A Lenten Reflection

Check out Father William Casey at 10PM next Sunday night on EWTN.  It will be the last of his Lenten Mission series from 2002.  Father Casey is an superb homilist with a Shakespearean delivery who doesn’t sugarcoat it for the listener.  His mission last Sunday was about repentance – from a Catholic perspective specifically about the sacrament of confession – but many of his remarks were pertinent for all Christian believers, and have led me to the following reflection…

Ezekiel 3:18-19 “If I say to the wicked man, You shall surely die; and you do not warn him or speak out to dissuade him from his wicked conduct so that he may live: that wicked man shall die for his sin but I will hold your responsible for his death.  If, on the other hand, you have warned the wicked man, yet he has not turned away from his evil nor his wicked conduct, then he shall die for his sin, but you shall save your life.”

Stern words, especially for us living in a culture that prizes tolerance grounded in moral relativism  above all other values.   The typical “romantic comedy” today is affirmation of multiple mortal sins: sexual relations outside of the sacrament of marriage, drunkenness, and drug use are ubiquitous plot elements.  I was lying in bed reading the other night while my wife was watching the new comedy “Parenthood”, based on the Steve Martin movie from the ’90s: I heard the word “masturbation” used at least a half-dozen times, in the context that “it’s normal” and “it’s healthy”, so let Junior have all the time in the bathroom he needs.  To speak of it as wrong is to invite ridicule today, because “Who does it hurt?”, and it is even lauded as prophylactic.  And I admit that I injured a rib laughing as George’s mother on “Seinfeld” expressed her outrage at him “using his body as an amusement park”.  But self-abuse is the propellant behind the pornography industry, which is responsible for all kinds of evil and human misery, exploiting children and women alike.  Think about that when the new Victoria’s Secret catalog arrives in the mail.

Ezekiel 3:18-19 weighs hard on me.  As parents Mary and I are bad cop – good cop, or maybe analogous to Moses and Aaron with our boys.  She would come home from work carrying the tablets of the Law, to find that I had created a golden pizza for the kids, if you catch my drift.  If I’d brought them up as a single parent, they might have turned out to be Somali pirates, personal injury attorneys, or worse.  When we hear The Great Commission, we tend to think of spreading the Gospel in exotic lands, but the truth is we have a lot of heavy lifting to do among family and neighbors.  And it’s not pleasant work: few Old Testament prophets were invited to play on the town softball team.

Theron Ware, black magician and chief antagonist of James Blish’s novel “Black Easter” reflects as he prepares for a conjuration:

“For these days, virtually everyone was damned; it had been this discovery that had first convinced Ware that the Rebellion was in fact going to succeed…for everyone was rushing incontinently into Hell-mouth without even the excuse of an Antichrist to mislead him.”

Outlandish, right?  I recently listened to a priest on EWTN express his conviction that most people would probably go to Heaven via Purgatory, very few people would actually be damned.  Comforting of course, but contrast this sanguine view with a vision St. Faustina wrote in her diary, entry 153, Notebook I:

“One day, I saw two roads,  One was broad, covered with sand and flowers, full of joy, music and all sorts of pleasures.  People reached the end without realizing it.  And at the end of the road there was a horrible precipice; that is, the abyss of hell.   The souls fell blindly into it; as they walked, so they fell.  And their number was so great it was impossible to count them.  And I saw the other road, or rather, a path, for it was narrow and strewn with thorns and rocks; and the people who walked along it had tears in their eyes, and all kinds of suffering befell them.  Some fell down upon the rocks, but stood up immediately and went on.  At the end of the road there was a magnificent garden filled with all sorts of happiness, and all these souls entered there.  At the very first instant they forgot all their sufferings.”

As Keanu Reaves says so eloquently, “Woa!”  One’s innermost being wants to reject this vision, but then recollecting the line from the Gospel heard so many times from the puplit “There will be the weeping, and the wailing, and the gnashing of teeth.  For many are called, but few are chosen” sends a chill down the spine.  We are all called to repent, to continually turn to Christ with a contrite heart.  My personal belief is we must commit to this first thing every day, to fight this good fight, with a deep sense that time is of the essence, because how many people wake up every day, convinced today is a day like most every other day, unaware that they just looked at their last dawn?  Against what’s at stake for eternity, what an heart-stopping gamble we take when we live our lives on Christian cruise control!

I’d like to leave you – as I wait for the party invitations to come rolling in – two comforting visions: the vast multitudes at the Wedding Feast of the Lamb in Revelations, and the Good Thief, as we too if of contrite heart – no matter how heinous our past sins – will be with Jesus in Paradise.

God bless us all!

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5 Comments on “A Lenten Reflection”

  1. Tim Chinn Says:

    The curise control you mention has a lot to do with Christians within the church, attending inside the 4 walls each week. We feel better for the week ahead, looking at our own needs and not others. Tithes and testimony are part of our faith, but doing is the hard part.
    I received a challenge this week to be a part of a small group that helps a local trailor park, low income unemployed, with the needs of their community. Going in, and just asking is there anything they need help with. No even mentioning what church or faith I attend. Just that God loves them. I want to do something, but is this it.
    Get this one, a small group of women in our church do the same for a couple of strip clubs in town. Simply just taking dinner and ask what needs the women have. Its called “Bruised Reed”, sharing there can be a life of hope. The club owners actually appreciate them coming in.
    What holds us back? When do we start?

  2. C-Walk Says:

    When did being a personal injury lawyer become an evil profession?

  3. AndyPalpant Says:

    Tom,
    awesome writing. Mabybe you should look into writing your own column for newspapers? seriously.
    Thanks for sharing
    AP

  4. Susie Says:

    I agree with Andy Palpant, your words are inspiring and truly a gift that you use very well!!!!!

  5. Stan Says:

    Good to see that others can read your e-tome of wise words couched in Tom Humor.


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