Today’s find: Big sin. REALLY big sin.

Today’s find: Big sin. REALLY big sin.

Now that I’ve got your attention, a disclaimer: I’m not about to let you peek under the hood at my most grievous personal faults—not via the blogosphere, at any rate.

I have a different kettle of “big sin” in mind, stirred up by a couple of biographic notes I’ve encountered over the past couple of days—one profiling Peter Damian and the other featuring Claude Heithaus S.J.

Almost a thousand years separates the two men: Peter Damian died in 1072, while Father Heithaus lived in the 20th century. But they had one important trait in common: Neither was afraid to confront systemic evil.

In Peter Damian’s case, he was taking on the church during a particularly corrupt time in its history—challenging his brother bishops to change their evil ways.

Father Heithaus is best remembered for speaking out against racism, leading the effort to integrate Saint Louis University in the mid-1940s—and making SLU a pioneer in the desegregation of higher education.

I never used to think much about such “big sins,” precisely because they’re big: Even if I recognize the evil in the system, what am I supposed to do about it?  That started to change for me, though, when I was introduced to some of Pope John Paul II’s notions about corporate sin. (That’s “corporate” as in “body of believers.” He wasn’t really referring to profiteering companies.)

JPII’s teachings helped me realize that I do have some responsibility here. Or more precisely, that we have some responsibility, as members of the body of Christ. And while I certainly can’t tackle all the evil in the world, that’s not exactly what I am being called to do.

There’s no way I’m going to be able to fix the societal ills that have turned the U.S. into an incarceration nation, for example. But I can light a candle, by serving on Kairos teams. I can be Christ’s arms or feet, if only for a few hours, for the men I encounter on the inside of the prison. (And while I’m there, I discover—much to my delight—that they can be Christ to me, too!)

We can all profit, I think, from spending at least some of our time this Lent reflecting on Big Sin—and asking for nudges from the Holy Spirit…to show us which of those candles might be inscribed with our names.

True, taking on Big Sin can be a daunting task—and we need to be prepared for the rigors of the road. So let me leave you today with a quote from Peter Damian, offering an intriguing bit of advice on that subject. “When you are going from one place to another, or on a journey,” he says, “let your lips continually ruminate something from the scriptures, grinding the psalms as in a mortar, so that they may ever give forth an odor of aromatic plants.”


2 comments on “Today’s find: Big sin. REALLY big sin.

  1. Michelle says:

    thanks John…good food for thought…especially during Lent.

  2. […] are grievous hurts…there are diseases…there are sinful patterns…there are societal ills…there are disasters…that I am utterly unable to control. And when I am confronted by them, […]

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