Thursday, April 25, 2013

The Novelty of Love

Fifth Sunday of Easter, Year C

Novelty is alluring. Well, that’s actually an understatement. Novelty is addictive. We get excited quite easily over new things and most new things catch our interest for a while. But it never lasts. Eventually, we end up getting bored of people, of activities, of ideas, of things and even of religion. The new always promises to surpass the old - and let’s face it, there is always a thrill when we get that new smart phone, or tablet or those new clothes. Our brains are wired for finding immediate reward. With technology, novelty is the reward. You essentially become addicted to novelty. But the new quickly becomes old, and so novelty creates an inexhaustible desire. We can’t stop because the brain has no built-in braking system.  Our love of novelty can even take on the appearance of a search for truth, when in fact it is only a form of distraction.

Today we live in a modern Areopagus, that ancient court in Athens which had become a marketplace of religious products during the time of St Paul’s visit. The Acts of the Apostles provides us with the following social commentary of the Athenians of the first century: "all the Athenians and the foreigners living there would spend their time in nothing but telling or hearing something new" (Acts 17:21). The city was "full of idols" - each new god, each new philosophy added to the last, so that the streets (not unlike our own) offered a plethora of religious products ready for consumption. If one god failed you, or just bored you, there was always another. Today we live in a global marketplace of ideas, philosophies, religious thought and spiritualities. The reason for this proliferation of spiritual ‘goods’ is the incessant demand by the masses for meaning, but more specifically, for novelty in meaning.

In today’s gospel, Jesus also promises a ‘novelty’ – “I give you a new commandment: love one another; just as I have loved you, you must also love one another.” For many of us, the commandment of love has become so familiar to the point of being treated contemptuously. It’s almost impossible for us in this day and age to appreciate its ‘newness.’ What is so new about this commandment? Loving each other is not a new command per se. It was already there in the Old Testament (Leviticus 19:18, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself”). So, what is the novelty in today’s gospel passage? Pope Emeritus Benedict sheds light on the mystery: “This commandment has become new because Jesus makes a very important addition to it: “just as I have loved you, you must also love one another.” What is new is precisely this “loving as Jesus loved.” All our living is preceded by his love and refers to this love, it fits into this love and is achieved precisely through this love. The Old Testament did not present any model of love; it only formulated the precept of love. Instead, Jesus gave himself to us as a model and source of love a boundless, universal love that could transform all negative circumstances and all obstacles into opportunities to progress in love.”

Thus the principal reason why the commandment is ‘new’ is, evidently, the standard by which one was to ‘love one another’: “as I have loved you.” The new commandment of the Johannine community does not mean the love command itself, but the criteria by which the community will judge that love. No longer does the believer love the neighbour as oneself. Love of self, perhaps the most important benchmark by which we humans judge many things, will need to step aside for something far greater. Self-love no longer becomes the criteria but Jesus’ love for us. Jesus sets himself as the new norm and measure of Christian love. He himself loved ‘to the end’. Therefore to love one another as he loved is to give oneself wholly and fully here and now to the other. So it is in this totality of self-sacrifice and self-giving that the new element in the commandment of love is to be found.

In his monumental treatise on the theological virtue of love, Deus Caritas Est (God is Love), Benedict XVI tells us that the Bible as a whole presents us with a new image of God that can only be understood from a perspective of love. According to him, the height of Greek Philosophy is also only able to grasp through human reflection the object of love, but in itself does not love. The Bible, on the other hand presents a profoundly different image of God. The one God in whom Israel believes loves with a personal love. Thus, the newness presented by the Biblical image of God is this – God loves man. But a greater novelty awaits us in the New Testament. The real novelty of the New Testament lies not so much in new ideas as in the figure of Christ himself, who gives flesh and blood to this concept. Already in the Old Testament, we do not only have abstract notions of God’s love but we discern it in his unpredictable and in some sense unprecedented activity in human history. This divine activity now takes on dramatic form when, in Jesus Christ, it is God himself who goes in search of the “stray sheep”, a suffering and lost humanity.

