Tag Archives: murder

Lamentation

Yet I will remember the covenant I made with you when you were young;
I will set up an everlasting covenant with you,
that you may remember and be covered with confusion,
and that you may be utterly silenced for shame
when I pardon you for all you have done, says the Lord GOD.
—Ezekiel 16:60–63

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Matthias Grünewald, Lamentation of Christ (detail) / PD-US

This reading from Ezekiel reminds me of a recent video from Fr. Robert Barron, which is definitely worth a watch: Bishop Barron on Ezekiel and the Sex Abuse Crisis. Ezekiel wrote of the corruption within the holy city of Jerusalem and its cleansing through avengers from the North. Today, the “holy city” of the Church has fallen into corruption, and it too needs to be cleansed, to endure the painful siege of repentance. God will not abandon His covenant with us. But if we are to be cleansed, we must allow Him to show us the weight of our sin; we must be willing to feel our shame and sorrow.

It has been sobering to read reports of the horrific abuse that has occurred within the Church and the deep corruption that kept it hidden for years. As American Catholics, we are mourning over these unthinkable crimes and trying to figure out how we can possibly move forward through this mess.

The Gospel reading prior to this spoke of forgiveness, which may seem untimely at the moment. The Gospel asks us to forgive, but often we don’t understand the meaning of true forgiveness. Forgiveness does not mean making excuses for the person who wronged you or brushing it under the rug. That’s not forgiveness; it’s denial. True forgiveness must acknowledge the sin and yet refuse to feed it. A person who forgives renounces any claim toward revenge and resists the tendency to harbor resentment. It is a daily decision, and it is not an easy one. But it is the only way that we can stop the cycle of sin and open our hearts to mercy. A truly forgiving heart is not indifferent to injustice; it is all the more deeply hurt by it, since it refuses to dehumanize either the victim or the perpetrator. It sees the tragedy of an innocent life altered irrevocably; it sees those individuals who used their God-given will for evil. And it resolves to do better.

I am reminded of the story of St. Maria Goretti and her murderer/attempted rapist, Alessandro Serenelli. Now, this is not a typical story—we should not go around assuming that all murderers and rapists will be reformed by our prayers and can be later welcomed into our families. But it is in fact what happened in the case of Alessandro Serenelli, incredible though it may seem. Though Alessandro was bitterly unrepentant for the first few years after Maria’s death, he experienced a profound conversion of heart after experiencing a vision of Maria in which she forgave him. He was moved to weep for his sins for the first time, and he began the process of true repentance. Due to Maria’s miraculous intercession (again, possible only through the grace of God and not by human means), he was completely reformed and eventually became an adopted son of Maria’s mother.

While Alessandro clung to his pride and callously denied his guilt, the seeds of sin and evil continued to fester within him. Only when he realized the depth of his sin and entered into a living purgatory of shame and regret was his heart opened to receive God’s mercy. This step was crucial: acknowledgment of wrongdoing, grief over what has been tainted and destroyed, ownership of one’s sinfulness. Unless we confront the realities of our sins and face our deepest wounds, we will never be able to receive healing. And Alessandro’s revelation of guilt—and thus his pathway to forgiveness—was made possible because of Maria’s purity and steadfast prayer.

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Alvar Cawén, Pietà / PD-US

As faithful Catholics who are shocked, saddened, and heartbroken over the recent scandals within the heart of our Church, we are called to step up and be the solution, to challenge the Church to rise up to her sacred calling. Now is the time for prayer and fasting. We will expect from the Church a higher standard, and we will start by being saints. The purification of the Church will begin with the purification of our own souls, by a deep desire for holiness and purity throughout every aspect of our lives. Jesus and Mary weep alongside us at these crimes. I’ve been encouraged by the discussion among young, faithful Catholics of the many ways in which we can carry this out, and I’ve compiled a list of resources here.

I stay with the Church because her teachings proclaim the dignity of the human person, even as some of those who represent her have trampled upon human dignity through objectification and abuse. I pray that we allow the light of truth to overcome the darkness, so that everything hidden will be exposed to the light. The truth of our own dignity and worth—and indeed that of our children—must prevail against the shadows.

Originally published at Frassati Reflections.

Profound Pity

Jeremiah 3:14-17, Jeremiah 13:10-13, Matthew 13:18-23

But the seed sown on rich soil is the one who hears the word and understands it, who indeed bears fruit and yields a hundred or sixty or thirty-fold. (Mt 13:23)

When the apostle Thomas said, “Unless I see the print of the nails and put my finger where his nails were…” (Jn 20:24) we see how stubborn he was in his doubt. It would have been justifiable if he had not immediately believed, for we read, “One who trusts others too quickly is light‑minded” (Sir 19:4).

But to overdo one’s search, especially about the secrets of God, shows a coarseness of mind: “As it is not good to eat much honey, so one who searches into the majesty [of God] is overwhelmed by its glory” [Prov 25:27]; “Seek not what is too difficult for you, nor investigate what is beyond your power. Reflect upon what has been assigned to you, for you do not need what is hidden” (Sir 3:22).

Throughout the Gospels, we see the strongest signs of God’s profound pity. First, in this: that He loves the human race so much that He sometimes allows tribulations to afflict his elect; seeds to fall on thorns and stones; doubting Thomas, Peter’s Denial, etc. God permits this so that from these, some good can accrue to the human race.

