John 2:13-25: But Jesus would not trust himself to them because he knew them all,
and did not need anyone to testify about human nature. He himself understood it well.
When he had â€˜cleansed the templeâ€™ by throwing out the money-changers and traders from the sacred court Jesus had sealed his fate. Itâ€™s one thing, as we all know, to teach and another practice. When you start to act on the truth â€“ taking the risk about being right and the bigger risk of becoming unpopular for rocking the boat â€“ the system will turn against you. Turkeys donâ€™t vote for Christmas and chickens donâ€™t vote for Easter.
There is, as we all know, personal sin. For example: our refusal to face reality and our preference for what we privately know to be illusion; or our deliberate, carefully self-justified hardening of heart to people in need who would benefit from our time, treasure or talent; our crafty ways of defending a self-centred relation to the events and people in our life; our deliberate greed and short-term profit motive; our ways of exploiting people. And so on. We all know our faults - or suspect them. They are the causes of our individual, psychological hell - the domain of the false self. However painful, they present no great obstacle to the love of God welling up through our cracks to heal us and give us always another chance.
But there is something else in the realm of sin that affects us because it conditions us through the culture we live in. It is more collective and impersonal than our personal faults. We see it in social tsunamis of insanely horrific inhumanity and callousness such as the Shoah or the Islamic State. This sin possessed not just individuals but whole groups. It gives an ersatz sense of community - a perverse and self-destructive experience of the solidarity that all human beings seek.
Sin, personal or collective, is sticky. Even when we try to detach ourselves from it, it becomes more attached. Victims then become like the ones that persecuted them while still presenting themselves as the underdog. How can we extricate ourselves and our world from the horrible stickiness of sin? Heavy injections of the reality serum.
The work of meditation, according to the 14th century Cloud of Unknowing, dries up the root of sin. A big claim. But true. And it wonâ€™t make you popular. Meditation is a powerful dissolvent of the glue of illusion and selfishness. Like a great product we discover that does a household job we have not been able to complete, meditation does what it promises. Provided we use it. Lent is the time to get these jobs done.