When Jesus speaks in his parables of the shepherd who goes after the lost sheep, of the woman who looks for the lost coin, of the father who goes to meet and embrace his prodigal son, these are no mere words: they constitute an explanation of his very being and activity. His death on the Cross, in which he gives himself in order to raise man up and save him, is the culmination of God’s incomparable love. This is love in its most radical form. By contemplating the pierced side of Christ (cf. 19:37), we can understand the starting-point of the profound theological statement: “God is love” (1 Jn 4:8). It is there that this truth can be contemplated. It is from there that our definition of love must begin. In this contemplation the Christian discovers the path along which his life and love must move.

Thus, love is never just a human choice or effort, where couples need to find new excitement and novelties to reignite the flame of their romance, or where we strive to move beyond ourselves to penetrate the cloud of mystery that veils our eyes from the Transcendent God. Love is ‘divine’ because it comes from God and unites us to God; through this unifying process it makes us a “we” which transcends our divisions and makes us one, until in the end God is “all in all” (1 Cor 15:28). In Christ, the Transcendent God has truly become Immanent. Through his descent, the divine love is now united to the human, and thus when we love in and through Christ, never apart from him, we would perform something totally new which we would never be able to accomplish on our own.

In the first letter of St. John, where he speaks so much of love and where he names God as Love, we find these beautiful words “In this is love: not that we have loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as expiation for our sins.” (1 Jn 4:10) Our weak, limited, imperfect and inadequate ‘love’ for ourselves no longer becomes the standard by which we should love others but rather Jesus’ love for us. In contemplating love, we turn our attention away from ourselves or even from the object of our love, our neighbour. Rather, in contemplating love, we must always raise our eyes above to contemplate God. Only God loves perfectly because God is LOVE himself! And this is the love of God – that he is prepared to become man, suffer and die for us. This is the love of God, that he is prepared to become one of us, to share our pains and sorrows, to experience our sufferings and give us hope and encouragement in the midst of all these. This is the love of God – that he will “wipe away all tears from (our) eyes”, destroy death and sadness. This is the love of God – that he will make all things new. It is a novelty that we will never be tired off. It is a novelty that will never grow old. Because it is a novelty that does not just entertain or excite us but one which ultimately save us.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

"Catholic, Truly Christian"

Fourth Sunday of Easter Year C

It would be no exaggeration to say that the catchy “Malaysia Truly Asia” tagline has become embedded in the public’s consciousness and proven to be our country’s most important tool in its tourism marketing campaign. Maybe it’s because of the frequency of the highly stylised commercials, or because it just rhymes so well, or the susceptibility of the mind to retain banal stuff, but whenever I hear the word “Malaysia” I feel like following up with “…truly Asia” right away. I was shocked to discover that it had even reached the shores of Israel, a country isolated from the rest of the world, a country which Malaysia still deems an enemy state. This is what appears on the home page of Tourism Malaysia: “There is only one place where all the colours, flavours, sounds and sights of Asia come together – Malaysia... Nowhere is there such exciting diversity of cultures, festivals, traditions and customs, offering myriad experiences. No other county is "Truly Asia" as Malaysia.”

The above review certainly conjures images of a tropical multicultural paradise, the crystallisation of the Utopian ideal. Of course, the average Malaysian would find this amusing. By swinging slogans such as “Malaysia, Truly Asia”, we seem to be declaring that we have successfully embraced our multicultural demographics. The smiling faces of the multi-ethnic models on our public service ads, however, are unable to conceal the deep wounds that form impassable chasms that separate one community from the other. Yes, we do live in a multicultural society, but it takes more than a juxtaposition of different culture. We are nowhere near celebrating it. Today, the so-called truly Asian melting pot of cultures is more divided than it could ever be. What we often do is to pay empty lip service. Just because different cultures live together does not mean that they multicultural.

Uniting people from different nations, tribes, peoples and languages is a formidable task. Some would admit from the outset that it is impossible. Others attempt to do so by denying differences, by insisting on assimilating everyone into a single culture and language. We have seen how such human experiments have failed with disastrous consequences. Both Yugoslavia and Iraq have descended into violent sectarian conflicts and fragmentation of society in the aftermath of the fall of the dictator that had kept its people ‘united’ solely by force. Maoist China attempted a Cultural revolution to stamp out any trace of cultural individuality so as to create an entirely new culture based on the ideals of the Red Book. Others, like Canada, have chosen the path of territorial and legal segregation, and divided its territories between the English-speaking and Franco-phone communities. Still others, like many cities in the United States, have managed the ‘problem’ through ‘red-lining’ neighbourhoods, where people naturally choose to reside in self-made ghettoes.

