I want you to look in the mirror and tell me what you see.
Do you see a generous, giving person that tries hard to be good? Do you see the many sacrifices you’ve made for others and the noble instincts that have inspired your loving service?
In many ways, you are a saint and you don’t know it. But before I go on, let me ask another question. Do you also see the dark side of your personality, the part you wouldn’t want printed in any newspaper? The truth is that when you look in the mirror, you are looking at both sides of yourself: the good and the bad.
Realizing this ambiguity, are you willing to focus on the good side? Learn to be compassionate to yourself. Be like Jesus, who looks upon you, warts and all, with unconditional love. He chooses to see the best that is in you. Remember how he made excuses for his persecutors, “Father, forgive them, they know not what they do.” He not only forgave human weakness, but also disregarded the malice of his enemies.
Now, permit me a little poetic license.
I want to draw an analogy between you and the church. When you look at yourself in the
mirror, imagine that you are looking at the church. For more than 2,000 years, the Catholic Church has formed and trained some of the most outstanding human beings on the face of the earth, including noble saints, heroic messengers of love and service, founders of communities of religious men and women, all devoted to helping the sick and the poor.
The suffering people of God have drawn strength and hope from these wonderful members of the mystical body of Christ.
The church has built grand cathedrals for worship and inspired the highest praise from the human spirit. When you look at the church, you are seeing the real presence, the divinity of Jesus, and you probably feel awe.
Nevertheless, there is a dark side. Always distinguish between the human and the divine elements of the church. The human side has been the cause of so much distress, disappointment, disgrace and disgust. When you focus on the evil done by humans in the church, you are, naturally, repelled and offended. But you must not throw out the good things with the bad.
Try to listen to the words of St. Paul in Romans 12:21: “Do not be conquered by evil but conquer evil with good.” Be compassionate toward the church.
The divine element of the church will triumph over evil. We are all called to participate in that triumph by striving to be good and holy.
St. Joan of Arc was falsely accused of being a witch by a British ecclesiastical court. It was a ruling that was overturned a few years later. However, on the night before she was to be burned at the stake, she is recorded as having said, “I love the church.”
There are millions of Catholics who have left the church because of the sins of men and women. They lost their faith and compassion. But there also are millions of Catholics who side with St. Joan of Arc. They love the church despite her dark side because there’s also a good side.