A hermit thing to do is to understand the depth of the world’s rot while looking to Jesus, interceding for His mercy. Not that I do that at all very well, not at all. But it got me to thinking… which is itself a fright!
I’ve not read Aleksandr Isayevich Solzhenitsyn’s The Gulag Archipelago, but I do remember someone citing a comment he made about the worst part of being tortured in the get-worked-to-death-labor-prisons typical of dialectical materialism.
The worst part of being horrifically tortured was not the pain, he said. In his experience — and this is a matter of experience, is it not? — he said that the worst part about the torture was looking into the eyes of the torturer and seeing no conscience whatsoever.
The torturer “was just following orders,” it might be objected, “so, like, just get over that and learn how to deal with the pain and you’ll be O.K.”
But I think Aleksandr got it right, almost. A suppressed conscience means that there’s pretty much no hope at all that a torturer will be saved from such a hell. But if it’s a personal hatred we’re talking about, then there’s hope that the torturer will get over his mistaken understanding. Violent hatred is much easier to take than violent indifference. Those who are close to Jesus really want to see a bit of hope. Of course, there is already hope in knowing that…
“God so loved the world that He gave His only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him might not perish, but might have eternal life, for God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through Him” (John 3,16-17).
Dum spiro spero. While I breathe, I hope. It’s always personal because we’re personal beings. Even those who have tried to suppress their consciences are still personal beings.
Looking into the eyes of someone with seemingly no conscience is so frightening because we’re looking — all of us — at who we are inasmuch as we have, by our sins, original sin and any personal sin, crucified the Son of the Living God. Now there’s a meditation. But don’t stop there.
Never look to yourself, but, knowing with a bit of humility who you are without grace, look to Him who provides you now with the life of His grace, with the indwelling of the Most Holy Trinity, rejoicing that He has overcome the world and brought us to Himself.
The grip He has on us is very strong, for there are wounds there… still on His risen Body, proclaiming His most tender mercies in all good friendship. Has He not called us His friends. Yes, He has. And that’s a creative act on His part.
He’s just that good, just that kind. Thank you, Jesus!