Undoubtedly, some people are speculating about the eternal destiny of the disturbed young man at Virginia Tech who slew thirty-two faculty, staff and students and wounded more than two dozen others. Some might hope or even presume he's in hell. God will have mercy on him, and will deal with him justly. That's the way God is.
But the speculation reminded me that rather than judging another person, I have to consider my own life, my own behavior and attitudes. Fr. TImothy Radcliffe, OP, in his book, "What is the Point of Being a Christian," mentions that Dante, the great Renaissance Italian poet, speculated in his great reflection on hell, "Inferno," that the uppermost reaches of hell were reserved for sinners who had succumbed to their passions. They desired the good, but their desire was disordered. The middle reaches of hell housed sinners who had actually desired and committed evil, especially those who did violence to others. But the coldest, deepest parts of hell, closest to the Prince of Lies, were inhabited by liars, traitors, forgers, and flatterers. It was they who undermined human society itself, who rent asunder through their deception what God would join. Their dissembling undermined trust, the foundation of human relationships, whether with other people or God Himself.
All this got me thinking about my own level of honesty, and my reticence to unmask the lies of others. We live in the world Orwell envisioned in "1984" in many ways. In Nigeria if a policeman asks you for "a little something for the weekend," he's expecting you to give him a bribe. We here talk of "death with dignity" when what's being referred to is euthanasia. Military reporting might mention "collateral damage," and how many of us realize that means the death of innocents who got caught in the line of fire? The words "final solution" and "ethnic cleansing" sound positively positive, rather than revealing the gruesome desire to effect genocide. Who wouldn't want to fight for "reproductive rights," unless you knew that meant having the option to destroy an innocent life? And if "alternative interrogation" is necessary to protect us from terrorists, then so be it. Just don't call it torture, and my conscience is fine.
My own life is marked with little "white lies," or moments when I don't correct someone's false impression of me. I have betrayed friendships because I feared speaking up for someone I had convinced myself I cared about. I go along with the crowd all too easily, and my conscience isn't pricked by the euphemisms we use to cover our moral butts. We should know better, and we are liable to judgment - and, in fact, stand in judgment already.
"This is the verdict, that the light came into the world, but people preferred darkness to light, because their works were evil. For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come toward the light, so that his works might not be exposed. But whoever lives the truth comes to the light, so that his works may be clearly seen as done in God." John 3:19-21.
These euphemisms and our lies are signs that we prefer the darkness to the light. When we are willing to speak truthfully, and accept the truth others might speak to us (especially about ourselves), we are drawing closer to the light. And in that light we will see our sin all the more clearly, as one sees one's shadow better as a source of light is approached. But in that light we see light and come to the fullness of life. In that light we encounter not only God's judgment, but his merciful and healing love.
And if we live in truth, live in Him who is the Way, the Truth and the Life, we become bearers of light to others. Ironically, that means we take the place of Lucifer, whose very name means "light bearer."
Better to take his original place, than to take his current place!