In his great novel, Heart of Darkness, Joseph Conrad questions whether the darkness in the heart of the Congo in central Africa is any different from the darkness hovering over the London docks in the heart of England. Sin is, of course, a disease of the heart.

A world shaped by love

Every culture and civilization is shaped by love – or a lack of love. No matter how bizarre its expressions and demands, love sits at every table. Efforts to confine it to family, clan or nation, never fully succeed. Love permeates every niche of society; as Aristotle pointed out, even thieves love one another.

Sometimes giant myths, such as race, have been trumpeted at the highest levels. Scapegoats, such as the Jewish, are singled out to weld a people together in the loyalty and honour of the nation. Love of the genuinely ‘us’ is fanned by hatred of the utterly ‘other’.

The gift of gratitude

The desires of the human heart know no limits. Like the fabled princess in her gilded room, in her luxurious bed, just one pea can prevent all rest. On the other hand, one tiny gift, any source of gratitude, can be the spring welling up to become, in time, a great river.

What of those who have never been wanted or known love? Even there, an unprovoked act of kindness, a smile of recognition, a stunning sunrise, may break through the gloom. For the mercy and grace of God still glows at the heart of a darkened world.

At heart, sin is a refusal to love or be loved. It’s a determination never to offer thanks.

 

Father Neil Vaney
info@catholicenquiry.nz

Next steps

This writing is based on the content of ‘What Catholics Believe’, Booklet 7, ‘Sacraments of healing’ referencing page 5. Should you like to read more just click either of the links below to download ‘Booklet 7’ or the complete set of ‘What Catholics Believe’.