Yesterday we prayed the Presentation of Our Lord at the Temple, and reflected upon the grace of Sacrifice. In keeping with our pattern, today we focus on a vice or resistance that opposes Sacrifice, and that is Clutching / Hoarding / Not Letting Go.
Now I'm not a big fan of the Fantasy genre. For years I had put off reading The Lord of the Rings trilogy for that very reason. But since I was cast to play J. R. R. Tolkien in three specials on EWTN, I decided I had better do it. I found that the trilogy is a remarkable work (much better than the movies), and one that tells the story of our need for redemption in a very profound manner.
The most memorable moment of all for me is the famous climax. After maybe 1200 pages and hour upon hour of reading, after adventure upon adventure, our hero Frodo the Hobbit is unable to let go of the ring. The ring represents sin, and he can't let go of his sin. The moment he is most seriously tested is the moment he fails.
This past year has been a difficult one for me. And it all had to do with not wanting to let go of sin.
I learned two big things, two big truths about my tendency to sin, and I think if you pray about this, you'll see the same tendencies in yourself as well.
- My sins are not so much motivated by the fleshy components of them - such as desire for food or for sex or for money or for comfort (although these desires are present) - but by a spiritual element that is common to almost every wrong thing I do and that underlies the carnal. If Abraham offers Isaac out of trust that God will Provide (Gen. 22:14) and Mary and Joseph offer Jesus in that same spirit of deep love and dependent trust (Luke 2:22-40), then what I often do is exactly the opposite: assuming God is either less Real than He is, or else assuming that He is less caring than He is, I work the system for my own benefit. I look out for Number One (presuming, as I do, that God won't be involved or help in any meaningful way). I clutch and hoard and rig the game so it comes out my way because I mistakenly think I have to. I keep assuming I'm in this alone, for this life alone. I will find my heaven within, and I will make the damn thing myself - even if I have to break a few rules to do it.
- Worse than sin is our tendency to rationalize sin. We tie ourselves in such knots that we can't get out. But Mary is the Untier of Knots. And there's only one way to walk away from sin - and that is to walk away from it. I recently wrote how Oscar Wilde, even in prison, kept trying to convince himself that his sins weren't really sins after all, but were somehow beautiful things, things that led him to a kind of pristine sorrow and to deep and delicate feelings, etc. The hardest thing in the world is to see sin clearly, to feel shame and admit that we simply did something wrong - and this is often because much good is mixed up in any sin. We would not commit a sin if it wasn't some way of achieving a good. But once we give up trying to justify the sin by virtue of the the good that was knotted up in it, once we let go, then suddenly the knot is cut, and God can raise us up out of the mire, and we can "take up our bed and walk." And we can walk away. Free. Then Jesus said to him, “Get up! Pick up your mat and walk.” At once the man was cured; he picked up his mat and walked. (John 5:8)
In both cases, we can shun our clutching and our rationalizations and find great peace in our deliverance from sin.
Let us pray to let go of the ring that binds us.
And let us pray ...
To you, Immaculate Heart of Mary, we consecrate ourselves – our hearts, minds, wills and lives and all those works we undertake so they may be for the glory of God, for the sake of the Gospel and the salvation of souls. Holy Mother, our Queen and our Joy, give to our hearts the dimensions of yours and form us in the image of your beloved Son.