Our old friend norma loquendi says that the term “toxic asset” is an oxymoron that you can bank on! It is amazing at what speed we distort the meaning of words or just outright change the definition of a word to make it seem like it is something it is not. George Orwell would be proud. One of my favorite obfuscations is “preembryo.” It is a nonsensical and non-scientific redefining of the meaning of embryo to describe an embryo that is not yet implanted in a womb but is rather in a Petri dish. Of course no matter where the embryo is, it is still an embryo. By describing it as a “pre” embryo makes experimenting on it or destroying it a little more palatable. We do the same with baby and fetus. It is easier to stomach “aborting a fetus” than “killing a baby” in the womb. Confronting the language that empowers the culture of death is the first step in defending equality for all human life.
But back to “toxic” assets… We all have them, and for some, our balance sheet is way too full of them. As Christians we would call them sins. Precisely because we know that sin easily makes our assets toxic, just as the toxic assets that threaten financial institutions, our sins threaten our spiritual and moral equilibrium. St. Paul even said that there are some toxic assets that are mortal. They lead to spiritual bankruptcy. But the good news is that there is a bail out plan! Jesus Christ paid our debt with his life. No longer are our souls in hock to Satan, but we now belong to God. Only we can sell ourselves back into slavery.
Lent is the ideal time to have an audit of our balance sheet. We call that a thorough examination of conscience. One of the reasons we call in independent auditors to examine finances and policy compliance is because a “self audit” tends to overlook things and easily rationalize bad accounting procedures, not to mention hiding fraud, if any. Likewise, we do the same with our sins. Left on our own, we tend to rationalize things away, justify bad behavior, or simply refuse to admit our guilt. This is why the Sacrament of Reconciliation is so key to an honest self-appraisal. Confession insures a higher degree of honesty than we could achieve on our own.
How do our assets become toxic? Anytime we use our natural instincts for purposes other than intended or in excess, we convert the good into the bad, the right into the wrong. Just take, for instance, our human appetites. Look what happens when we misuse our physical appetite for food: obesity, chronic illness, and more frequent work absenteeism are some areas that affect us directly. Then there is the issue of justice: consuming more than our share so that others do not have enough. We also overly moralize about what type of food is right to eat or if it is produced ethically to the distraction of other areas of moral significance. As I pointed out to you some years ago, we are very mindful of the food we eat but mindless when it comes to sex. Today’s younger generation has been taught to think about food with the moral standards that someone thought about sexual intimacy in the 1950’s. And to think about sex, as food was thought about in the 50’s: no big deal as long as it tastes good, satisfies, and doesn’t hurt anyone. If you struggle more over whether to eat a Quarter-pounder with cheese than over watching pornography, you have some moral reworking to do. And if you pay more attention to your physical body than your spiritual side, then Lent is the perfect time to energize your soul.
“Let us go to Jerusalem.” See you on Wednesday.
Fr. John B.
PS Our Lenten Almsgiving will be dedicated to the Aid to Women Center to assist them in their transition to their new location.BACK TO LIST