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March 4, 1990     Arkansas Catholic
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Lent 1990: Forgiveness: Getting For many of the later years of his fife, Daniel C. Walsh, one of Thomas Merton's professors at Columbia University, helped interview prospective candidates for the Abbey of Gethsemani in Kentucky. Often he would ask the aspirants quite bluntly why they wanted to be monks. If someone were unfortunate enough to answer that he sought to escape the evils of the earth, Walsh was ready for the kill: "The evil in the world begins in yourself," Walsh would tell them, "and you will carry it with you wherever you may go." This is not Puritanism or Jansen- ism. This is reality. Each of us is a sinner• We are not just victims of bad environmenL We are not just insufficiently evolved• We sin. We miss the mark, to use the fine Greek phrase Hamarfia. we. tu=, =,.ously good l,o ers of in wrong directions, to use Augustine's concep- tion. We choose the lesser when the greater is pos- sible. We catch a glimpse of the light and then seek out darkness. We get into ugly ~cles of utter selfishness, sloth, envy, an~, gluttony, interaperance, pride, blindness to community needs, literal cartJless- neS$. We sin. And that sinning has consequences. The devastation that sustained evil can inflict on relationships, families and societies may be too obvious to need the telling. What may not be quite as obvious is the havoc that wickedness works on its performer. Sin diminishes the humanity of the sinner: It sets up a web of suspicion, vulgarity and distrust. It invites smallness, bilterness and jealousy, those adds that corrode the very vessels in which they are borne. To mention sin without forgiveness is, for the Christian, roughly equivalent to discussing disease without noting the real- 121 N. Court Carlisle, AIR Harold Lewis, Pharmacist Pat Cook, Pharmacist .... 552- 7837 - i • • • • • I "~j' [ i ' l I I I 'i l i-- up & going home iv/or possibility of health. Hard as it may" be for many to believe, Christianity's great- est moral emphasis is on virtue not vice. Both Aquinas and Dante, those giants of the medieval world, would wither at any contrary suggestion. God invests humanity with capacities and possibilities, they insisted; to undercut these powers and the good is sin in its ugliest sense. It is shutting off our most potent linkage to sharing in the life of We choose the lesser when the greater is possible. God. To cast out sin, though, is more than a matter of self-purgation. The cure of any serious illness must begin with an aware- ness of its desperateness and pain so that the sufferer enlists a physician's aid. The latter's task is then to draw forth from the body its own latent power of restoration and renewed vitality. So it is with forgiveness, human or di- vine. It is not a mere forgetting of a few unfortunate acts of the past. No, what people have done or failed to do is stored in their own spiritual, psychic and social structures. The ill effects cannot be waved aside. - But the Christian concept of forgiveness assures us that we will never be overwhelmed or paralyzed by our past. We start from our pasts; we don't take up residence there. The reach of God's life into the human is an offer of the never revoked promise of an authentic future; it is creative possiblity in the face of absurdity. Perhaps the greatest of all sins is the failure to admit such a reality into our lives• The hardest doubt of all to conquer is surely not about the non-existence of an abstract God; it is the doubt about the presence of God in one's Own miserable old self. We find it hard to yield up the lurking fear that we can be welcomed into God's presence with the smells and scars of life's battles still very much upon us. Forgiveness, then, is not a passive for- THE HEART OF MEDJUGORJE Pilgrimages Books. Tapes, YMeos, No.otters. Presentations (714) 750-7570.Nal~0nwide: (800) 628-3440 • PAGE 10 ARKANSAS CATHOLIC MARCH 4, 1990:I t 1 Rather, it is an insistent demand not to a problem wtth. wallow in the murkiness of our past. It is therefusaltobefrozenoutofthatfuture English, not Bible to which GOd calls each of us by name and without exception. 3 Accepting this forgiveness from GOd Minneapolis (CNS) - The argumeB [ means that we become channels of forgive- that male terms in prayer should be )1 hess for others; such is Christianity s next retained because that s what's in. the ! quirky demand. To be forgiven ourselves Bible is being challenged by a multilha" [ means unavoidably to see no one else as gual priest. . ° c beyond forgiveness, beyond redemption. Vincentian Fr. Joseph Arackal, a| In the ninth chapter of Matthew, Jesus native of India,, pored over original | is seen forgiving the sins of a paralytic and biblical texts for his doctoral thesis i11 ] t, curing him of his physical ailment. He gives ministry, which was awarded him in ! b the cured man some pointed directions which are immediately followed, "The man got up and went home" (Mt. 9:7). There are allegorical implications here, if they be allowed. Forgiveness means get- ring up and going home. To be forgiven is no longer to crawl or grovel, but to rise to a position of human dignity and possibility• Similarly, to be restored is to be no longer a stranger or alien, but a being with 1989 by the Minnesota Consortium of Theology Schools of the Twin Cities. The original texts, Fr. Arackal said, were much more inclusive. "The common gender form is not available in English," Fr. Arackal said. "That is the root problem of sexist language," although he said he prefers the term "inclusive," saying the issue involves "much more than sexism." ' "Inclusive language recognizes the, value of all human beings and does not .... . f ' l!mlt their understanding of God, F, Arackal wrote in the introduction to his thesis. "Inclusive and exclusive language i ga °s:Sr YTfo ag is Where':i , the poSS bility of the use of exclusive language" Fr. Arackal, who in addition to [ English and his native tongue knoWS:[ Latin, Greek, Hebrew, Aramaic, Hind1 :[ and Sanskrit, found 2,000 uses of the~_ i wor."man" Te.meot said several words, such as adam, at The Christian concept of original Hebrew often simply me ;[ forgiveness assures us that human being, without regard t° I we will never be over- gender. "English couldn't duplicate that, so whelmed or paralyzed by translators just went with "man,'" Fr. our past. Arackal said. "When you compare It with the original, most places where that most precious of possessions, a real home. We can then travel about as a help- ful, friendly, challenging spirit precisely because we have an identity: a sense of dignity, direction and destiny. Being forgiven means that at last we can stand up; we can go all places with confi- dence because we have a home, a place where we can love and be loved, masks and "man' is used now can be changed to "human being'." By going back to the original for i and language, Fr. Amckal said, ,,almOSt 90 percent of the exclusivewords c~ be eliminated." Fr. Arackal also has a three-steP suggestion for individual parishes to become familiar with inclusive larr pretenses down. To have religious faith is guage; to leave the ranks of the homeless. To The first step would involve the~sc believe is to be a pilgrim - not a wanderer of inclusive language in speech patterns - on the troubled face of the earth, and parish bulletins and other publiC~" I (R@n'ntedfrom Fundamental Things Ap- tions. The second step expands incl0" ] sive language to homilies, classroOr s [ plYcrews.)With permission of the author, Ft. Clyde F. and parish-produced worship materials [ The final step uses inclusive language ] in prayer services. I with ] IOE DOLAN INSURANCE I. AGENCY ] 842.2431 [ England, AR ! "Mr. Insurance ... all lines ] Marjoriec.R.s.Hunecker, Olin Wahrmund, [ Christian CounselJng for : Members, St. Theresas Parish [ Psychological - Educational iI Full Service * Lower Fee I Evaluations I JOINT VENTURE Real Estate I MemberofChr ttheKtr Paxi "1-" I I u=.,~a~xR~.~ o~:~m ~ P~a',o2~.~ I Free Market Analysis I u~.,~o~ dc~u~,u~a~-,~ o~ ~/I 741-8 So. University, LR * 565-5300 I