“Do you think our country is so innocent?” This was an honest answer from President Trump to Bill O’Reilly’s question on whether or not Russia’s president, Vladimir Putin is a killer (Bill O’Reilly’s exclusive interview with president Trump, February 5, 2017, Fox News).
Many in the U.S. government and in the Congress, including ranking members from the president’s own party, cried “Foul.” It is inconceivable to think that our country,”under God and indivisible with liberty and justice for all” could be linked in the same breath with the brutal acts of such a country!
I, at the first, upon hearing the president’s response, found myself shaking my head in incredulity of such a statement from our 45th president--until I was preparing to go to confession[i].
For Catholic Christians reading this, I do not have to explain what is confession or the Sacrament of Reconciliation. We Catholics go to confession to an ordained Catholic priest (who in the confessional[ii] is in the persona of Jesus Christ). We confess our sins to Jesus through the priest and Jesus absolves our sins through the priest), so that we can be reconciled with God. We tell Jesus that “we are sorry” for the bad things that we have done, and also for what we have failed to do in thought and in action; we promise that with his grace, not to do them again, and to avoid the mere occasion of sin.
To admit our faults to anyone is very difficult. But we all know, and have experienced that an “I am sorry from the heart” means everything. In fact, it is the ONLY TOOL that we have to undo our wrongs to one another and be reconciled with each other. We all have done this. We all have been the supplicant and the receiver of that “I am sorry,” and know the special blessing that comes from those simple three words, “I am sorry,” or if you will, “I apologize.”
Before we go to confession, we have to do an examination of conscience. The examination of the conscience is a process of going back in our minds and acknowledge all the bad and the indifferent things that we have done since our last confession. It is not just an enumeration of past deeds that violate the 10 commandments, but also the small things that have hurt another person as in the Beatitudes (Mat 5:3-10). Few of us can pass a day without violating one or several of these.
Therefore, how can our country be so innocent?
President Donald J. Trump, had it right?
The uproar over the president’s deflection from the accusation of president Putin’s sins to perhaps our own lack of innocence, mirrors what is going on in our country.
Presently, our country’ favorite sport is “the blame game”. Everybody is blaming somebody, someone, or some group for something. The blame game is as old as humanity itself.
Christians are all too familiar with the drama in the Garden of Eden. After God told Adam not to eat the fruit from the tree that is in the middle of the garden, the serpent tempted Eve to eat the fruit and after consuming the fruit she gives it to Adam and he likewise consumes the fruit. When God confronts Adam he blames God for putting the woman in the garden, and also blamed Eve for giving him the fruit. Well, Eve blames the serpent, and you know the rest of the story (Gn 3:9-24).
No one is taking the time to examine his/her conscience and taking responsibility for one’s actions. Everyone else is guilty but me, type of thing. We can see clearly the splinter in our brother’s eye, but not the wooden beam in our own eye (Mat 7:3-5).
I have the quote below taped on a wall in my office for many years. It is not from my faith tradition, but it always reminds me that the way I live affects others. My lack of charity, faith and hope affects others.
“As in the microcosm, so in the macrocosm
As in the atoms, so in the universe
As in the human body, so in the cosmic body
As in the human mind, so in the cosmic mind.” [iii]
And so I add,
As in each citizen, so in the country
Perhaps our president has felt the conscience of our country, and like each one of us, finding it not so innocent.
I declare, as Lent approaches (March 1), for all of us to examine our own consciences, confess and ask forgiveness from God (in our own individual faith traditions) and from one another, and perhaps only then, we will find that we can come together in peace and love.
“I am sorry.” “I apologize.” “Forgive me.” These are the words to live by.
“It was when he gave the Holy Spirit to his apostles that the risen Christ conferred on them his own divine power to forgive sins: “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.”
[i]Matthew 18:18 “Amen, I say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.
The Council of Trent defined that his power to forgive sins is exercised in the sacrament of penance. Mt 16, 19 and 18, 18.
Article 10. #976, page 254. The Catechism for the Catholic Church “I Believe in the forgiveness of sins”
[ii] An enclosed stall in a church divided by a screen or curtain where a priest sits to hear people confess their sins.
[iii] D. Chopra, Ageless Body and Timeless Mind.