Not everything one writes gets published. In fact, a great deal does not. But you are still changed by having lived with it while it was written. It is akin to prayer in that sense. The person changed by prayer isn’t the Lord, but one’s own self. So too, there are times when things get put to paper and it matters not whether another soul reads it; the one changed is yourself.
I have spent much of this past year working on a project that deals tangentially with authority. Specifically, the power and authority of names and acts of naming within Scripture. And living with those themes has colored my view of the carnage of these last twelve months. Everything has been seen through the lens of authority: who has it? who lost it? who usurped it? and who possesses the ultimate power to give or restore it?
It’s not overstating things if I say this has been a year of lawlessness. True lawlessness. The kind that seeps down from those above, those who know better. People in authority abusing their positions to kill unarmed people in the streets; lock people in their homes; shut down businesses; close down churches; tamper with evidence; tamper with votes; tamper with free speech, news, communications and so on.
There is a ripple effect that extends outward from each original act. What happened to George Floyd at the hands of those in authority was felt worldwide. A virus that any number of countries give labs permission to experiment on and research raced around the globe. The federal government’s “fifteen days to flatten the curve” became the longest “fortnight” ever imposed on earth. Each act metastasized in devastating fashion.
And I pondered the role authority played in all of it and whether any of this was a chastisement for our sins. Because none of this – from the riots to the food lines, the lockdowns to the suicides – none of it occurred apart from those in authority allowing it to happen and to continue to happen. “Why have they done this thing!? How can they stand by!?” And so, as bad decisions and injustices multiplied before our eyes, it seemed as though the Lord had begun to give us up, as Paul says at the beginning of the Letter to the Romans, to our wicked desires. That minds were so darkened by sin as to be paralyzed in the presence of evil, unable to mount a defense.
But it wasn’t merely the lens of “authority” through which this last year was viewed. The power of naming was equally present in the news cycle and in our streets. Consternation in press conferences over what we call the virus. Outraged voices mandating we “say his name.” As though by naming correctly or justly or loudly enough, we’d find the source of the problem before us, and could finally stop our freefall into wickedness. A world so deep in sin, it knows instinctively it must aim for the light even as it flounders in the dark. It is a futile attempt to right things.
Regardless, let me name a name.
No, I’m not trotting that all out to rehash. I’ve a different aim in mind. Namely, to say as a Catholic, it is our duty to save Theodore.
Now, I am not an expert on spiritual warfare or the demonic or what structure of authority those spirits operate within. I suspect there is one, though. There’s authority and hierarchy everywhere else in God’s creation. And I know from simple observation that when people and offices endowed with power and authority become corrupt, when they pervert their exercise of justice, that lawlessness spreads everywhere. Their sins are never private. They are shared like a disease.
So, no, I can’t speak on matters of spiritual liberation with any expertise. I merely know this: that Christ came to save us from our sins and that I (and you) are called to do our part in that. We, as Church, are about more than food pantries, parish committees, and social justice. We are about more than hospitals, universities, and grade schools. We are mandated to preach the Good News and baptize all nations in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. We are called to announce a day of salvation to every man, woman, and child. That there is no sin that God cannot forgive. No wretch who cannot be saved.
We do not build up the Kingdom of God through socio-political “programs” of humanism, false tolerance or an artificial brotherhood. We build it by enlarging His presence in us and increasing the number of souls belonging to Him in this world.
So I return to my point with some urgency. We must, must, save Theodore. Save him by our prayers, that he repents. Save him by our fasting. Save him by our self-imposed penances. We must say his name before God. For one thing, he is our brother. For another, it is incumbent on us to do the work of Christ whose name we bear. More than this though, I think in our collective horror we excel at pointing out the sins which have metastasized through the Church and thinking that naming the sin is enough. It is not enough. It doesn’t matter how correctly, justly, or loudly we denounce the evil by name. We must save men. Must free them from sin. Must untie the knots of evil they have wound around us all.
And so I beg you to join me in storming heaven to save Theodore. To bring him to perfect – even public – contrition and restore him to full grace before he (as we all will) renders his account to God. Why? Because I firmly believe that his authority enabled the spread of the problem and gave evil a foothold over others. And that snatching him from the hands of Satan will free others from the stupefying hold this evil still has on those in authority. And that, one by one, we can break these chains over them and over us. In Jesus’ Name.
*Image: The Prodigal Son (De verloren zoon) by Rembrandt van Rijn, 1636 [Teylers Museum, Haarlem, Netherlands]