Search This Blog

Friday, July 7, 2017

Sacrilege: It's Real and It's Serious! Don't Compound Your Sins by Committing It.

By Fr. Tom Collins

It was once observed that, while a fly can irritate a king, it cannot offend a king. Only a person can offend another person. This simple observation is filled with profound wisdom, a wisdom that has been seriously eclipsed in the consciousness of many Catholics in the Western world. This eclipse has been manifested to me numerous times in the Sacrament of Reconciliation. As appreciation of the importance of this sacrament in the spiritual life has been lost to many Catholics, even those who do regularly confess their sins often indicate a rather superficial understanding of the actual sanctifying dynamic of this sacrament.

This diminished or degraded understanding is often reflected as a penitent says, “I feel bad about . . ." While it may be helpful for a soul to feel bad about wrongdoing, such guilt feelings are inadequate for fully receiving the infusion of regenerative love and mercy offered through this sacrament. It tends to be narcissistic. In a way, it can often be paraphrased by saying, “I want to be unburdened of my guilt feelings.” This, unfortunately, falls far short of the compunction and contrition so necessary for the proper reception of God’s gracious mercy, healing and strength in the sacrament.

True contrition is rooted first of all in sorrow for having offended God by desecrating His image in one’s self, in the lives of others and in the order of Creation. It is not merely a sorrow for breaking a commandment or a rule. As indicated in the observation above about a fly, sin involves much more than technically breaking a rule or commandment. It involves a personal act of desecration. Contrition, then, must be based upon the fact that one’s sins have actually desecrated one’s self and others, as well as distorted one’s ability to recognize and reverence the presence of the sacred. Sin is not merely a matter of breaking a rule or commandment, of not measuring up to one’s own expectations or of harming or hurting others. Sin, at its core, desecrates and/or destroys relationships. Sadly, this truth is often obscured by the use of imprecise language – especially when the objective moral teachings of Christ are presented as a bureaucratic construct of the Church hierarchy by asserting them to be merely “official” Church teachings, rather than as “authentic” teachings.

Authentic contrition is also misunderstood because it is often mistakenly identified with guilt. Guilt cannot be the foundation for forgiveness, healing and reconciliation. This is because guilt tends to be rooted in an alienating sense of pride. It tends to ask, “How could I have been so weak, perverted, stupid, disgusting, cruel, etc. as to do this?”. It is thus trapped in a subtle form of narcissism. In sharp contrast to this, contrition is based on a profound sense of compunction guided by a deep gratitude for God’s mercy and patience. Contrition leads one to confess/proclaim God’s mercy. It asserts, “How wonderful God is! Even though my sins have desecrated myself, His Holy Name and others by my sins, He has preserved my life, infused me with a renewed awareness of my true dignity as His child, and now offers me the opportunity to receive His forgiveness, healing and strength!” Thus it is that, in the Sacrament of Reconciliation, a person is primarily confessing the awesome truth that God’s merciful compassion is greater than his sins. And in naming those sins, he specifically asserts that
the final word on his life and destiny is to be given by God’s Word made flesh. After all, what sin says about a person comes from the Father of Lies, whereas what God asserts about our being sacred comes from God’s Truth incarnate – and the truth of one’s true dignity is sealed through His Paschal sacrifice.

All this leads to another important observation. Due to the mysterious and perverting dynamics that infect the soul as a result of Original Sin, many people fail to appreciate the reality of how God’s graciousness is able to transform them and their lives. Having been deeply wounded or even traumatized by sin and its consequences in their own lives and in the lives of others, the ability of people to trust is seriously crippled. As a result, although we are called by God as His children to relate with Him and with others, many people can only interact with God and others. This tends to degrade our appreciation of our human dignity. After all, chemicals can interact with each other, but they do not relate with each other. For example, in forming water, any oxygen atom will suffice to interact with two hydrogen atoms. But, in forming a marriage covenant, a man will only relate with one particular woman.

