People seem to have a lot of secrets these days. We could almost say we live in an age of secrets. Governments have become skilled at keeping secrets; businesses are adept at the same thing. Institutions, whether they be educational, medical or religious, all keep secrets for both good reasons and not so good reasons. But this reflects people in general. People tend to keep a lot of secrets.
There is a pressing need to recognize that secrets make a difference. They can determine the direction of our lives, and the manner in which we pass from this world into the next. For whatever reason, people today seem to have more secrets than ever. They have secret activities, secret wounds, secret weaknesses, secret sins, secret fantasies, secret lives. People have secret thoughts, secret addictions, secret jealousies, secret plans, secret ambitions, family secrets, secret judgments, secret desires…secrets without number, secrets we keep even from ourselves.
Few of us can admit to being ready for heaven when we consider that in heaven, our insides will show on the outside. Nothing will be hidden. Everything will be transparent. Transparency here would completely change our image. And because we are often not willing to change, we keep secrets.
At the same time, even though we hide things about ourselves, we have a certain affinity for, or attraction to the secrets of others. There is almost nothing people like better than hearing a good secret. Why? There are several reasons. One, it diverts attention away from our own secrets. But we also love secrets because we love hidden knowledge. We live in a state of being that is still looking for something that hasn’t been completely revealed to us yet. We’re searching, whether we know it or not, for the one Word, so to speak, that will answer all of our questions and give sight to the vision, the understanding we seek.
The devil knows this about us. Would that people understood that the devil has to penetrate the world of knowledge by study and observation too (albeit with a superior intelligence,) and that he perverts what he knows to his own ends. Those ends are not full of happy consequences for human souls.
He is interested in luring people away from the real light. He does it with promises of hidden knowledge, just as he did in the Garden of Eden. (This is also one of the most lucrative marketing techniques around. Money rolls in when you claim to have the secret to long life, to health, to beauty, to happiness, to success. This is also one of the reasons professional gossips, psychics and clairvoyants prosper in our culture today. People want to know those secrets.)
We on the other hand, have the source of all knowledge, the fount of pure Wisdom and Light in God Himself. And we have been given, in Jesus Christ, and through His Church, a direct line to that source, Who is for us, our true Father (the Father of all lights). The temptations of some dark meddler should never cause us to turn our glance away from our Good Father, as our first parents did in the Garden, and as we so often do in our own lives.
Interestingly enough, Jesus mentions that the Father Himself keeps secrets from the “wise and learned” and reveals things to the “little ones.” Why is that? (This might have been a good question for Adam and Eve to have asked as they were being tempted to eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.) We know most certainly that God never does anything without good reason, and a reason that redounds, often in mysterious ways, to our greatest benefit.
Might it be that God protects the sacred and hides divine treasures for our sake? Anyone who has studied covenant knows that profaning the sacred is dangerous. We can be destroyed by our profanation. A simple look at the human wreckage surrounding the modern desecration of the gift and mystery of sexuality confirms this.
In other words, could it be that just as Jesus told us not to cast pearls before swine, He follows His own counsel with us? He puts His treasure in safe places…He is careful with what is precious beyond measure. And at the same time He is merciful to those of us who would have a terrible accounting to give for squandering a poorly understood gift, if we received it and did not really appreciate or care for it.
Secrets like this can be a good thing; in fact they can be a very good thing if their purpose is to protect a treasure (whether that be jewels or a reputation) from vandalism or theft, misuse or destruction.
But some secrets should never be kept. And unfortunately, people usually have more of these kinds of secrets.
We pay a price for many of the secrets we keep. We can safely say, I think, that many of the sicknesses of our age are determined by the secrets we keep. This is well known in the world of addiction and co-dependency: “We are only as sick as our secrets.” This is actually a psychology that was first explicated in the Sacred Scriptures. Psalm 32 says: “I kept it secret and my frame was wasted…” The distress, the groaning, the anxiety, the depression, the disturbance of so many today more often than not comes from holding secrets that should not be kept.
