Sunday, December 6, 2015

The Jubilee Year: A Sunday Rumination

     Many Catholics disapprove, to some degree, of Pope Francis, owing to his unwise proclamations of opinion on political and economic subjects. I’m one of that number. Yet we must grant His Holiness the authority – and the wisdom – with which he has pronounced that the year that begins Tuesday, December 8 will be a Jubilee Year: a year of mercy, in which all sins may be forgiven solely on condition of confession and repentance.

     The Church has been beleaguered for some years, especially over the reports of clerical sins. Far too many misdeeds, including some of the most heinous, went unreported and essentially unpunished for scandalous intervals. Nor is it clear that those responsible have ever repented for what they did.

     Worse yet, the Church has been enmeshed in politics, often with the best will in the world, but never to the benefit of men’s souls, for faith and its behavioral consequences are inherently individual commitments. What matters is what one does, not what the law permits or forbids. If in some incredible alternate universe, the parliaments of all nations were to declare murder to be legal, it would still be wrong, the blackest of all black deeds. Conversely, if individual charity were forbidden by law, it would still be a sincere Christian’s obligation to act charitably – i.e., succor animated by love but tempered by wisdom and prudently cautious not to worsen what’s already bad – toward those whom God has placed in his path.

     For those and other reasons too numerous to tabulate here, we need this Jubilee Year.

     His Holiness has asked that the Jubilee Year be a year in which we forgive others as God forgives us. You’d think that clause of the Lord’s Prayer is familiar enough that we shouldn’t need to be reminded of that obligation. Yet far too many of us treat the matter as merely cosmetic. In the words of a priest I generally disapprove, we may forgive, but we never forget, and we always get even.

     (Nota Bene: Forgiveness is not the same as amnesty or indemnification. Also, it is inappropriate in the absence of repentance. Keep that in mind.)

     Can American Christians adopt the appropriate manner and measure of humility required, not only to forgive our neighbors for their trespasses, but also to repent of our own and accept the forgiveness of God and Man? I pray that it will be so, but as with all such things, we shall see.

     We are at war on several fronts, Barack Hussein Obama’s representations notwithstanding. More, we are at war in more than one sense. The most visible wars involve exchanges of physical violence, usually by guns and bombs. The less visible ones are those that unfold in the human mind and heart...and we are not blameless in them.

     A recent thriller by J. Robert Kennedy, Payback, casts an interesting light upon those less visible wars. The story centers on a plot by elements in Ebola-ravaged Sierra Leone to “punish” the U.S. for not doing more to help the Sierrans cope with and defeat the Ebola plague. Said “punishment” involves kidnapping and killing the daughter of the U.S. vice president, infecting the vice president himself with Ebola, and spreading the disease among Americans generally. The following passage illustrates the mindset of the plotters:

     Koroma laughed, dropping into a nearby chair. “You are so naive. You apply your Western way of thinking to everything you see. You assume that because someone smiles and is polite that they are honest by your standards. And that is the key—your standards. You Americans always express outrage when you are asked to pay a bribe to get something done, but what you don’t realize is that the vast majority of the world works that way—it is simply common practice. You go into a store and pay the price on the tag, but in the markets of my country it is an insult not to try to negotiate the price down. You apply your values to us, and that is in itself an insult and one of the reasons so much of the world hates you.”

     Note the monumental hypocrisy. Note the complete lack of self-consciousness – Koroma’s inability to apply his pronouncements to himself and “his people.” And because I didn’t want to include too long a passage from the novel, allow me to include that Koroma made the statement above to an American doctor who had volunteered to go to Sierra Leone to treat Ebola victims.

     Whatever portion of the world hates America doesn’t hate us because we’re ungenerous. Indeed, Americans, individually and as a nation, are the most generous people who’ve ever existed. They hate us, in large part, because we’re generous without conditions:

  • We give without expecting thanks or repayment;
  • We give even to those who hate us and have openly said so;
  • We give without demanding apologies for past insults and offenses;
  • We give even to those who have called for our downfall, including some who openly seek it.

     The recipients of our largesse are like the alligators in a famous parable: While driving along, Smith happened upon an alligator that looked to be starving. Moved with pity for the poor creature, he drove to the market, bought a beef roast, and gave it to the alligator, which snapped it up and settled down for a nap. But the next day when he happened by that place, there were two alligators, both obviously hungry and awaiting a similar gift. Smith, a bit nonplussed, hurried to the market, bought two roasts, and fed them both. But the next day there were four alligators, all as ravenous as the day before. The procession continued for several days, at the end of which the alligators awaiting him were so many, and so avid for a free feed, that Smith could not get out of his car for fear of being killed and eaten.

     The point should be obvious, but to judge by the emissions of far too many – mostly Democrats – it generally passes unobserved and uncomprehended.

     The Jubilee Year should bring us to repent of that sin – the sin of foolishly instilling both dependency and a sense of entitlement in the recipients of our generosity – along with all the others. It wouldn’t instantly mitigate the hatred of those distant mendicants, but it would at least begin the process of teaching them where the fault really lies: with those who return evil for good.

     Here at home, let’s work on forgiving and educating those who have hated us and wished ill upon us: the Left in all its manifestations:

  • They claim that to wish to be free is greedy, and to submit to their demands is virtuous.
  • They insist that no limit can be placed upon our obligations to them and their mascot-groups.
  • They self-exculpate for injuries and insults done to us, of innumerable sorts and at innumerable times.
  • They denounce our calls for individual freedom and responsibility as “hate speech” and “marginalization.”
  • At every opportunity, they do harm to our reputations, our occupations, our social bonds, and our private lives.

     The forgiveness is the easy part; the education will challenge us to the cellars of our souls. For there is only one way to educate him who seeks to return evil for good: he must be defeated and cast down so thoroughly that he cannot lie to himself any further about his errors. Defeat is the best education. In this case, it’s also a moral, social, and political imperative.

     But defeats in the social and political arenas are always temporary. Tolkien has told us that evil cannot be destroyed; the Shadow will always “take another shape and grow again.” That’s the moral of our recent defeats, which I can only hope we have absorbed.

     This has been an unusually broad Rumination, so let me close here, lest I become tiresome. Bask in the love of God as His Holiness Pope Francis opens the Door of Mercy. Forgive others their trespasses as they forgive you yours. Show others the face of the Redeemer in your own face, and strive to see it in theirs.

     May God bless and keep you all...and:

Bring The Jubilee!


Unknown said...

To forgive relieves the forgiver of the burden of hate. And the forgiven? Are the forgiven still not obligated, burdened with a need for adequate remorse expressed in action?
When is forgiveness in the form of killing the murderer. to prevent further murders, justified, if ever?
Asked another way, when does forgiveness serve to condone, promote additional harm?

Reg T said...

Two questions, Fran: First, given that he has shown incredible ignorance and communist leanings in his socio-political pronouncements, along with siding with muslims instead of the Christians (but not _Catholic_ Christians) who the muslims are killing and enslaving in wholesale numbers, why should we decide he is clever or intelligent simply for proclaiming a Jubilee Year? That's as easy and as effortless as Obama declaring any particular day as a holiday. It hardly seems cause for elevating a venal and unwise man who does not have the welfare of Christians at heart (again based upon his preference for muslims over Coptic Christians, for example).

Second, I thought that forgiveness of sins was the everyday result of confession and repentance, if sincerely felt by the penitent. I don't understand how a Jubilee Year changes that, or makes it somehow different from the heartfelt repentance of any other year or any other time, period. Can you explain that? Or am I confused?