Thursday, July 9, 2009

What the Great Writers Write About

One of my favorite themes in literature is Appearance vs. Reality. Other themes like Good vs. Evil and Rite of Passage are great, too. But Appearance vs. Reality is my favorite.

I guess it is because I know all too well that what you see is not always what you get.

Most of us want to appear holy, but the Confessional knows the real story. It is like the end of a complicated book. The whole truth is laid out. The story unfolds and the priest is there to bring it all to a beautiful and rightly-ordered ending.

The glorious French denouement. Or, in this case, divine denouement.

I suppose that is why writers like Flannery O'Connor revelled in Appearance vs. Reality. The literary theme begs for grace to show up. It aches for the truth to come out. It labors, like a woman whose day has come, to give birth to the real, the holy, the just.

All too often, though, we (yes, even Catholics) prefer to appear holy. We are quick to tell others that we have read the new Encyclical - word for word. And we quiz each other, "Have you read it? Oh, well, you must."

We tell others about our Hour of Adoration. The number of Rosaries we prayed last week. The gems in the Catholic book we are currently reading.

And we go off to our homes, and complain about almost everything. We go back to our little lives and talk about almost everyone.

Often, we fail to see the log in our own eye, as Holy Scripture says, but we fret and fume about the splinter in our neighbor's eye.

All this appearance vs. reality stuff gets sorted out in the quiet shade of a confessional. Where we stand - emptied of all - before Our Lord and Savior. Where we nod our head and admit our weakness. We wear our guilt. And the words of Jesus come sweetly to our ears.

We realize it does not matter what the world thinks. It does not matter what our neighbor thinks.

All that matters is what Our Lord says - right now. As this Sacrament comes to an end.

Sure, we can confess privately. And we should. We should review each day as evening falls and offer all of it to God. The good and the not-so-good.

But there is only one place where true contrition is certain. And the Psalmist tells us that there can only be forgiveness where there is true contrition. A contrite heart, oh Lord, you will not refuse.

And so, I rejoice that I have reclaimed this wonderful Sacrament, where there is true contrition. For what you see is not always what you get. I am weak. But He is strong.

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