Many seem resigned to accepting sociologists’ pessimistic conclusion that multi-cultural societies are inevitably characterised by conflict and rivalry. So, what we had just heard in the second reading may seem to be an unattainable Utopian ideal, a dream conjured by the hopeless to fool themselves. St John the Seer in the second reading, taken from Chapter 7 of the Book of the Apocalypse, paints a spectacularly vivid picture of what we can anticipate at the very End. He sees a multitude from “every nation, race, people, and tongue” worshipping God. They will not experience hunger nor thirst, nor will they be plagued by the heat of the sun. This is no mere rhetoric or just some fancy marketing.

The vision of the New Jerusalem from the Book of the Apocalypse was inherited from Isaiah 65:17-25. It represents the longing of all humans since the beginning of time: when there will be no more tears and suffering, but only abundance and joy. To most people it seems just an impossible dream or something that we can only experience in heaven after death. For the early Christians it was a description of the world after being renewed and transformed by God. The New Jerusalem was something that many Christians expected in their own lifetimes — the frightening and violent world that they knew simply could not continue any longer.

How could this be possible? How could this materialise as concrete reality where other ideologies and ideologues have failed? The answer lies in knowing who stands at the very centre of this scene. It is the Lamb who has shed his blood for the multitudes, the Lamb who now shepherds them and leads them to springs of life-giving water.  

Each time when we reflect on Church unity and communal integrity, we ask this simple question, ‘What must we do to be build communion and unity?’ A whole array of answers is advanced in answer to this problem. Today, being Good Shepherd Sunday, we are reminded of the answer – an answer so simple, it often eludes us (it’s ironic how we often miss the simplest and most fundamental answers to faith by being distracted by innovation and creativity). The answer is that Christ must be at the centre. Jesus is the centre of our whole universe. He is the centre of our world. We date all the events of world history in terms of the day that he was born. More important to us, he is the centre of our lives. He is the centre of everything that matters. We obviously know that he is the centre, for as Christians we wear his name and wear it proudly.
Obviously we believe in Christ as the centre of our lives. Even though we consider Christ as central in our lives I wonder if perhaps sometimes, even in religious activities in which we engage, we do not crowd Christ into the background of our thinking. We think so often in terms of our personal space, rights. We make demands of the Church and of each other. We often place our own individual concerns and ideas over everything else. We think so often in terms of groupings which distinguishes ‘us’ from ‘them.’ In other words, it’s either ‘I’ or the ‘world’ which is at the centre, not Christ. In the midst of all the details we forget that the Church is not our own construction. No one can possibly claim that they were responsible for building Church. That would be audacious. The Church belongs to Christ. It is founded on Christ. It is his Body. Thus, undeniably it him who must be at the centre.

Thus the vision of St John in the Book of the Apocalypse is a reality that can only be attained in one manner – conversion. Conversion means learning to listen to the voice of the Shepherd rather than to the many other voices which try to crowd out his presence. Conversion means that we must ultimately be prepared to die to our selfishness, and perhaps even shed blood, so that we may be washed clean and pure by the blood of the Lamb who shed his blood for us.

The Apocalypse assures us that there will be a time when Christians will be able to celebrate authentic multiculturalism or in the language of the Church, or ‘Catholicity’. The Lord Jesus Christ is building a Kingdom from every tongue, tribe, and nation of the world, and those distinctions will continue and be perfected in heaven. So where is the New Jerusalem? We see it already in the Church, the Body of Christ. But the eschatological dimension of the Church maintains that it is both ‘already’ and ‘not yet’ the New Jerusalem. The path that links the two is the path of conversion and sanctification. Whenever someone is baptised and becomes a Christian, he sheds his past identity. We receive a new one defined only by Christ who is now at the centre of his life. We become ‘Catholics, Truly Christians.” But Christ has not ceased his work at baptism: he continues to work in us renewing us. That is the key: when we truly live in Christ we begin to experience the newness of the world to come. Jesus begins the transformative work in us that will be completely fulfilled at the end of time.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

The flame of our Memories

Third Sunday of Easter Year C

There's an old saying which posits that, if you want your children to remember you, then cut them out of your will.  There is both truth and irony in knowing how the most painful memories are usually the ones that stick, no matter how much you try to forget them or suppress them. I agree with what Chuck Palahniuk, the author of the award winning novel ‘The Fight Club’, wrote in his Diary, “It's so hard to forget pain, but it's even harder to remember sweetness. We have no scar to show for happiness. We learn so little from peace.” But sometimes, as Jesus taught us in last week’s gospel, we do have scars to show for happiness, which also provides us a lesson on peace.