To compound this tendency to interact, rather than relate, we can see how even the ability to interact is often crippled by a compulsive tendency to merely maneuver around and manipulate others. As a result, many souls are trapped in a sense of alienated and alienating loneliness, from which they seek some ephemeral relief through self-gratification and the arousing and appeasing of various addictions. In light of this fact, their pitiable condition tends to draw them more deeply into various forms of debilitating discouragement, despondency, depression and despair. As the melancholic song, Sweet Dreams, notes, “Some of them want to use you, some of them want to be used by you. Some of them want to abuse you, some of them want to be abused by you.”

But there is hope. And, as strange as it may seem, this hope can be brought to marvelous fruition through a humble willingness to acknowledge an awkward reality. This reality is indicated to us in the mystery of Christ crucified, the ultimate obscene act of sacrilegious desecration. And the reality itself, which we must come to accept if we are to be saved, is the fact that each of us is capable of committing the sin of sacrilege. And many of us have actually compounded our sins by sacrilegiously receiving Holy Communion in a state of unrepented serious sin. One dramatic manifestation of this occurred when the tragic clergy sex abuse scandal came to light two decades ago. Hardly any mention was made of the fact that many of those perpetrating such abuse on the youth entrusted to their care had also compounded their sins by the sacrileges of offering Masses and receiving Holy Communion in the state of unrepented serious sin. Nor was there a universal call for offering Masses
and/or days of fasting and prayer for the sacrileges committed against the Eucharistic Christ by these clergy. The failure to recognize and address this awkward and obscene reality of sacrilege has done immense harm to the spiritual lives of millions.

It is no wonder, then, that the sacrilegious desecration of the Eucharistic Christ is so widespread. Since it seems that there is no longer any possibility of committing sacrilege, pro-actively pro-abortion politicians are free to assert that the Eucharistic Christ wants to give a smiling “thumbs up” to their efforts to promote the barbaric butchering of pre-born babies. Likewise, those who slander others with gossip sacrilegiously are free to abuse the Eucharistic Christ, as they embrace the secular gospel, which offers “salvation” through the promotion of moral ambiguity, excuses and resentments. I could go on enumerating objectively serious sins, the seriousness of which is now routinely obfuscated by those who allege that their sin-seared consciences are actually sincere consciences. And we should not fail to mention how many, after deliberately failing to keep holy the Lord’s Day for weeks on end, arrogantly assert that they have a “right” to receive Holy Communion with no need for repentance. But suffice it to say here that, as the tsunami of sacrilegious abuses of the Eucharistic Christ continues, many of us pastors choose to ignore this fact by euphemistically referring to our moral cowardice as “pastoral solicitude”.

Coming back to the Sacrament of Reconciliation, then, it seems that true pastoral solicitude would require that penitents be advised of the need to repent of and confess any instances of their sacrilegiously receiving Holy Communion in the state of unrepented serious sin. After all, a bandage should not be applied to a wound until after that wound has been totally cleaned and disinfected. Failure to do so increases the danger that a soul will continue to use sacrilegious Communions as a ratification of their sin. They would thus be left free to continue on that dangerously slippery slope, whereby they come to assert even more arrogantly that, just because Jesus understands their sinfulness, He also endorses their sinfulness.

The recovery of the realization of the reality of sacrilege is thus essential for the sanctification and the salvation of souls. Otherwise, as indicated at the beginning of this article, we are asserting that the souls entrusted to our care merely have the dignity of flies, which are only capable of irritating, but not of offending. Likewise, the ability to name all the sins that are infecting one’s soul is the first step toward deliverance of one’s soul from those sins and from the desecrating dynamic they have initiated within one’s soul.

Thus it is that the real possibility of sacrilege enhances human dignity by expanding our awareness that God does take us and our actions seriously, that we are accountable for our choices and actions, and that we are not merely sacred, but also called and capable of sanctifying others through a deepening, humble, repentant and reverent communion with Jesus Christ. This is both an awesome and awkward mystery, but, through it, those who are humble and docile of heart will discover the true joy and hope of eternal life. After all, the gates of hell cannot prevail against a sincerely repenting heart.

No comments:

Post a Comment