The ARM of St. Michael
This saying is trustworthy and deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners. -1 Tm 1:15
The Church can seem imposing, like a vast institution of inordinate parts: cathedrals, basilicas, oratories, shrines, chapels, parishes, cloisters, missions, orders, schools, universities, hospitals... vestments, statuary - great accumulations of art and music, and of course the Magisterium - the inheritance of 20 centuries of revealed light shining upon the Biblical words and acts of Christ, taken altogether, a library so large no one probably knows or could know its final size.
For all this, today's Bible quote interposes the relief of simplicity and essence. Timothy's emphasis is strong and urgent. This is the one thing needed only, the reason, and no other, that Jesus is Who He is: Savior, especially of the most destitute.
Who are the destitute? Us, sinners. An addict is a sinner so entrenched in error that life is lived no other way. In the throes of addiction, freedom to avoid sin is no longer optional. Did Christ Jesus come for that one?Foremost!
Sin is a sickness, a haplessness that seems to preclude our election into the "royalty" of 'folks who live right', or 'people who have it all-together'. Part of the sickness is to cut oneself off from the physician, refusing to believe that a doctor is needed. The psychology world called the many shades of this familiar maneuver "denial".
My sacrifice, O God, is a contrite spirit;
a contrite, humbled heart, O God, you will not scorn. -Ps 51: 19
The contrite, or, contrition, while commonly equated with penitence or remorse for wrong doing, is derived from the Latin contritus meaning literally, "worn out" or "ground to pieces". What conspicuously bring about this advanced state of soul dilapidation,certainly in our day, are addictions. There is the secular saying bad (or old) habits die hard. Hopefully coming all the way to a gutter somewhere is not what is required to remove the stumbling block of denial to see hidden, undergirding causes.
This is what scripture teaches us: not burnt offerings or any other substitutionary -compensatory offering of human choosing, but only and simply facing the truth of my, of all things, wounds and imperfections.This is the sacrifice desired, simple and very often, unavoidably, painful. The psalmist calls it plain, a sacrifice. Salvation is not something that has to be done or earned but admitted is needed. Grace alone helps us get to the place of being unafraid to meet the vital truth, of getting over the guilt or confusion that does not know how much personal disrepair am I accountable for.
The long-avoided verdict of "I have a problem" is feared, perhaps because social maturation placed unreasonable pressures on all of us to be spotless or blemishless people, which became part of our deep and prideful formation. But the only spotless human being there was or ever will be is Mary. The rest of us, are all "the poor banished children of Eve", inheritors of a universal human woundedness: a weakness to sin, for addicts specifically weakness to intoxication. Our parents were wounded, our grandparents were wounded, our ancestors were wounded.
We do not rejoice in the bitter, weak nature of fallen humanity, yet we take comfort that no one is alone wounded. Everyone is wounded in some way, everyone carries a burden that cannot be seen. Someone else in their unconsciousness, wounded us and we have gone on to wound ourselves by taking the original wound-denying intoxicants of Satan. Time and again we went straight to the devil to escape, to guzzle from the chalice of oblivion, to let drunkenness be our response to the hidden wound. The quite glaring fact among the living today is that people are wounded, not blemishless. It was so in Jesus' days on earth 2000 years ago; is the world purer and more holy today? Who would dare seriously say yes?!
Addiction is itself 'the wound on top of the wound' that somehow adapted itself as a way of proceeding for lack of any other known way. There is another Way: God's.
Who can save us from this insidious, inheritance-consuming, non-solution?
Who can take "the boy in pain who chose safety" - the addict child, and elevate him to "the man who chose to find the meaning of suffering" - the redeemed soul?Jesus.
The author of Grace.
Human power cannot accomplish sobriety, recovery, salvation. Grace is the intervention of divine power outside ourselves flowing from the mercy and providence of God to do the impossible. Nothing is impossible for God, Who would not be God if it were otherwise. The addict buys for himself expensive doubt, that God cannot do the impossible. Grace does the opposite, roots out the thought-error and believes.
And so, as St Paul taught by example, we boast in our weakness, in prayer.
Come O Jesus, Holy One, Spotless Lamb,Perfect Offering, Son of the Father, our Redeemer and King, our Liberator and our Life. Fill us with yourself to replace all that is false and what is not life. Let us bring to you all wounds and old rags of self-medication and receive the new garments of healing and transformation. Let us believe that our total restoration is possible and only in You, my Savior and my God. Amen.