There is a fearful desire to be separated from beauty because we see ourselves more clearly in its light. If we have not the fortitude to stand firm in its purifying fire, based in the truth of God’s mercy, we will turn away, or worse, we will attack the conduits and source of the beauty, who is His instruments, and Himself. This beauty can even be seen in ourselves. Recall Adam and Eve’s response to their knowledge of their sin: “Then, the eyes of both were opened, and they knew they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves aprons” (Genesis 3:7). Because of their sin, they had shame of the goodness of their own bodies, and desired to hide it.
This type of shameful response is echoed in the dressed-up actions of pride and envy in the human heart. In shame, we recognize our unworthiness; in pride and envy, we ignore that truth, and instead try to restructure the reality as if we were God.
“Look how numerous and powerful the people of the children of Israel are growing, more so than ourselves! Come, let us deal shrewdly with them to stop their increase.” (Exodus 1: 9-10)
Fear Based in Pride
In the heart of Pharaoh’s decision to murder the baby boys of the Israelites is a fear based in pride and acted in envy that others will be greater than him. The evilest villains are the ones who, in seeing the mismatch between who they are and who they optimally could be, decide to ignore the contrast and act as if it didn’t exist. Often, this rejection of reality is accompanied by a malevolent desire to destroy the evidence of the truth. This murderous response of Pharaoh to the great vitality of life of the Israelite people demonstrates this.
Other times the rejection can manifest in an anger towards self, and a sense of self-loathing, as seen in some cases of self-harm or suicide. Ultimately, this type of anger though is directed towards God, who whether we admit it or not, we know exists. The delusional position to ignore the truth is untenable for long and will end in failure. The response to this failure is a singular opportunity for growth in virtue and towards eternal life, or to allow our heart to be hardened and to delve even more deeply into sin and ultimately, eternal death.
As we commit grave sin, we open ourselves to evil spirits, who as God allows, spare no effort to gain influence over our being. As this happens, we can become “snared” in our sin, making it more difficult to see reality clearly. We posture and placate and spin our gears, never making a decision to act according to our conscience, because we are too scared to see goodness; for we know deep down that we will not “measure up”. And yet, amidst our being snared, God, who is good, breaks the snare. “Blessed be the Lord, who did not leave us as prey to their teeth. Broken was the snare, and we are freed.” (Psalm: 124: 6-7). God does not slowly dismantle the snare, He does not explain why the snare is merely brain chemistry and evolution. He does not subvert justice and cause the snare to cease to exist. He does not sit silently by, watching to see what you will do. And, He will break the snare. He is an all-powerful and loving Father who above all, desires freedom for His children.
Jesus tells us: “Do not think that I have come to bring peace upon the earth. I have come to bring not peace but the sword.” (Matt 10: 34). Jesus, as a truly peaceful man, is the only one who can make such a statement of such, exacting violence. Anything else would be incomplete. He comes bearing this sword because the snare-setters do indeed exist, and if we somehow escape their snares alive, they will come after us; only this time they will know that we are injured, and so will not give up so easily. He wishes to destroy them if only we allow Him to. We must have learned from our past experiences, and from our injuries and scars we may know which paths to avoid. In this way, we are wise.
Jesus tells us: “Behold, I send you out as sheep in the midst of wolves; so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves.” (Matt 10: 16) We must think cunningly as the serpent does yet retain the level of moral virtue and innocence which following our consciences gives us. We must know that there are many cunningly set traps which will ensnare if we neglect to remember our experiences and plan accordingly. This is known by the writer of Proverbs when he says: “My son, do not let these slip from your sight: hold to deliberation and planning; So will they be life to your soul…” (Proverbs 3:21-22). This process of moving to capability in this regard will likely call for great detachment from things in this life. As Jesus says: “If your right eye causes you to sin, pluck it out and throw it away; it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body be thrown into Hell.” (Matt 5:29)
Only at this point, when by our desire to avoid sin and do good comes to a point that we become progressively free from our attachments to things other than God, can we then be utilized as the sword which Christ has brought, to pierce the hearts of others with the message of the Gospel. As Jesus says: “Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.” (Matt 5:5). The definition of the word meek in Greek is derived from the word “praus,” which was used to describe those wildest horses who after being subject to months of intensive training, were deemed adequate for use in battle. These horses were those who were completely submissive to their masters and at the flick of the reins would charge into battle regardless of what was happening around them.
Meek is not weak. To be meek is to have the capacity for great actions and even violence, but in a tempered way. As Christ says: “Since the days of John the Baptist, the kingdom of Heaven has suffered violence, and men of violence take it by force” (Matt 11:12).
Where sin and love meet, violence is inevitable. If there is ever violence uncovered in your heart, do not be afraid, but rather face it head on with Christ as your commander. Be satisfied with where you are in the process of your tempering journey, drawing Faith and Hope from God in recognizing the fact that He is indeed an active participant in your life, and the lives of those around you. Don’t be afraid to direct the violence in your hearts away from yourselves and others, rather offering it up as a holocaust offering to Jesus and Mary our mother, to have them orient it properly against sin to the purpose of obtaining the kingdom of Heaven.
“Here in the dark, I do not ask to see the path ahead – one step enough for me, Lead on my God, Lead on.” (Lead on, Kindly Light, St. John Henry Newman).