Wednesday, May 9, 2012
He has paid the price
Almost all of us, as I remember, were second generation Americans born into mostly Eastern and Southern European immigrant families: Polish, Ukrainian, Slovak, Czech, Jewish, Italian, Greek, and even a few Germans. Very few of us were from Anglo-Saxon or longtime American families. Our parents pushed us to the limits to excel, and many of us did. When we graduated from primary school at grade 8, I was salutatorian and a Czech girl (whom I had a crush on) was valedictorian. We both had straight A's for our career, but she beat me for the top spot because she had perfect attendance. As for me, I skipped school as often as possible.
I have this vivid memory that often comes before me: There we were, seated at our desks arranged theatre-like in shallow curves across the room facing the teacher's desk in four long, uninterrupted rows. I was in row three, second from the left end. Beverly, my youthful crush, radiant and tall, sat at a desk almost center in the fourth row. It was a sunny autumn day, and the room was very quiet. A test was in progress. The teacher, a bookish, virginal woman approaching middle age with immaculately tidy hair, was seated at her desk engrossed in a book she was devouring, unmindful of us, looking up only occasionally when someone dropped a pencil, or coughed.
She didn't hear the little taps, or see us holding up fingers, as we shared the correct answers in this multiple choice exam with the less gifted and talented among us, relaying them quickly and effortlessly, suppressing giggles with almost total success. Everyone did very well on that test, and I am sure, on every other test we took as a group, because over the years we had all helped each other, both legally and illegally, like cheating in this exam, so that the whole lot of us shone 'like the stars of heaven.' All of us were either Catholic or Orthodox kids, except for Dennis, the Jew. We all had been communed and confirmed, and should've known better, but we cheated on exams (not always, but often), and we never felt guilty. It was a sort of game.
I attended a different high school than these friends, in a small town downstate, but was still in the 'talented and gifted' category. There were no long-standing relationships with my fellow students. In fact, I became an outcaste because this was an 'all-American' school. Yet I did well, very well in fact, even while skipping school more than ever. I barely studied, yet maintained that four point average.
What happened to me in college was the most humiliating thing that had happened to me up till then: I nearly flunked out in the first year, barely making a C average. Why? Not because there was no cheating apparatus, but because I never developed good study habits and college was really difficult. As in high school I took the most challenging and demanding courses, but at college, these were for real, not just for window dressing.
What I want to witness to, is that cheating, like every other kind of sin, has no limitation to time, place, ethnicity, age group, culture, or class. We all cheat. It's just another side of our 'built-in law of failure,' all the more tragic because we use it to hide this built-in combustible from ourselves. We want to appear other than what we are, to others, to ourselves, and even in our dullest moments, to God.
Yes, as scripture says, we are ‘pierced by many pains,’ but thanks be to God in Christ who, pierced for our sins and by our sorrows, He has also pierced through our defenses, to rescue us from our self-imposed prisons, and take us up with Him, on high. It is all His work, not ours, and whether we like it or not, He has paid the price.
at 7:34 AM