Day 2 of 7 in the 7 for 7 Challenge…
…and I figured I’d start us off on a light-and-easy topic: SIN.
Enough memes. Let’s get down to business.
From Cardinal Jorge Bergolio, now Pope Francis:
On the one hand, we cannot know God without being totally transformed; on the other hand, we cannot be transformed by our own efforts. Only when we situate ourselves in between these two truths can we begin to have hope. Only then will prayer arise in us—“Out of the depths I cry to you, O Lord!” (Psalm 130:1)—for it arises out of our consciousness of being next to nothing (cf. Psalm 103:15-16). – Open Mind, Faithful Heart, Ch. 10
Those of us who, for one reason or another, have some familiarity with the Twelve Steps will recognize this place Pope Francis is pinpointing. It’s the place of powerlessness, the First Step.
Nothing can be done until we’re here. No progress can be made until we reside in our powerlessness.
Powerlessness over what? Sin, of course! Fallen humanity. Our limitations.
Do you ever get that awful pit in your stomach from trying so hard to make yourself happy, and yet failing? I have. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve drafted plans for revamping my housekeeping systems. The more and more I’ve tried to “manage” my home, the more other areas of life have spun out of control—in particular our finances, because, gosh, one MUST buy MORE storage bins in order to c.o.n.t.r.o.l. this blessed domicile.
Nickle-and-dimed to death—one subtle, easy-to-miss manifestation of consumerism, greed, and gluttony—and all because of my control-freak tendencies.
But the motivation is happiness. Whatever we’re doing, we’re doing it for the sake of happiness:
“Happiness then, is found to be something perfect and self sufficient, being the end to which our actions are directed.” — Aristotle, Nicomachean Ethics
We want to be happy. So we try to transform ourselves from vicious to virtuous people (the entire point of the Ethics). But we find can’t transform ourselves by our own (groan! strain! whiteknuckle!) efforts.
What are we left with?
“Out of the depths I cry to you, O Lord!”
Powerlessness is the starting point. This, as the Holy Father says, is the place of hope. Once we come to this place of self-recognition and self-emptying, God begins to do what we cannot do for ourselves.
Powerlessness is mighty powerful.