In today’s gospel, we see another encounter between the resurrected Lord and his disciples. Last week, Jesus met his disciples in the upper room behind locked doors. This week, the disciples have emerged into the open, in and around the Sea of Tiberias (or Galilee). In Chapter 20, the disciples were stricken with fear, they were frightened for their own lives, but in Chapter 21, we see a group of disciples who have grown despondent, who have forgotten their original mission, who have decided to return to the careers and preoccupations they held prior to meeting Jesus. It was as if Jesus had been written off the slate and the whole story of discipleship a mere dream. Right at the very centre of today’s lengthy gospel story is the story of Jesus sitting on the shore cooking and warming himself beside a charcoal fire.

Even if you are not a student of Biblical Greek, you may be interested to note that word use for that charcoal fire, anthrakia, only appears here and in another place in John’s gospel; John 18:18. This other scene takes place in the courtyard of the High Priest, precisely at the point where St Peter denied Jesus. Peter cozied up to Jesus’ captors to warm himself by the charcoal fire. But now in this Post-Easter scene, Peter drags himself up shivering on the beach and finds the same charcoal fire. If you were a director of a movie, imagine the camera zooming in and lingering on this shot – Charcoal fire – and another scene emerges from its flames.

The fire is a source of warmth in the chilly half-light, but it also illumines the darkness. The fire evokes once again the scene of denial in Chapter 18, the scene where Peter once stood by the fire and said, “I am not his disciple.” The past comes rushing back. Perhaps in the distance we can hear the cock crowing. There in the high priest's courtyard, surrounded by temple soldiers, Peter sits. If he is recognised as a disciple -- particularly, as the disciple who has drawn blood resisting them in the Garden -- he is likely to be arrested. It is a precarious place in which to be. On the one hand, we see a Peter who is courageous and bold -- he wants to be near his Lord in his hour of need. But Peter is terrified, also. He is in danger and knows it. And as he sits near the fire, he begins to wonder what might happen. As long shadows dance in the firelight, Peter's fears continue to grow. What if I'm recognised? How can I hide when it becomes light? What should I do if I'm identified by someone who was there? And so Peter's courage and bravado give way to fear.

So this dramatic scene at the end of the gospel turns out to be a story of memory and restoration. Many readers would recognise immediately the three fold question of Jesus to Peter offers Peter a way of retracing the steps of his earlier threefold denial. “Simon, Son of John, do you love me?” Three times, one for each knell of Peter’s denial, Jesus offers a corresponding invitation to Peter to confess his renewed love and loyalty. But this healing confession does not come without pain. In fact, it may reopen the scars which Peter has been desperately trying to conceal and exclude from memory. Confronting the Risen Jesus is not easy, especially for those who have betrayed him. Standing in the flickering light of the charcoal fire, Peter must first remember his failure and then own it. Rowan Williams, the former Anglican Archbishop of Canterbury, once preached “Simon has to recognise himself as a betrayer; that is part of the past that makes him who he is. If he is to be called again, if he can again become a true apostle, the ‘Peter’ that he is in the purpose of Jesus rather the Simon who runs back to a cozy obscurity of ‘ordinary life’, his failure must be assimilated, lived through again, and brought to good and not destructive issue.”

To exist without memory can be to live a life that is, in a sense, anaesthetised.  Our humanity is arguably defined by, and certainly enhanced by, our capacity to form and then transmit personal memories. I've learned over the years that guilt can be a terrible taskmaster. That may be the reason why we deliberately choose to suppress memories. By forgetting, we attempt to exile and banish the guilt that comes with that memory to the dark recesses of the mind. But guilt itself cannot help us conquer sin. Guilt is the burglar alarm of our conscience, and while it can ring incessantly, it cannot heal. Only the love of Jesus for us and our love for Jesus can heal us. This is what St John meant when he said, "There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love" (1 John 4:18). But if we choose to bury our memory and the guilt that goes along with it, we may risk the danger of also burying the memory of Jesus’ love for us.

