I think you all know life is hard, and for countless unspeakably harder than for others. Just watching the news for one hour is enough to become aware of the misery in which poor humanity is sunk, something I fear has always been alike; just think of plagues, wars, and the general folly of human existence in its many-faceted sufferings. Speaking for myself as to the difficulties I’ve faced in my 41 years of life, some have been self-inflicted, others inflicted by those who loved me, many a combination of both, and others simply caused by the mess of a society I was born into. Undesired circumstances that blindside us are a common pattern in our lives, and our reactions to them often fall short of what we understand in our conscience, whether at that time or later on, is the right choice.
In our Christian tradition we recognize that at the center of that suffering is sin, a break in the right relationship with truth, and offense against the law of God who is Love. The sin of abortion seems to lie in the thick of this mess, lying its way through many people’s life, many of them – I might add – people of good faith who seek in their own way to live a moral life. Sometimes when I talk to friends and acquaintances who tell me they can’t get behind a belief in God or Christ because they are turned off by the idea of sin, claiming its too negative, I somewhat cynically respond (I’m confessing here) that this is the easy part to believe; if anything believing sin exists seems a pretty “natural” thing to do. Our propensity to not do what’s right, our lack of faith in ourselves and in God, the faulty teachings and perceptions we are continually exposed to, our ignorance at the spiritual and the material levels, all seem quite obvious to me if one just opens his or her eyes, ears, and hearts. So, when I have that conversation about faith, I usually feel like saying “let’s skip the obvious and let’s go to the good part, which is God”. I guess it is here where we part ways, and we do it in a way that couldn’t be more radical. Christ then becomes the centerpiece of that shift, in one way he becomes the corner stone.
So where did such a shift begin, in my life? I believe more and more only God knows. Really, only He knows. But one thing is certain, were it not for my sins, I wouldn’t understand Him, as I do now. So, when our conversation on faith continues, I have to talk about an encounter. Sin hurts me unspeakably, whether I had or was involved directly in an abortion or not. What I mean by this is: how can I sit quietly on my couch and be ok if a child or a mother are dying somewhere else in a war, or a fellow man is being abused in a prison, or a person is sitting depressed, alone at home? I, a rational being, simply following my rational self cannot be ok as that is happening. So our conversation takes a shift as I have to start talking about an encounter. An encounter that is both with God and a person, because the encounter is personal, it has happened to me, personally, and in my own specific circumstances, it’s got to do with me. And they might say, rightfully so, what person? who? And I have to say it’s a BIG HE, because it’s so much bigger than me and my follies, and yet conforms to my life. A twist enters the narrative, a new main player, as I go from the terrible reality of sin, to a new powerful light, a saving power, God has entered the realm of our dialogue. And they might say, what are you talking about, where is he? I, hesitating with my answer, start realizing with there is a specific way of talking about that God, about my encounter with Him. With time and prayer, that way starts showing its face, as a fog that fades away, becoming clear it is made of gestures of humility, of prayerfulness, and of loving words and actions.
So, how can I relate that encounter to God himself, and more specifically to Christ? In a way it is simple, and yet it’s a complete mystery to me. So far, what I am able to gather is that encountering God hasn’t happened in a vacuum. Just like my sins haven’t and won’t happen outside the context of my life, my encounter with God has occurred both inside of me as well as through others, through my fellow women and man. God’s communication with me has occurred in very specific and concrete ways, ways which have touched me personally, and yet at the same time they have occurred in or within a community and a tradition. The community in which I have received these gifts I’ve come to understand is the Church, the fellowship of believers, members with varying gifts of faith, hope and charity, of a multitude of nationalities and states of live, upbringings, and yet all united in the belief in a God, a God that has been crucified for us. This unity is and becomes a tremendously deep source of hope for us, for we see in that cross, in that SAME Cross, an answer to that sin. Our personal sin and the world’s.
The tradition and the community are in one way based solely on that cross, and so for my ongoing conversation it becomes simple to direct my interlocutor to that answer he or she might be seeking; how can I even start speaking about a personal encounter with God? How can we deal with this sin? I would tell him, just take a look at the Cross. There is a cross in most Christian temples, in many homes, and on Instagram and FB feeds, so instead of swiping right away, or just passing by, try to stop and look at the Cross, and from the bottom of your heart speak with simplicity and honest words, probably words of pain, to IT. Look at the Cross, and let it become the force of Love that softens your heart, for a stronger love there is NOT. And let it soften the hard edges of your heart, those that keep hurting you, for the Cross can do it and has done it throughout history, and it will continue to do so. It will make you see a different Way, His Way, the Way of humility and Love, to which none is worthy of, and yet for all it is fully and solely given, and you and I will start learning how to love. God knows what he is doing, we really don’t. If He has given us His Cross, BY GOD let’s use it.
Catholic Christians are now entering the season of Holy Week, when we celebrate the death and resurrection of JESUS CHRIST, who died on the Cross for your and mine sins, all of them. Let us please HIM, who has died for us, by accepting HIS main gift, which is the gift of forgiveness.
Let us pray: Oh God, we humbly ask in this holy season to help us look at your Son’s Cross with eyes pleasing to You, and we ask this through Christ, our Lord