I heard the strangest story yesterday; and I was intrigued by how close it struck to home.
A woman spoke to our team, as part of our preparations for an upcoming Kairos Weekend at Menard. She looked very much like one of the Moms you see all the time in a suburban community. In fact, during the course of her talk, she described herself as a regular Wal Mart shopper.
So I was quite unprepared to hear the very first words out of her mouth after she told us her name: “I am a convicted felon.”
This Mom, it turns out, had done time in a federal penitentiary – for bank embezzlement. But that wasn’t the strangest part of the story. She went to jail, she said, after actually paying back the money she’d stolen. She’d done the crime, and returned the funds, all without getting caught. Then, consumed with guilt, she turned herself in…and her life really went to hell.
By trying to do it herself, she said, she’d pretty much done herself in. “I tried to fix things, not let God fix them,” she said. “And in the process, I let sin take over.”
That’s the point that hit me right between the eyes. This week, we reach the mid-point of Lent – notable in part for the eye-catching liturgical color we see at Mass. And as I take stock of my own journey during this season of spiritual renewal, I have to admit: My Lenten resolve took a significant hit this week. I didn’t make it 40 days. I barely made it 20.
“I” “me” “my”. Seven times those words appear in the previous paragraph of less than 70 words. Seven times I convict myself of human weakness (or perhaps semi-pelagianism).
And I notice that the more I dwell on my failure, the wider I open the door for sin to enter in.
Convict Mom said pretty much the same thing to us at the Kairos team meeting yesterday: “I made it even worse: My sin became my life.” And with her, I stand convicted.
A better approach, she said, is one she learned while doing time: Give it all to Christ. Her conversion of heart truly happened only when she learned to pray a simple prayer: “God, take me out of every part of it. I give it all to You.”
The truth is, we don’t do so well when we rely on our own devices…on our own reserves of strength. Like the man born blind—whom we meet in Sunday’s gospel—it’s only when we come to lean on the Lord that our infirmities are healed. Metanoia, we come to understand, is not a do-it-yourself project.
We need Christ’s grace—simple as that.
Christ offers us a way out of the darkness. And as St. Paul says, all we have to do is open our eyes:
‘Awake, O sleeper, and arise from the dead,
and Christ will give you light.’
Let us pause now…to recall that we are in the presence of the Holy & Merciful One.