And so, we are invited to gaze deeply into the flames – we see in the flames not only a reflection of our worst failures but also future path of our redemption. Though tempted to look away, we must return our gaze to the fire that burns brightly before us. The fire may reveal the dross hidden in our hearts, but the fire also dispels the darkness of the night. In the burning flames of God’s love, we recognise both the wounds caused by our sinfulness, and the healing offered by Christ. As we look into the flames, we see Jesus looking back at us. In the flames, in the memories of our past faults and failures, we see Jesus forgiving our offenses, taking our penalty, healing our sin-damaged souls, and restoring us to communion with God. In the flames, we will discover our healing at the hands of Jesus.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Mercy and Truth

Second Sunday of Sunday Year C
Divine Mercy Sunday

In recent years, we have seen the establishment of a special kind of tribunal. Unlike the Nuremberg war crimes tribunal of the post WWII Europe which was punitive in nature, this one serves to be conciliatory. Starting with South Africa in the post-apartheid years, truth and reconciliation commissions have been set up around the globe, invariably tasked with discovering and revealing past wrongdoings by the state or individuals, in the hope of resolving conflict left over from the past. The rationale behind such commissions was that by providing a platform to bring to light the truth about human rights violations and atrocities, it would serve as a means of healing the wounds of history. The essence of the process is to put the need to achieve reconciliation of past wrongs above the desire for punitive action against individuals. "We needed to acknowledge that we had a horrendous past," said the South African Truth Commission chairman, Anglican Archbishop Desmond Tutu. "We needed to look the beast in the eye, so that the past wouldn't hold us hostage anymore."

Today, the Risen Lord breaks through the walls of fear, shame, isolation, disappointment and failure to help us “look the beast in the eye, so that the past wouldn’t hold us hostage anymore”. Jesus appears to the disciples holding mercy in one hand, and truth in the other. This calls to mind a passage taken from the psalms. “Mercy and truth are met together” (Psalm 85:10). Mercy and truth—what a strange pair. We commonly believe that mercy entails relaxation, bending or burying the truth. The oft repeated cliché, ‘to forgive is to forget’ reflects this understanding. On the other hand, absolute Truth, is seen as harsh, judgmental, intolerant and the cause of conflict. Thus, it would appear that mercy and truth are incompatible. Today’s gospel exposes the error of this myth. Both mercy and truth are linked together numerous times in the Bible. Ultimately, both characterises the nature of God. God is a God of Truth and Justice, thus He cannot overlook sin. But He is equally a God of Love, whose overwhelming mercy has provided a way of salvation. As Pope Francis reminds us, “God never tires in forgiving us.  Never! It is we who get tired to ask for his forgiveness.”  

What Jesus did and what he said to his disciples after his resurrection stands out prominently. He returns to the very people who had abandoned him to the injustices of a kangaroo court, a summary trial and the indignity and pain of the cross. He returns to the very people who were responsible, directly and indirectly for the wounds which he now displays to them, one of whom betrayed him, another denied him not once but twice, and they all deserted him, like craven cowards and were now skulking behind closed doors. We would have understood perfectly had he been thoroughly miffed with them and spoken dismissively and even derisively of them. Well, what happens? It would have been startling to have called them his disciples after what they had done. And quite mind-boggling even to have called them friends and even reward them with the two fold gift – the gift of the Holy Spirit and the gift of the power to forgive sins. Now that really is quite unbelievable. But the truth is – it did happen!

Jesus came and stood among them and said, "Peace be with you." Jesus came not to bring judgment and call down God’s wrath on them. But neither did Jesus pretend that they had done no wrong. After he said this, he showed them his hands and his side which had been pierced as he hung dying. He did not sweep the Truth under the cover of false mercy. Rather, Jesus showed them the Truth of their actions, of their sinfulness, of their betrayal, of their lack of faith, by revealing these to them. This revelation was not an act of retribution, it was an act of mercy. He could have chosen to disguise his wounds and cover them up under the folds of his robes, but he realised that only the Truth will set them free, that only Truth could be a prerequisite of true peace. Peace that is attained under the cover of a lie, is never true peace – it is just a cowardly avoidance of conflict (which is sometimes necessary if there is to be growth); it is the tolerance of error and sin. True peace is never just the absence of conflict, the absence of poverty, the absence of inequality or discrimination, or the absence of troubles. For us Christians, peace is always about the presence of Christ.

