This Lent, the Call To Action 20/30 community offers each other a series of simple Lenten reflections on the sacred season. Today and each Sunday of Lent, we will share a reflection by a young progressive Catholic. May we inspire each other, now and always. Next up, 20/30 Program Coordinator, Katie Jones.“At that time Jesus was led by the Spirit into the desert to be tempted by the devil.” – Matthew 4:1
Let me teach you about sin, the way I learned it from my fourth grade CCD teacher: every time you sin, it’s like a little black spot grows on your heart. The graver the sin, the bigger and darker the lesion. My teacher drew a heart on the blackboard for emphasis – chalking in little sin dots here and there until it was a freaky-looking thing. I think there was a happy ending involving confession and an eraser, but I’m not sure. Part One of the lesson was the scary part, instilling that grotesque, embodied fear for which we Catholics are so notorious.
As a progressive Catholic and a “really, really undisciplined person” (that’s a Pope quote), I struggle with the sin concept. On the surface, it embodies everything I reject about the way the Church does things: Catholic guilt, and body shame, and “I am not worthy,” and Eve’s unfortunate run-in with the serpent that messed it up for the rest of us. To all that, I want to look in the mirror and say: “Don’t worry, dear heart. You’re not sinful. You’re GOOD. You’re good enough, just the way you are. Have a brownie. You deserve it.”
But that positive-thinking message doesn’t sit right with me either. I appreciate the mmph in the Catholic effort to hold us humans to a high moral standard. I want to be called to task for my behaviors that don’t serve me or others. I don’t want you to call them ‘sins,’ and I don’t want you tell me I’m going to hell for them, but I know I have some behaviors that are creating little sin-dots on my heart. I know what they are: not being there for the loved one with an addiction, avoiding telling someone how I feel, valuing someone else’s opinions over my own, that kind of thing. These behavior patterns run deep, and I know they should change, and in the Lenten spirit of reckoning with my sins (or whatever you call them), it’s my Lent goal to address a couple of them.
For some how-to advice about wrestling with my demons, I’m turning to yesterday’s Gospel: Jesus went alone to the desert to have a chat with the devil. For this city girl, my 2014 Lenten wilderness will be less dramatic. It’ll just look like me on a pillow by the window in my room, in 10 minute pockets of quiet whenever I can muster the will to do it. Because simple, resting-in-God silence has a way of coaxing your whole messy self out of its shell a bit. Silence where you can’t hide from the demons and fears and daily communication fails but also silence that says, “All that junk is actually fine.” And I know I can’t change a sinnish behavior until I let it hang out a bit, in all its imperfect glory, and hear God tell it: “Yes, you’re good enough, have a brownie, you deserve it.”
For more on all this stuff, read my friend Christine’s beautiful sermon.