Dear Parishioners of Sandusky Catholic Parishes,
As we enter the mid Lenten season, I have had people ask me what they should do for Lent, that they rarely sin so why go to confession, that they are not bad people, etc. As I have been going through Lent, I have tried to look at my own heart and also the history of the human race. Obviously my reflections reflect the gun violence on students in Florida, the situation with the Dreamers, the civil war in Syria, etc.
Much of this violence has been done in the name of God. Our violence to the native peoples in our own country was justified by “Manifest Destiny” which was a religious term that God willed it. Our Crusades against the “infidel” in the past and the modern jihad against us are justified many times by following God’s will. I have heard people justify domestic violence because it’s Biblical.
Underneath much of that is what I would call a “hatred of God.” Most who do violence would say that there is no hatred of God but much was done for the love of God. A study though of the human heart would reveal that love is a very ambivalent business. Oscar Wilde in “The Ballad of Reading Gaol” has the line “yet every man kills the thing he loves.” There is a profound truth in his insight. Hatred for us human beings is often the other face of love.
In the Catholic tradition, the Eucharist has never been seen as only a memorial meal, a supper of communion around a common table. It has been that, but the Church has always insisted that the Mass is also a sacrifice, that it not only commemorates but also reenacts Christ’s death on the cross. We are confronted with a truth: Jesus was put to death, and we, we humans, are the ones who did it, out of hatred for God.
The traditional Christian symbol is the cross, but Catholic usage has favored not the simple cross, but the cross with the image of Christ’s body on it in death. The vivid reminder is always before us, the Son of God as a human being was nailed to the tree by us.
Though this may well be on an unconscious level, below the surface as it were, the impact of Calvary forces us to confront the reality of hatred in our hearts. In other words there are strange places of darkness within us. Unless these dark areas are acknowledged, confronted, resolved, we are always in grave danger that they will, all of a sudden, take on power and emerge in behavior that we ourselves will be the last to understand. Worse, we may permit such forces to emerge willingly, consider them the expression of the love we are certain fills our breasts.
Lent is a good time to go into the dark areas of our heart. Well-meaning Christians can be literally filled with hatred, hatred for self, hatred for others, and not be aware that the basic hatred gnawing at them is a hatred for the God they love.
If we did not hate God, we would never have crucified the Son. But our faith tells us that we did just that. Now we look on what we have done, see the fruit of hate, and see it by the power of God changed into the mystery of love. Lent calls us to have a total awareness of what we are, and in being aware of what we are, can lead us into a total experience of God. The heart through which we love God is that new heart given to us by God, a heart of total love, purged of hatred and is made totally divine.
Lent is an important and a serious time. Let’s continue to be open to God’s grace and renewal.