Monday, August 19, 2013

Sin, Pope Francis, and Baseball

St. Louis Cardinals slugger Mark McGwire kissing the ring of Pope John Paul II

What is one of the primary functions of the Holy Spirit?

And when He is come, He will convince the world of sin, and of justice, and of judgment. -John 16:8

Earlier today I wrote of Sin and Sunshine, of the strange sensation of having light shine upon our darkness, of meditating upon sin and corruption in a place of beauty and delight.  This conviction of sin, this light from the Holy Spirit that shines upon our dark and secret places, this reminder that

Nothing is hidden that won't be exposed. Nor is anything concealed that won't be made known and brought to the light. - Luke 8:17

is rather disturbing, as well it should be.

When Adam and Eve sinned, and realized what they had done, they were ashamed, and they covered their nakedness and hid themselves.

Shame is indeed a concept that is ridiculed these days, even within the Church, for instance by those pop-Catholics of the Christopher West variety who are all about making light of this heavy and humbling burden, this burden that comes when our eyes see God's light shine upon the darkness of our hearts and deeds.  And yet William Doino, in a penetrating article at First Things, notes,

The Pope believes it essential to acknowledge and promote a healthy Christian concept of shame; whereas the world mocks the very idea of shame. Perhaps that is why Francis, in his April address, reserved some of his strongest words for the “unashamed”:
'I do not know if there is a similar saying in Italian, but in our country [Argentina] those who are never ashamed are called “sin verguenza”: this means “the unashamed,” because they are people who do not have the ability to be ashamed and to be ashamed is a virtue of the humble, of the man and the woman who are humble.'

In  his article, Doino outlines Pope Francis' Theology of Sin, which counsels sinners in a kind of "Three Step Program" to do the following ...

  1. Become aware of our sins and fully ashamed of them.
  2. Encounter Jesus in Confession as the sinners that we are, giving up attempts to rationalize our sins and the temptation to look at the Sacrament as an automatic and exterior thing - thereby entering into Confession and Repentance with full humility and deep shame - with full regret for our sins.
  3. Trust Jesus to remake us.

How far this is from the self-esteem programs we are fed by the secular world - and even from the insipid feel-good homilies we hear at most Masses!  How desperately we, the unashamed, so much need a hefty and troubling dose of contrition!


But of course it all boils down to baseball.

So when you're finished reading my post on Sin and Sunshine, and Bill Doino's post on Shame and Humility, read Fr. Barron's article on A-Rod and Augustine: Steroids and the Invasion of God

Father Barron connects the dots between concupiscence and addiction, and uses the contemporary story of embattled New York Yankee Alex Rodriguez (along with other fallen heroes such as Cardinal great Mark McGwire), to say a little something about Sin and Desire.  Fr. Barron writes ... 

When we hook our infinite desire for God onto something less than God—pleasure, money, power, success, honor, victory—we fall into a perverted and ultimately self-destructive pattern. When money isn’t enough (and it never is), we convince ourselves we need more and more of it; when honor isn’t enough (and it never is), we seek honor desperately, obsessively; when athletic success isn’t enough (and it never is), we will go to any extreme to assure more and more of it.
This awful and frustrating rhythm, which Augustine called “concupiscent,” we would call today “addictive.” Barry Bonds and Alex Rodriguez were not addicted to steroids per se; they were addicted to success, and we know this because they were at the pinnacle of success and still didn’t think it was enough.


My friends, it is only the Church that still talks of sin.  It is only the Christian Thing that still sees, with eyes wide, the dark heart of man for what it really is.  It is only by the work of the Holy Spirit and the conviction that He provides - conviction both in the legal sense ("I am guilty of sin!") and in the motivational sense ("I have the conviction to do something about it - help me, Lord!") - that we can ever begin to get better.

Holy Spirit, Come!  And convict us of sin, that we may know shame and humbly repent.

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