Christ is our peace, He who came to reveal the truth about God, the truth about us, and the truth about sin. Christ is our peace, he who came to atone for our sins and to manifest the mercy of God to humanity who had been lost to sinfulness. Christ is our peace, a peace that comes through unconditional forgiveness, a forgiveness that invites us in turn to offer forgiveness to others. Christ is our peace, a peace that reconciles us to him and to the Father. Christ is our peace, a peace that comes from true repentance, a repentance which is a result of knowledge of the truth. Without the truth, reconciliation would not be possible.

On this Second Sunday of Easter, where we have gathered to celebrate the immense ocean of God’s mercy, we are reminded of the true essence of that mercy. Mercy is not pity in the sense that our culture understands pity. It is not feeling sorry for someone, nor is it preoccupation with pain. To reduce mercy to pity and pitiful feelings is to exile mercy altogether from our lives. The word ‘pity’ has evolved to mean something very different from mercy. Pity connotes condescension, and this condescension, in turn, implies separateness. “I feel sorry for you (because you are so different from me).” Pity regards the object as not only suffering, but weak or inferior. What passes as pity in today’s culture is often merely disguised gloating.   But, mercy means compassion. Compassion, from the Latin derivate ‘cum patior’ (to suffer with), is a participation in the sufferings of the other. Thus compassion, or mercy, is to suffer with, to undergo with, to share solidarity with. Compassion, one may say, works from a strength born of awareness of shared weakness, and not from someone else’s weakness, and from the awareness of the mutuality of us all.

If mercy is about compassion, mutuality, and ultimately the welfare or salvation of the other, then it must be intimately linked to Truth. It was mercy that drove Christ to confront our sinfulness and our blindness. It was on the cross that the Truth of Christ’s mercy was revealed in all its depth and glory– that sin is the real cause of Jesus’ death on the cross, and in return for what our sin had done to him, Christ had only mercy to offer us – “Forgive them for they do not know what they are doing.” Christ is the personification of the depths of Divine mercy.  This is the wonder of the cross, that here we see the fullest measure of Truth and the fullest measure of mercy at the same time in the same place and all because of the same Saviour. At the cross, we see Truth and Mercy meet.

The mission of the Church and of every Christian today is to bear witness to that same truth and not allow it to be hidden under the cover of false mercy, known by its modern incarnation: ‘political correctness’.  Truth must be faced and dealt with. Truth cannot be changed, hidden, ran from, or ignored. We cannot disguise the truth about sin just by giving it some toothless euphemism. For some, truth is . . . “I’ve had an abortion.” “I was unfaithful to my wife.” “I’ve been on drugs.” “I’ve embezzled from my employer.” The hard, cold facts stare you in the face, and nothing can change them. Oh yes, we know the truth . . . about ourselves and about everybody else (we think). But the real truth is this: we are united with each other in our sinfulness. As St Paul reminds us, “For all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.” But don’t stop here. Mercy is not far away, for mercy and truth travel together. But the greater truth, the truth proclaimed by this Sunday’s celebration: because we are all sinners, therefore we are also recipients of God’s mercy and His saving grace.

There is probably none who understands truth and mercy better than Desmond Tutu and his good friend, Nelson Mandela. When Nelson Mandela left prison after 27 years, he could have called for vengeance, retribution against the Whites, he did not, he called for forgiveness. He called upon his old friend Desmond Tutu and asked him to chair the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. The rules were simple: the perpetrators had to tell the truth, the whole truth, and their victims were given the opportunity to forgive, to show mercy.

This Sunday, we mark Divine Mercy Sunday, when we embrace the power and beauty of God’s forgiveness and mercy. It is the Sunday in which we remind ourselves of God’s tender mercies – when we strive, more than ever, to let Him break through the locked doors of our hearts. But in order for him to do that, we must face the truth about our sinfulness. We need to “look the beast in the eye, so that the past wouldn’t hold us hostage anymore”. Christ has left the tomb. If we choose to, so can we. We can step out of the tomb of selfishness and sin.  We can feel the healing light of God’s care. We can take that second chance. God’s mercy, Divine Mercy, assures it.  The Sacrament of Penance enables it. We can be made new.