The National Catholic Review
A few years ago there was an English film entitled, "Secrets and Lies". It charted the story of a dysfunctional family who sat on terrible secrets and told many lies for decades. Like many successful dramatic films, audiences flocked to see it, not only because of its compelling story, but also because it tapped into an important truth about family life as many of us live it. When I was a boy I was often told that "what’s said and done in the home, stays in the home." And to a degree, this is a good and loyal principle. There are, however, family secrets and lies that cause untold damage for generations because no one is allowed speak about them. Sexual abuse, domestic violence, suicide, incest, drug talking, alcoholism, theft, adoption and abortion are only some of the secrets and lies that many families sit on. Jesus, however, tells us in today’s Gospel that what you "say in the dark, tell in the light...what you whisper in darkness, shout from the housetops". This doesn’t mean that Christians tell everyone their personal business, but it does cut to the heart of what stunts spiritual and personal growth. To the degree that something shameful remains buried, hidden and unhealed, then its power over us is increased. It remains the thing about which we can never speak. The bad spirit has a field day with this sort of stuff, feeding our fears and lowering our self-esteem. In this regard some Christians make a false distinction between their spiritual and psychological lives. They hold that the exploration of one’s personal history or emotional problems is self-indulgent or unimportant to how we live. We all know people who, in the pursuit of emotional health, become obsessed by their own story, feelings, reactions and psychology. We also know others who never deal with the heavy hurts they seem to carry through the years, even though the pain of them seems to be as powerfully felt now as they were when they were inflicted upon them. Today’s Gospel reminds us that there is a middle road between denying what should be acknowledged and dealt with, and being absorbed by it. The Church, rightly, holds that the best psychological tools can bring out into the open memories and experiences that can be seen for what they are and dealt with. We just have to be sure that we don’t get conned into believing that psychology and therapy is anything but a pit-stop in life, so that we can attend to the working order of our mental machinery, and importantly, get back on the road with everyone else. We can call in later for another pit stops if needs be. Long before the therapist’s office Christ enabled the Church to develop the Sacrament of Penance where we admit our most destructive behaviour and hear that we are forgiven and healed. At that moment the love of God is active in us drawing out what Christ wants in the light, spoken of, and healed. Jesus invites all of us to find a person we respect and trust, and to end the tyranny of the power of secrets and lies. I promise you when you take this risk with the appropriate person, the presence of God won’t be very far away either. Richard Leonard, S.J.