What is the great sin in our world, in our country, in this city and parish?
I believe it is the sin of Self-Centeredness.
This is the original sin that I think manifests itself in all the other sins that we do; whether it is the little white lies that we say, to the grave sins such as adultery, murder, abortion, bigotry. We commit them because we are self-centered.
Self-Centeredness is what causes suffering in our own lives and in the lives of others Self-Centeredness is an attitude in which we are focussed in on our own selves, to the neglect of others.
Clearly this shows up in egotism, greedy, selfishness, bigotry, discrimination, theft, etc. We are usually good at recognizing those.
However, it is those more subtle ways of acting self-centered that can cause us and the people around us problems.
We are Self-centered when we hold onto our anger and we refuse to forgive. We are Self-centered when we hold onto our grief and we fail to hope. We are self centered when we try to control the whole universe and we want everyone to do what we want of them. It is when we are so wrapped up in our own pain, hurt and suffering, that we can no longer see the needs of others. We are self-centered when we judge other people as bad, as ignorant, as illegal, as immoral; the implication is that we ourselves are not these.
This is the human condition. It can effect us as individuals, and certainly it effects as a whole. We the church are not immune to this.
It started with the first sin, when Adam and Eve thought only of themselves, thought of themselves to be equal with God; and forgetting that God desires unity, which is not the same. We continue this first sin, this original sin when we think only of ourselves and because of it people to suffer in hunger, in disease, in appalling situations because “I will not share MY MONEY.” or “I don’t want MY taxes to go to THOSE people.” or “They want to be poor.” or “That does not fit into MY schedule.”
We continue this sin and we get all angry and passive aggressive when things change, or don’t go the way we want. When the universe and all the people we try to control do not listen to us. We continue this sin and we sleep around with whomever we want and then we kill the unwanted children, and we destroy our marriages and families. We destroy our own integrity. We continue this sin and this is why a man filled with hate shot and killed three people this past weekend in Kansas City. We continue this sin and this is why families are torn apart as people are deported, or worse, die in the our desert while searching for a better life.
People always ask, “Why does God permit suffering in the world?” Well God does not. We do, because we are self-centered.
God is other centered, the complete opposite of Self-Centered. God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, the Holy Trinity, in whose image are created, is centered always on the other. Father gives of his very self totally to the Son. The Son, who loves the Father, receives all that the Father gives to him and in turn, gives to the Father all that he is. This exchange of Love is the person of the Holy Spirit. It is a mutual, dynamic, ongoing giving of self to the other. This is the meaning of love.
God so loves that God creates the world and all within it. God so loves that God creates man and woman in God’s own image so that Man and Woman will give of themselves freely and be united with each other and with God. God so loves the world that the Father sends the beloved Son, the Father gives to the world the beloved Son, to save it.
Jesus Christ is born and gives of himself to others.
He cures, he forgives, he teaches, he touches, he is other centered, not because he must do so, not because of some legal reasoning, but because he wants to. It is his nature. Jesus, the Son of God, desires to give of himself. He gives of himself even unto death.
We celebrate this giving of self in the Eucharist each and every week. Tonight though, it takes on a special meaning. Eucharist is directly connected with Service. Eucharist is about God giving of God’s very self to us, so that we will give of ourselves to others.
Jesus calls us to be true to our human nature, and NOT to the human condition. He gives us this mandatum, this command to wash the feet of others. He does so not to punish, not to instill guilt, not to shame us, rather to inspire us. We are called to wash the feet, we are called to serve others. We are called to be other-centered. We are called to be true to who we truly are as men and women. We are called to forgive those who have hurt us, and ask for forgiveness from those we have hurt. We are called to be generous with the blessings of life. We are called to be humble. We are called to make better choices above and beyond our own desires and needs. We are called to truly Catholic, truly human, truly free.
To see our own personal needs, yes, but also to see our very selves in relation with all the other needs out there. To work together with all others, so that this evil of suffering that is present in this beautiful world will be diminished.
To work together so that the kingdom of Heaven, a reality of unity, will exist.
As we enter now into the most holy time of the year, we participate in God’s giving of self for us.
We participate in this Holy Triduum, in which God gives to us for our own freedom, so to save the world.
We participate in giving of ourselves, as Christ did, so that we too will find LIFE.
How will we participate?