Praised be Jesus Christ! “Liar, liar, pants on fire, your nose is longer than a telephone wire” – did you ever say that to someone you sus- pected of lying when you were a kid? It turns out that these are lyr- ics from a song by The Castaways which dates back to 1965. In case you missed the past few weeks, we’re considering the Ten Com- mandments and this week it’s time to look at stealing (#7) and lying (#8). It makes sense for these sins to be neighbors because there can certainly be overlap. I remember reading an editorial years ago written by a brazen journalist that suggested calling in sick when you just don’t feel like going to work. That would qualify as both lying and stealing – the latter insofar as our employers have a right to a certain amount of work from us. Speaking of stealing, given that we’re now in the throes of tax season, the temptation to cut corners and rationalize it is irresistible for many people. The problem with stealing is that we justify it with excuses that are at best flimsy, at worst outright lies. Yes, we sometimes lament how our tax dollars are being spent; thinking of our money equipping Planned Parenthood to sell aborted fetal parts to the University of Wisconsin rightly disheartens us. However, no true reform can come about by cheating or lying – two wrongs do not a right make. One of the best movies for illustrating the dangers of cheating is titled “The Emper- or’s Club” and came out in 2002. A student named Sedgewick Bell decides at one point to run for public office. When confronted by his teacher who suspects he is cheating, Sedgewick admits it and then explains that he will do whatever it takes to win the election, wheth- er it’s lying or cheating. His teacher, Mr. Hundert, responds in these words: “All of us, at some point, are forced to look at ourselves in the mirror, and see who we really are. And when that day comes for you, Sedgewick, you will be confronted with a life lived without virtue, without principle. And for that I pity you.” Oh yes, a man’s character is his fate (Heraclitus); or to quote Oscar Wilde, “the problem isn’t so much what you do, it’s what you become.” People who do not repent from lying become liars, and those who consistently steal become thieves. God’s grace would rescue us from these fates and the beau- tiful scene at Calvary of the “good” thief reaching out to Jesus and asking Him to “remember me when you come into your kingdom,” gives hope to any and all who struggle in this way. Just the same, Lent is the time for us to allow God’s pure light to shine in the dark- ness of our hearts. Whether we cheat or lie or steal things that do not belong to us, these are sins that corrupt us and damage our abil- ity to give and receive love. Sometimes we think that it’s not wrong if we don’t get caught. Please forgive another movie scene, this one from “God’s Not Dead” which came out in 2014. The following dia- logue requires no additional explanation: Mark says to Mina’s moth- er, “You prayed and believed your whole life. Never done anything wrong. And here you are. You’re the nicest person I know. I am the meanest. You have dementia. My life is perfect. Explain that to me!” Mina’s mother, in a moment of lucidity, responds, “Sometimes the devil allows people to live a life free of trouble because he doesn’t want them turning to God. Their sin is like a jail cell, except it is all nice and comfy and there doesn’t seem to be any reason to leave. The door’s wide open. Till one day, time runs out, and the cell door slams shut, and suddenly it’s too late.” Thankfully, if you’re reading this, it’s not too late . . . . but neither is it too early to open your heart to God in confession. What will you tell God if you fail to go to con- fession this year? That you didn’t have a chance? “Liar, liar, pants on fire . . .”
May God give us true sorrow for our sins, which leads not to discouragement but to an everlasting hope!
Your friend in Christ, Father Martin