Herbert McCabe on Holy Week

Then there are those who do see that our world is heading towards destruction, that its alleged unity is born out of fear and that it is based on violence, the violence built into its structures; that it is not the unity of love but of concealed hatred, a hypocritical pretence of fellowship. But of these less-deceived people there are many for whom the answer lies at least for the most part in simply dismantling the economic structures of injustice by which this deeply divided world maintains itself as a fake unity. They have not reached down to the mystery of sin, which will always seek new forms as old ones are dismantled. For these people the mysteries of Holy Week should be not so much a challenge as an invitation: an invitation to go further, to enter into the deeper mystery of sin, to realize that the transformation we need if we are to escape destruction is even more radical than revolution; it is forgiveness.

Source: Herbert McCabe OP. “Holy Thursday: The Mystery of Unity.” New Blackfriars, 67, no. 788, p. 60.

Immediately prior to this paragraph, McCabe describes those who hold a different opinion: the people who think that, since the Enlightenment, the disunity of mankind (which McCabe calls ‘sin’) has been “abolished.” There are still problems, of course, but progress (through, e.g., better schooling) will eventually overcome them. Funny how one can still very clearly see these two groups which McCabe described in a sermon written in 1986. Those who believe the world is essentially good can still be in seen in organizations like the UN. Meanwhile, those who believe the current structures of the world are inherently violent remind me of communist social justice types (even the language is the same). And this latter group still are not heeding McCabe’s wisdom that “the transformation we need if we are to escape destruction is even more radical than revolution; it is forgiveness.” I have seen some of them portray forgiveness as a tool of oppression. While it is true that forgiveness is often used as an excuse to forget injustice, our Lord did set us an example when he prayed for the forgiveness of his murderers; and I find it hard to imagine how one can hope to build a just society while ignoring the deepest form of charity.


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