Editorial – Work In Progress
"I am what I am and that's all that I am. I'm Popeye the sailor man."
It might be difficult to contest a statement that clear and unequivocal. Many traits seem to be ingrained so deeply in the human personality that one must accept the good with the bad and simply let it be. Age and maturity may adjust the dominance and importance of a number of personal tendencies, but the defining qualities of one's character remain operative throughout one's life. Yet, there are people who have managed to effect astounding change in their thinking and actions. What makes this possible?
A person can be victimized so thoroughly by the sins of others that he or she becomes the hideous thing that afflicted him or her. One could debate whether or not this change is authentic to the soul of the person or simply a protective response in kind to that which threatened the person. Contrastingly, an injured psyche surrounded with kindness and generosity might produce a positive result in the nature of the person. After many years in prison for the rape and murder of young Maria Goretti, the guilty party experiences a conversion and was present at the canonization of the child he had molested and killed. In his coming to Christ, he fulfilled the dying wish of the new saint that someday he might be in heaven.
Lent, it is hoped, ought to unfold as a time of courage and repentance, forgiveness and wholeness. The holy season affords one the impulse to look one's sins straight in the eye, to understand them for what they are, and to seek the mercy and healing that God can give. Frustration over the seemingly ever-present sins of one's life invites a feeling of resignation and defeat. Are we what we are and that is all that we are or is an unremitting perseverance and even victory possible? The power of our sins, notwithstanding, can a more powerful resolve to combat them unceasingly portray our spirituality? With a feeling of eternal gratitude for God's mercy, a most humble and contrite penitent can emerge from the darkness of serious sin to find salvation. This is not only the hope of the holy season of Lent and Easter, but also the hope of faith itself. It is doubtful that anyone would possess the will or the motivation to improve him- or herself without the unwavering assurance that God desires the salvation of all souls and a trust in the forgiveness of the contrite heart. Reprising an earlier statement, the courageous and often fearful task of staring sin in the face tears down the soul and allows it to be remade in the image of the will of God. From the ashes, a wiser, a holier, a more spiritually resolute human being evolves.
The eighteenth century Russian Orthodox monk, Saint Seraphim of Sarov said, "Man must be lenient with his soul in her weakness and imperfections, and suffer his failings as he does others. But he must not be idle, and must encourage himself to better things." Our task this Lent is not to be stagnant in our spiritual understanding and not to be idle in mending the brokenness due to sin. If we are not able to take the person that we are and struggle to improve on ourselves then we are less than the beasts and the inanimate objects of the earth. From Ash Wednesday to Easter is a revelation that we are who we are, but that person is never all that we can become.
Earlier in this editorial, the question posed was how is it possible to truly change the person we are into someone better than our former selves. I opine that it is through the love emanating from the God of salvation and the living presence of that love in men and women that can make lasting change happen.