There is an expectation in our society that when a person claims the title Christian, it means that they can, and will, act perfectly. I saw this clearly when someone wrote on a book review of the book Come Be My Light about Blessed Teresa of Calcutta, that ‘she doubted, so she should not be a saint’. At first I was flabbergasted and then I realized that a good deal of the world thinks that Christians are claiming to be perfect. Where this idea came from I do not know. I do not know a single Christian who does not sin daily. Christians are just as prone to weakness and temptation, the difference is that we know we are redeemed in Christ and that His grace will help us to overcome sin. We know that we must overcome sin, but we will fail at times. We are striving for perfection i.e. Sainthood but it is not an overnight endeavor. So we crawl back to Him and He strengthens us for the journey.
The problem is that our culture does not realize that Christianity is a path, a journey. Becoming a saint takes an entire lifetime, and for some, time in the purifying fires of Purgatory. We are all attached to various sins. They do not cease to be because we say we are Christian. For Catholics, they do not cease to be at Baptism. Original Sin is wiped clean, but our proclivity (concupiscence) for sin is still there every single day.
The world demands from us what we cannot give and that is why we point to Christ. We cannot claim perfection, only that we know Perfection Himself. It is He who cleanses and purifies our hearts and makes us “white as snow”. I cannot do that on my own. Trust me. I have some deep seated sins that I struggle with daily and I know that I cannot conquer them under my own power. I’ve tried.
When a public Christian commits a mortal sin, the world looks on in mockery, schadenfreude (joy at another’s fall), and in covered up disappointment. No matter how much the culture yells at us and claims to hate us, there is a part of every person that is hoping someone else can do better. That there really is a path to freedom, and that path most realistically lies in Christianity, namely the Catholic Church.
We are all hypocrites at one time or another. We sin and still proclaim the Good News. We still serve and teach others. The point is that we are still trying, still on the path. We must recognize our shortcomings and return to the Confessional regularly, so that those times become fewer and fewer. In recognizing our weaknesses in the Confessional, Christ heals us and gives us abundant graces. Confession is for healing.
Somehow we have to find a way to tell the world that we are not claiming to be perfect because we have chosen to follow Christ. No, rather, we are on the path to holiness, to Sainthood, Perfection. That we will be made new in Him. It will take all of us a lifetime. Think about that the next time someone in the public eye falls into serious sin. Pray for them. That could be you. That makes you feel uncomfortable, doesn’t it? Good. It should. We are all capable of great evil. We must all learn to fall on Our Lord that He may protect and guide us from those moments of temptation. We must share with the world that the Church is in fact a hospital for sinners. The goal is to be cleansed of our sin, and we are, in Christ, but we still have to walk the path He has set out for us and learn to overcome our proclivity for sin. We are forgiven, but we must follow His command to “go and sin no more”. So that is what Pope Francis is saying when he invites all to join the Church. Join us, as we work towards holiness, freedom from sin, and the journey Christ has called each of us to walk. Join us!