God allowed the apostles, the prophets and the holy martyrs to be afflicted: “Therefore I have hewn them by the prophets, I have slain them by the words of my mouth” (Hos 6:5); “If we are afflicted, it is for your comfort and salvation; and if we are comforted it is for your comfort which you experience when you patiently endure the same sufferings that we suffer” (2 Cor 1:6).

This is both remarkable and puzzling. Through profound pity, God allowed some Saints to fall into sin (as David did by adultery and murder) in order to teach us humility through refinement in the furnace.

___

Originally posted on Instagram.
Image: The Incredulity of Saint Thomas, Caravaggio (c. 1601–1602) / PD-US

The Disfigurement of Sin

“He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him,
   nothing in his appearance that we should desire him.
He was despised and rejected by mankind,
   a man of suffering, and familiar with pain.
Like one from whom people hide their faces
   he was despised, and we held him in low esteem.”
—Isaiah 53:2b–3

“My beloved Jesus, Your face was beautiful before You began this journey; but, now, it no longer appears beautiful and is disfigured with wounds and blood. Alas, my soul also was once beautiful when it received Your grace in Baptism; but I have since disfigured it with my sins. You alone, my Redeemer, can restore it to its former beauty. Do this by the merits of Your passion; and then do with me as You will.”
—St. Alphonsus Maria de Liguori, The Way of the Cross (The Sixth Station)

Sin corrupts what is good; it is a parasite that eats away at its host, leaving the host hollow and lifeless, and branding the host with its ugly character. The victims of those with narcissistic personality disorder often end up exhibiting the very traits of their abusers, driven mad by their constant emotional battering. They lose their sense of self and may develop Stockholm Syndrome, clinging to the one who is wounding them, struggling to make sense of senseless behavior.

Soldiers back from war are often stuck in fighting mode, unable to escape the horrible memories of callous mutilation and death. For trauma victims, the world appears as a dark, irredeemable place, with the suffocating snares of sin all around. The cruelty of people and tragedy of circumstance seem arbitrary yet inescapable, and the universe a chaotic void. In such a world, what room is there for hope?

tumblr_m1bty52xam1rrutr7o1_500Christ became sin for us, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God (2 Corinthians 5:21). John Zmirak writes: “I read long ago in St. Anselm that Christ could have redeemed us by spilling a single drop of His precious blood. Divine justice could have been appeased, man’s fall and all our subsequent sins—from Cain’s slaughter of Abel to the mass murder of Europe’s Jews—could have been blotted out by the blood Jesus shed… at His circumcision” (“No Morphine on the Cross,” Crisis Magazine, 31 March 2010).

Zmirak reflects: “It may be that Jesus so emptied Himself to show the immensity of His charity, to give us a tantalizing peek at the secret love that fuels the Trinity.”

On the flip side, it may be that, by the instrument of the crucifixion, that terrible way for humans to torture and kill other humans, God wished to display to us the ugly reality of sin, which brings disfigurement and death to that which He created as a wholly good and beautiful gift.

Seek, then, what gives life and beauty, and shun that which brings corruption and death in any way. When you receive a bad impression of someone, try to find goodness in them, or to at least understand their circumstances and what pain they must have been through to turn out the way they are, for it is said, “Hurt people hurt people.” Also, no matter how twisted someone may be, there is always hope, as St. Thérèse knew when she prayed ardently for the eternal salvation of Henri Pranzini, who had murdered two women and a girl in their bedrooms. Every human being is someone God created and Christ died for; no matter how marred by sin, he carries within him the image and likeness of the One Who is Love, and this indelible identity can only be revealed to himself and to others through the eyes of Love. Herein lies our hope, and the antidote for sin—to behold one another and ourselves with the divine eyes of Christ, and treat all accordingly.

“So how can you see what your life is worth
Or where your value lies?
You can never see through the eyes of man
You must look at your life, look at your life through heaven’s eyes.”
—Brian Stokes Mitchell, “Through Heaven’s Eyes,” The Prince of Egypt (1998)

“Remember: God’s grief at the unspeakable things we do to one another is beyond measuring, but so is His mercy. It might seem a terrible thing to say to people who’ve lost and suffered so much at the hands of hatred and violence. But true courage is not to hate our enemy, any more than to fight and kill him. To love him, to love in the teeth of his hate—that is real bravery. That ought to earn people m-m-medals.”
―Tony Hendra, Father Joe: The Man Who Saved My Soul

“It may be too much for each to think too much of his own potential glory hereafter; it is hardly possible to think too often or too deeply about that of his neighbour. The load, or weight, or burden of my neighbour’s glory should be laid on my back, a load so heavy only humility can carry it, and the backs of the proud shall be broken. It is a serious thing to live in a society of possible gods and goddesses, to remember that the dullest and most uninteresting you can talk to may one day be a creature, which, if you saw it now, you would be strongly tempted to worship, or else a horror and a corruption such as you now meet, if at all, in a nightmare. All day long we are, in some degree, helping each other to one or other of those destinations… There are no ‘ordinary’ people. You have never talked to a mere mortal. Nations, cultures, artsthese are mortal, and their life to ours as the life of a gnat. But it is immortals whom we joke with, work with, marry, snub and exploitimmortal horrors or everlasting splendours… Next to the Blessed Sacrament itself, your neighbour is the holiest object presented to your senses.
―C.S. Lewis, The Weight of Glory


Image: Signum-Crucis