I had some thoughtful responses to my last post entitled “Holy Week,” especially concerning the concept of sin, and penance for sin. The comments have made me want to explain my thinking a bit more. I am seeking on this pilgrimage, and in life, to understand myself, and the world, better, so that I may be more peaceful, joyful, and helpful.
The concept of sin brings up strong emotions for many people. Especially when someone else is suggesting that we have sinned and should do some sort of penance for our sins. No doubt there have been institutions of various kinds that have used shame as a means of controlling others and many of us are wary of such tactics, with good reason. But that doesn’t mean that self-examination and self-correction are not helpful disciplines for achieving emotional and spiritual growth.
When I described myself in my last post as an “insecure and self-centered person,” I did so with complete self-empathy. I was attempting to explain that these characteristics are pretty normal, and that the “sins” or harms I have done to myself and others (which are real) are the natural result of my humanity. It’s a great advantage and even a joy to be able to see how my fears, beliefs, and prejudices cause me to suffer, and to cause others to suffer right along with me. So I continue to watch for these tendencies, actively working at staying connected to the Source of all Life by praying, meditating, and giving service as I can. I have found institutions, organizations and people along the way that have helped me in my search for a meaningful way of life.
As I travel (by foot or by any other means) this California Mission trail, I am visiting the missions and other churches as they present themselves to me. The recent history of this area is dominated by the influence of the Catholic Church. Some believe the Franciscan missionaries (especially Junipero Serra) to be saints, while others see them as abusive dictators. I can’t be the judge of the missionaries’ true motives. They probably thought they were doing the right thing in attempting to convert the local native peoples to Christianity and to teach them how to be farmers and craftsmen. If they were brutal in their treatment of the natives it defies logic and understanding, especially since they were brothers of the Franciscan order. St. Francis of Assisi was anything but abusive and violent, by all accounts.
I don’t wish to engage in a discussion of the inherent worth or lack thereof of the missionaries’ actions. It is just one more controversy that can be infinitely debated. I prefer to be present to what is, now, and to look for the good and the beautiful in all things. The glass is not only half full, it is full to the brim, and overflowing!
I’m in Soledad now, at the home of my friend Gloria. Here’s a couple of photos of her beautiful back yard. She is an avid gardener.
You may see me in town this weekend at the Earth ? Day festivities. I’m going to get an acupuncture treatment, and may get my bicycle?