Thursday greetings from the frigid Midwest; seven below zero here this morning.
At yesterday's Ash Wednesday Mass at Saint Sabina in Rome, Pope Francis concluded his homily with these words:
Soon we will make the gesture of the imposition of ashes on the head. The celebrant says these words: “You are dust and to dust you shall return, (cf. Gen 3:19)” or repeats Jesus’ exhortation: “Repent and believe the gospel. (Mk 1:15)” Both formulae are a reminder of the truth of human existence: we are limited creatures, sinners ever in need of repentance and conversion. How important is it to listen and to welcome this reminder in our time! The call to conversion is then a push to return, as did the son of the parable, to the arms of God, tender and merciful Father, to trust Him and to entrust ourselves to Him.
I have been pondering the image in the latter part of this homily's conclusion; the call to conversion being a "push to return . . . to the arms of God, tender and merciful Father." I am left with the question as this Lenten season begins: What is giving me a "push to return?"
As you know, I have been struggling with many things these past few months, particularly the senseless violence by terrorists, especially the recent murders of those Coptic Christians, many of whom were confessing their faith in Jesus Christ as they were murdered. Frankly, when I read the words of the Holy Father, that this God of ours into whose arms we are "pushed," is a "tender and merciful Father," I wonder where that tenderness and mercy can be found? I guess in my life I have never really experienced what a "pure enemy" is. Do you know what I mean? When I look at the evil actions that people commit, I can usually discover some reason for that action. I am one of those people who turn almost immediately to the "benefit of the doubt" approach when dealing with those kinds of actions. But I think I am discovering in these terrorists what I am calling the "pure enemy." And that just isn't like me at all. I have been reading about their beliefs about the end of time being imminent. Am I supposed to think that because they believe that that their actions are somehow justified?
And then comes the constant haunt from Saint Matthew's Gospel:
"You have heard that it was said, 'You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.' But I say to you, love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your heavenly Father, for he makes his sun rise on the bad and the good, and causes rain to fall on the just and the unjust."
So, if I have discovered, for the first time in my life, the "perfect enemy," I think the Lord might be "pushing" me into some kind of more perfect love for that perfect enemy. And I am just not sure what that means or will mean as I continue to struggle with these issues.
Darn, this Christianity stuff is no picnic, is it? Happy Lent!
Thanks for listening.
Gotta sing. Gotta pray.