April 18, 2014
Is 52: 13—53: 12
Provincial House, New Rochelle
“The Lord laid upon him the guilt of us all” (Is 53: 6).
|Christ's passion, death, resurrection|
A medieval rendition
The heaviest burden anyone is asked to carry in life is probably guilt. I’m not talking about the “guilt trips” that others lay on us from time to time but the authentic guilt of our own misdeeds, ill-spoken words, or omissions.
Last week there was a great deal of attention paid to the 20th anniversary of the Rwandan genocide. Some of the attention noted the reconciliation achieved between some individual perpetrators and victims. You may have seen the photo-essay in the NYT Magazine on April 6, titled “My Conscience Was Not Quiet,” which looked at 4 pairs of individuals photographed and interviewed within a larger project. The common theme is one Hutu’s awareness of his criminal behavior, his conscience heavy with guilt, and his craving for peace and restoration to community; and one Tutsi’s granting him the pardon that enables them to live in peace again, and sometimes in friendship and mutual support. The peace of soul of the perpetrator of the genocide depends upon his admission of guilt and the forgiveness extended by his victim—a victim of that perp’s specific murderous actions against that victim’s family. At the same time, the victims attain a peace, set free from their own anger and bitterness.
When I read that photo-essay, I couldn’t help thinking of the Servant of the Lord. We perps come to Jesus, the victim of our sins, and seek pardon. We have done terrible things to him, but “he shall take away the sins of many, and win pardon for their offenses” (Is 53:12).
It’s true that none of us is guilty of genocide. I dare say we haven’t committed any heinous crime. But for sure we have our sins, and most of us aren’t in any hurry to make their public. We feel our guilt and shame.
We’re familiar with St. Alphonsus’s version of the Stations, which speaks extensively of how Christ suffered for our personal sins—be they unkindness, ingratitude, impurity, lies, greed, or whatever else.
|Jesus condemned to death|
The Stations of the Cross enacted at Salesian school in Itajai, Brazil
I found this morning another reflection on our guilt and what it’s done to our Lord. It’s a blog post by one of our SLMs, named Paula Rondon. She titles her post, “He Was Crucified Under Paula Rondon”; she identifies herself with Pilate, her character and typical behavior with his: “He’s neither extraordinarily good nor despicably bad. He’s right there in the middle like most of us. He has the capacity in him for righteousness.” But “he failed, as I would have failed, to see that the answer to his question …, ‘What is truth?’ was the Man staring right back at him.” She goes on to speak of shirking responsibility, of “falling short all the time”—and of having Jesus as a substitute for the blame she deserves, “for God the Just is satisfied to look on Him and pardon me.”
It seems to me that our shedding of our guilt and finding our pardon depends upon a process of claiming and disclaiming.
1st, like the Hutus of Rwanda and Paula, we have to claim our guilt, admit our sins—if not genocide, probably fratricide of a sort, offenses against our brothers and sisters: our various forms of selfishness, laziness, unkindness, etc. Not really we have to claim them, but I have to claim my own failures and not lose them in some generic we—it’s someone else’s fault, or we all do it. Some of us, perhaps all of us, have done that today in Reconciliation, and we try to do it daily with an examen.
2d, having ID’d our faults, our moral failures, we disclaim them—by handing them over to Christ. We do lay our guilt on him, and he does relieve it, lift it off us, make us whole, set us free, wash us clean. Thanks be to God!