What, when sin has us ensnared, we cannot clearly think--nor explain what happened. Spirituality experts will describe the effect of sin in colorful shadings, diagnosing one's malaise, for instance, or confusion. The clouded judgment that delays an important decision. The glimmering opportunity, so perfect, as to detract one from a momentous commitment. The evil spirit will show you the arc of justice is a wonderful and heroic journey.
"Confusion can be a sign of the evil spirit," said Fr. Eugene Delmore, SJ director of an Ignatian Spirituality program. We were both new to Yakima, Washington. I a novice and he in transition from some decades in Bethel and other Alaska towns. He said this about confusion--perhaps I hadn't any serious decision to make then--as we crossed a Yakima street to visit the jesuit volunteer house. I had to take my eyes from his craggy forehead to look both ways, though no traffic was in the vicinity I knew. What can it mean to be confused?
"Some people attempt to flee from reality,"
Pope Francis writes in Fratelli tutti: On fraternity and social friendship,
taking refuge in their own little world" (no. 199).
In taking account of Lenten practice, this Lent, how little is our world? A saying in the Silicon Valley is that you are the average of the five people you hang with the most. Group-think is all to prevalent, and who are the people to bust our bubble?
Jesus saw the desert as the edge of his world. A space where desert dwelling spirituals lived, the hardship they overcame there was part of their otherworldliness, a source of their moral authority. Jesus's echo of John the Baptist cry for repentance--delivering it to the people where they were at--must have caused a great stir--and aroused confusion. For his part, being detained by Herod, the reality of the desert must have informed John the Baptist. His sense of the Spirit, what must unfold for the coming of the Kingdom, his assurance must have been a nourishing source of self-esteem, while all those he had attracted were now, as it were, shielded from contagion.
Who contaminates us with the clear revelation of God? Who dispels our sheltered self-referential or parochial ways of thinking. Who presses us to stay on message, stick to our commitments. Who listens to our feint and fledgling sense of God's voice and boldly affirms what we are hearing?