God’s love, mercy, forgiveness, patience, and more.  They are unique because of their holiness and their particular way of manifesting it.

Your sins aren’t special.  Quit acting like they are and return to your Father.