Innocence

You speak of innocence. I did anyway, right here yesterday. It was in relation to the young girl who thought she had lost her innocence because she had ‘gone all the way’ with a boy, and now figured it didn’t matter how many partners she had.

It seemed so sad to me that she thought innocence could be lost that easily. Didn’t that itinerant teacher from Nazareth say that nothing we put into our body, no ritual we could perform or fail to perform has any real bearing on our true goodness? It’s what’s happening up in that busy little mind of ours that counts, whether it’s given over to kind thoughts or unkind thoughts, leading to unkind words and actions, words that harm others, actions that harm others.

Remember this about the purity of our souls: it remains. Even the death-row inmate, no matter how blindly he stumbled, no matter what chaos and pain he caused; even he gets up mornings and goes forward with the same chance we all have to start again every day.

I think of the film Dead Man Walking and the way the character played by Sean Penn boasts and swaggers and denies his part in the savage killing of two kids unlucky enough to have crossed his path. I think of the miracle the nun works who walks beside him in the week leading up to his execution. The love of this nun, played by Susan Sarandon, allows him to admit his guilt – and that admission uncovers the goodness in him long-buried.

I don’t need to write another thing and you don’t need to go find the movie. Instead take a minutes and watch this well-crafted trailer in whose 120 seconds the whole story is told. It is our story too. My friend Bill Tammeus, author of the blog Faith Matters and former award-winning faith columnist for the Kansas City Star reports that in his church this past Wednesday folks were asked to write on a small piece of paper a confession, a hope or a concern, which they wadded up and threw in a common container, the contents of which were then lit aflame to make the ashes. As he put it at the end of that day, “We are wearing our own thoughts.” Another reason to try to make all our thoughts kindly thoughts.

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