Show up, Act, Do Penance!(c)

Mary of Magdala, Apostle to the Apostles Catholic Community

Rev. Jim Ryan, C.P.

Digital Art Cosmic Christ

Christ is Every One.

Christ is dead to sin.

Every One is dead to sin.

Why is this not true?

This is a digital image of the Cosmic Christ – the Suffering Servant among the stars.  You will, I hope, notice this image is not of an ethereal Christ figure surrounded by clouds and stars; the One who ascends to a universal, indwelling glory.  This digital Christ has a look of supplication – an old word that means, “I need help.”  This Christ is crowned with thorns, clearly indicating violence and torture that have been done to him.  This image of Christ is, and sadly continues to be, the image of the reality of how Christ is treated among us.

We would like it to be different.  We would rather have it that all those liturgical and spiritual words of the Feast of Ascension, like “I return to my God and to your God,” “I go so you can receive the Spirit of wisdom,” “You will receive the power of the Holy Spirit and you will be my witnesses to the ends of the earth.”  How we wish all that would be obvious in this world.

We would like to think our way to making these words true.  We philosophers think in terms of basic statements before we invent multi-syllabic, densely nuanced terms.  Let’s look at the statements alongside the image.  In the philosophy trade this is rendered: A/B, A/C, B/C.  It resembles, in a way, this syllogism:  A/B, B/C, A/C.  This latter set of statements is always true.  When A equals B and B equals C, then A equals C.  The former set of statements is not true.  It says when A equals B, and A equals C, then B equals C.  We would like it to be true.   However, no amount of thinking will make it true.  Clearly, every one is not dead to sin.  What can make this true theologically is the Holy Spirit living in us, as we read in Romans 8:10, “If Christ is in you, the body is dead because of sin, while the spirit lives because of justice.”

The Spirit inspires and strengthens us to choose, to act with justice.  We can choose to reach beyond sin; choose to live without violence – personally and as a society.  To grow in awareness of what it takes to choose to live in such a society is to value Every One.  That’s when B=C, when – through the Holy Spirit – “every one is dead to sin.”

I’m going to take some words out of context now – just so you know.  I find these words to be uncanny in their application to this latest slaughter of the Innocents in Uvalde, Texas.  In August, 2018, Pope Francis wrote these words to apply to the sin of the Roman Church in the matter of pedophile priests and religious, as well as to the sin of bishops who weaponized priests who systematically victimized children and other vulnerable persons.  Here is what Francis wrote:

“Looking ahead, no effort must be spared to create a culture

 able to prevent such situations from happening, but also to

 prevent the possibility of them being covered up and perpetuated.

 The pain of the victims and the families is also our pain.  And so,

  it is urgent that we reaffirm our commitment to ensure the protection

  of minors and vulnerable adults.”

In light of this latest school massacre do you agree with me that Francis’ words are uncanny in their application to what we have to call the latest slaughter, because we all know there will be more.  Now, it is not my practice to do a deep dive into the words of any Pope, but these, I think, deserve a deeper reflection.  I would like to speak to 4 things raised in this papal exhortation, another old word that means, “I want you to do this!”

First, we are to spare no effort to create a culture of prevention.  The National Rifle Association, as I heard one commentator mention, has deftly woven its own interpretation of the 2nd Amendment into the cultural life stream of people who are fearful of having their guns taken away from them.  Creating a culture takes time – as this culture of fear shows.  Creating a culture emerges from experiences that impact real people into their real futures.  What will it take to replace a culture of fear with a culture of prevention, if not removal of the thing that is central to each one of these massacres?

Second, members of the Roman Church are to refuse the ways of cover up and repetition of the sins.  Aren’t thoughts and prayers and moments of silence a clear cover up, a sort of icing on the cake of rotten promises and flat bromides that has been served up to victims over and over?  And how is repetition to be stopped in its tracks if not through removal of the central instrument which causes the repetition?  Fear drives the cultural message of cover up and repetition.  People who live within this culture of fear have been told their rights will be taken from them and government will be overturned by those who will take their guns away.  Of course, the irony of this fear is that the closest this society has come to having fundamental constitutional rights denied and our national government overturned since Jefferson Davis and Robert E. Lee came at the hands of an autocrat wanna-be on January 6, 2021.

Third, we are told that we all share the pain.  Give me a break!  The simple truth is, sharing the pain includes doing something to eradicate the pain.  To refer back to the original use of this statement by Pope Francis, some believe that for the Roman Church to actually share the pain would require it to abolish clericalism.  No, shared pain calls for action that hopes to heal and to prevent reoccurrence of the horror.

Fourth, Francis writes that what is called for is a reaffirming commitment to this culture of prevention.  Here’s how that happens.  Contact those who have been elected to make laws and tell them what prevention means.  Then, keep emailing and calling them.  Lastly, develop a penitential solidarity with victims.  Do Penance!  Not, the kind of penance that was full of hollow words and empty actions that were directed at reminding you of what a terrible sinner you are.  A penitential solidarity requires making a connection between your daily life and those who have been victimized.  Maybe the emails and the calls to politicians are acts of penance.  Maybe fasting causes you to be reminded of families who have one less person sharing family meals.  Maybe Penance and Penitential Solidarity is just the thing that keeps us focused on creating the Culture of Prevention.

A Prayer  (JR)

   Holy Savior, Jesus Christ, as much as we would like your law

of love and your nonviolent way to be the love and the way of

the cosmos, let alone everyday life – it isn’t.  And as much as we

hope for the power of your Spirit to change hearts and minds all

we get are thoughts and prayers and moments of silence.

     Today, we remind ourselves that the elimination of weapons

of war, like AR-15 and Long Rifles, is a matter of choice.  It takes

an entire culture to choose the way to live even with a little less

violence.  As they say, a Culture of Life.

     God, who is Three-in-One, you rule the universe. 

May we put into practice every day our unity in you.   Amen.

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