Are Your Assets Toxic?

02-27-2021Fr. John LettersFr. John Bonavitacola

Our dear 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. My favorite current obfuscation is “pre-embryo”. 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 sheets. 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 to 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 ensures 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, more frequent work absenteeism are some 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. It's a bit baffling how 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 considered 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.

Holy Week reminds us vividly that the debt of our sin has been paid, our toxic assets nailed to the Cross our balance sheets set aright by Christ. Holy Week also reminds us that the true and only solution to our troubles is love: real, authentic, self-sacrificing love. The love that allowed Jesus to embrace the Cross is the same love that will allow us to renew the face of the earth. But we can only access this love if we agree to carry the Cross with Christ.

The itinerary for Lent covers an intense spiritual itinerary: the Woman at the Well, the Healing of the Man born blind, the Raising of Lazarus, Jerusalem, the Upper Room, the Garden, a Trial, Golgotha, and a Tomb. In that geography we are taken from life to death to rebirth. After the reading of the Gospel of the Triumphal Entry the Deacon invites us to “go to Jerusalem”. This is not an invitation to be a spectator. If we dare enter the gates with Jesus then we do so as participants in the greatest cosmic battle ever. Will you just yawn and “be the only one who doesn’t know the happenings in Jerusalem these days”? Or will you stake your claim with Jesus the Nazarene King of the Jews?

“Let us go to Jerusalem”.

Fr. John B.

PS Don't forget to watch our “Class Before Mass” BEFORE you come to Mass. It will prepare you to participate more actively and consciously in the Lenten Masses.