Memorial of Saints Timothy and Titus, bishops

Lectionary: 520/320

For there is nothing hidden except to be made visible;
nothing is secret except to come to light.

This proverb is especially meaningful in the Gospel of Saint Mark, but it strikes a chord in our ordinary experience. Secrets nearly always come out. People may intend to take certain knowledge to the grave and even if they manage to do it, their secrets persist as closeted skeletons, ghosts of uncertainty that haunt the family.

But more often secrets are discovered. I think of William Styron’s novel, All the Kings Men, and Willie Stark’s advice: “Jack, there’s something on everybody. Man is conceived in sin and born in corruption. He passes from the stink of the dydie to the stench of the shroud. There’s always something.” In that quintessentially American novel, a roman à clef about Louisiana governor Huey Long, the politician Willie Stark is determined to discover whatever he can about his opponents. Everyone has a secret; if I know what it is I can control him.
Most Veterans of combat prefer not to speak of their experience. Their stories are capsuled in grief, shame, guilt and fear. They may be willing to talk about them, but not today. Someday, tomorrow, not right now. The feelings are too intense. But their families and closest friends – if they have not alienated everyone – know there are certain things they do not talk about. Intimates see the tight lips and clamped jaws; they witness the nightmares, night sweats and flailing startle reflex. Many Combat Veterans experience great relief, even healing, when they tell their loved ones what happened.

Secrets are the shadows that trail our every step. They disappear only in complete darkness. Many of us, comfortable within our managed world of family, friends and acquaintances, might deny we keep secrets until someone asks an impertinent question, and we break into a sweat. In that moment we discover the limits of our trust; we may have discovered an opportunity for grace.

Saint Mark presents the Gospel as a kind of secret. When Jesus healed the leper in chapter two he told the fellow to tell no one what had happened; and the fellow told everyone. Someone might ask, “What was Jesus hiding?”

We could suppose he knew the people’s expectations and that he could not fulfill them. He would not lead a revolutionary army, not even a sacred one. He would not throw out the Roman army; he would not be the King of Jerusalem. His “secret” was that he was the messiah, the Christ; but not that kind of Christ. That’s to speak of Jesus on a political level.

More importantly, the secret of the gospel is not easily grasped. In fact, no one can claim to know or own the gospel. Some people think they know the secret, and they know nothing. As the Buddhist say, "Those who know do not say; those who say, do not know." This is why it's so difficult to say exactly what the Gospel is. 

Our deepest desire is that we might be known by the Secret; that its mystery might inform our desires, ambitions and longings. Being known and owned by the Gospel relieves us of all other secrets. Shame, grief, guilt, remorse: these shadows retreat in the Light of Revelation. 

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I love to write. This blog helps me to meditate on the Word of God, and I hope to make some contribution to our contemplations of God's Mighty Works.

Ordinarily, I write these reflections two or three weeks in advance of their publication. I do not intend to comment on current events.

I understand many people prefer gender-neutral references to "God." I don't disagree with them but find that language impersonal, unappealing and tasteless. When I refer to "God" I think of the One whom Jesus called "Abba" and "Father", and I would not attempt to improve on Jesus' language.

You're welcome to add a thought or raise a question.