To be Catholic is to be a hypocrite. Now before I lose you, this is not any sort of rant against the Church, far from it. What I mean, is that, by being Catholic, I accept both the reality of sin in the world and the need to reject it. To be Catholic is to continually reject sin, even from the depths of its own muck.
Original sin is, as G. K. Chesterton put it, “The only part of Christian theology which can really be proved.” Its evidence is all around us, from throughout history until this present moment. It is evident not only from the grave and obvious evils of murder and rape, but also in our own heart as well. The scariest part of evil is just how common it is. Lurking in my heart, in your heart, is the capacity for heartlessness. Everyone has a favorite sin, an indulgence in the darkest desires of our nature. If you are honest with yourself, something deep within you harbors the capacity for violence: against yourself, against nature, against your fellow humans, and against God.
Despite this, most of us have an idea of right and wrong, based on principles that are fairly universal and ones we were taught growing up. We shudder and are repulsed by evil, and most of us seek to reject it. How do I, as a Catholic, reconcile this paradox? The reality of sin, and my duty to reject it? From the outside looking in, I am a good Catholic. I go to mass, I pray regularly, I go to confession fairly often. But when I look at myself in the mirror, I am keenly aware of my shortcomings. My sins stare me down, even as I attempt to battle them. I fail more often than I would like to admit.
But this Lent, I am called to confront my hypocrisy. The battle is often too great for my weak and frail will. As much as we like to believe that Lent is about self-control and mastery of the will (although these are important and far too rare), I will hand my sword to those who not only fight evil, but win every time. From now on, it is not by my wavering efforts that I will defeat my sins. It is by trusting Jesus, through his humble Mother, to crush the head of the serpent. My foot is too timid for the job. Ironically enough, the only way to align my will permanently towards the good, is to dispose of it entirely, to be consumed in the fires of the Sacred Heart.