For there is nothing hidden that will not become visible, and nothing secret that will not be known and come to light. Luke 8:17
It seems that all of us have our "little" secrets. I certainly do. And most of us believe that it is absolutely essential that no one ever finds out what our secrets are. Yet, today’s Gospel tells us that none of our secrets will remain secret forever.
As I reflected on this Gospel for today’s Mass, I was struck by the clarity of its message and the anxiety that it caused within me. I don’t want anyone knowing my secrets. I don’t want the world to know my inner faults and defects, much less my most grievous sins. I think that I would die of shame if that were to happen. I want people to have a good opinion of me, even though I know that there is a "shadow side" to my life that very few people know about. I want to keep that "shadow side" hidden from the world.
Yet, the Gospel clearly tells us that our secrets will not remain secret. What is hidden will be announced on the rooftops. This revelation should cause us to pause and to take a good, hard look at how we deal with our deep, dark secrets. There are two paths that we can take. We can disillusion ourselves into thinking that we are in control our lives, our thoughts and our deepest desires. If we think this way, then we believe that we are in charge of who knows and who doesn’t know our past, our innermost feelings and our greatest faults, failings and sins. But nothing can be further from the truth.
The other path we can take is the one that Jesus is suggesting that we take, the one that acknowledges our deep, dark secrets and allows God’s grace to transform us into children of God and Christ’s brothers and sisters. This happens when we allow the Spirit of Jesus to cleanse us from every fault, failing and sin we have ever committed, and acknowledge that God has known us from the first moment of our existence. There is nothing hidden from our God, and yet our God’s love for us is so overwhelmingly purifying that nothing can truly shame us. Nothing can stand in the way of that love. But it takes a great amount of faith to risk that kind of self-knowledge.
Our church offers us so many opportunities to make known our darkest secrets in safe places. The first one is our intimate relationship with God. We have to name our sin before God, which means that we need to be absolutely honest with ourselves. A shamed-filled life is sustained by self-deception. When we deceive ourselves that no one really has to know who we are, then we begin to live lonely, alienated lives. Our lives become superficial. No one can really get to know us intimately and therefore, really come to love us for who we are.
The second opportunity is when we dare to share our deepest, darkest secret with the ones we love the most. The first on this list should be Jesus in the sacrament of reconciliation. There is no sin that Jesus will not forgive. And we have his word for that. Besides Jesus, there may be a few other people whose love for us is so great that our shameful past will not be a stumbling block to love. Yes, care must be taken. So many times, it’s the little revelations that lead to more trust.
Letting others know who we are will begin to heal the shame that we have and absolve us from the guilt that we experience, and more importantly, allow us to be loved unconditionally. Then, we will be truly freed from our past and our true light will shine before all to see! This is truly a grace to ask for and to live out!
Fr. Clemente Barron, C.P. is a member of the General Council of the Passionist Congregation and is stationed in Rome.