Friday, March 26, 2010


Perhaps the most common known virus, of which there are some 500 varieties, is the cold virus, a debilitating tiny creature only 20 nanometres in diameter.

To help visualize the size one descriptive I read recently suggested the comparison: 20 nanometres as one apple, thus the human nose would be the size of Wales!

The common stone, the kind you might kick to the curb if encountered on a sidewalk, or toss to see it skip across the surface of a pond, or in ancient times the kind picked up by a young lad and used in his slingshot to topple a giant, is likewise smaller than an apple!

When hurled as angry, unforgiving word against a human being, such a stone assumes the mass of Mount Everest.

When Jesus wrote in the sand one day the tiny grains were larger than a nanometre, smaller than Everest, yet the import is the same as when the finger of God inscribed the tablets for Moses and the impact reverberates across the millennia: Let only the sinless cast the first stone. [See Jn. 8: 1-11]

Granted the adult caught in the act of adultery causes pain and division in many lives, but clearly the abuse of children is incomparably more destructive both in the individual life of the child and in countless other lives.

In the media led frenzy around the scandal of priests committing the heinous crime and sin it is understandable dispassionate discourse is virtually impossible, witness the dismissal by most of the media and many, many Catholics of the Holy Father’s efforts, such as his recent Pastoral Letter to the People of Ireland.

Yet Jesus is clear time and again in the Holy Gospel about our call to be compassionate, merciful, forgiving, loving of enemies, praying for those who persecute us.

Likewise Jesus does not mince words about the reality of personal sin, the need to beg for mercy, to be converted.

It is extremely tough to forgive.

If we wait for our emotions to settle down it is unlikely we will ever forgive any individual or group who either has sinned against us personally or whose ‘public’ sins cause us to experience betrayal or to live in fear because of their hatred.

9/11 has left in its wake a climate of hatred and fear.

The sins of priests likewise, indeed to an even greater extent.

Both evils are already rippling forward in history, perhaps for generations to come.

Much like the tiny cold virus which can infect any human being, does infect hundreds of millions, and for the foreseeable future there is no cure for the common cold, the outrage and disheartening pain infecting thousands these days throughout the world and in the Church, especially in the lives of the abused, but also in the lives of innocent and dedicated priests, who far outnumber those who have betrayed, appears unrelenting/incurable too.

The flood of angry and hate-filled words being hurled at the Church, the Holy Father, Priests is such a shower of stones there may soon be a dearth of stones on earth.

On the threshold of Holy Week, in the face of all this, I can but contemplate Jesus, writing in the sand, as I drop the stone in my own hand.

On the threshold of our redemption I can but contemplate Jesus, in the Garden and agonize with Him; Jesus on the Cross and cry out with Him the great plea for mercy, forgiveness from the Father.

Thus, as St. Ephraim has taught us to pray:

O Lord, Master of my life, grant that I may not be infected with the spirit of slothfulness and faintheartedness, with the spirit of ambition and vain talking.

Grant instead to me Your servant the spirit of purity and humility, the spirit of patience and love.

O Lord and King bestow upon me the grace of being aware of my sins and of not judging my brother.

O God, purify me a sinner and have mercy on me.

O God, purify me a sinner and have mercy on me.

O God, purify me a sinner and have mercy on me.

Yes, O Lord and King, bestow upon me the grace of being aware of my sins and not judging my brother.

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