St. Paul mentions this relationship between spiritual realities and physical consequences. He says, in 1Corinthians, 11:29: “For anyone who eats and drinks without recognizing the body of the Lord eats and drinks judgment on himself. That is why many among you are weak and sick, and a number of you have fallen asleep.” With the rising tide of illnesses in our age, we await a physician who will make this connection and diagnose the real cause of so many of the physical and psychological disorders of our day.
I know a woman who struggled with terrible depression much of her adult life, watched Mother Angelica faithfully, but would not take the secret of her abortion to the Confessional. She died recently and my prayer is that before she died she finally released her secret into the loving mercy of God so she could enter her heavenly home with “joy and an upright heart.” Her secret certainly didn’t keep her in peace or bring happiness into her life. In fact, it brought her to the verge of a mental breakdown.
So why do we keep the secrets we do? This is a mystery really, since we only fool ourselves in keeping these kinds of secrets. God is certainly not fooled. There is nothing He doesn’t know about us. The story of Ananias and Sapphira, found in the fifth chapter of Acts, tells us exactly what can happen when we dissemble before God. They pretended (to the Lord, as St. Peter points out) that they were giving everything to the community of believers, when in fact they retained a portion for themselves which they could have rightfully retained if they had chosen to. After St. Peter had spoken, Ananias, and later his wife Sapphira (who arrived late and was questioned separately) both died on the spot, apparently for attempting to deceive God.
Keeping secrets from God is impossible, and it can be deadly! If not immediately, then at our own judgments, when in our encounter with God Who is pure Love and Light and Goodness, all that is hidden will be revealed. To our own overwhelming confusion we will find ourselves suddenly naked before the Lord, rather than clothed in the garments of grace He so freely and continually offers us, all because fear, or attachment or pride kept us from giving up our secrets.
Does this mean we should blurt out everything to everyone all the time, like they do on the tacky talk shows that seem to pollute the air waves? No. There is something inherently debasing about psychologically disrobing in front of millions of people. There is something degrading about vomiting up things in public that properly belong in a counselor’s office and more often in a Confessional where the justification, relief and redemption that people are really seeking can be given.
This is really how Saints actually begin to become Saints. They get rid of their secrets. And they don’t lie to themselves about who they really are. That is why they are such shining examples of humility. They know themselves in Truth, and it sets them free to soar to the heights! They give their secrets, both their sins and their treasures, over to God. He takes the sins, and in Confession completely annihilates them, wills to remember them no more. They are gone, gone, gone, with no more power to determine their life, and will never again reappear in accusation against them, even at the end of time. Never!
And then our Father does an even more astounding thing. He begins giving them “treasures out of the darkness and riches that have been hidden away.” Isaiah 45:3 He takes miserable secrets and begins to replace them with the secrets He holds. What an exchange! The saints are no fools! They know this bargain is unmatched anywhere in the whole universe. In the heart of our Redeemer, we are given, by way of His own sacrificial love, infinite riches in exchange for giving to Him our sinfulness, our pride, our imperfections, our self-importance.
Great Confessors, like St. John Vianney and St. Padre Pio spent themselves in this work of getting people to give up their secrets so that they could begin to know the deep things of God in their lives. There is a reason the sacrament of Peace and Reconciliation is an Easter Sacrament. There is a reason that the Holy Spirit, Who comes in Pentecost like a mighty wind to sweep out the secret and dark recesses of our souls and fill them with fire and light, is the culminating gift of the Easter season.
Our Blessed Mother, the most pure creature who ever lived, was without secrets of her own. She kept only those God gave her. And because of that, there is no one more beautiful, more radiantly transparent in the living of the Mysteries of the Most Holy Trinity. In Her many apparitions in the last centuries, we can hear the cry of our good Mother when she bids us return to the Sacraments and live the Gospel way of life. One of the things She is saying with great affection and urgency, as if speaking to a little child, is: “Run! Run and whisper your secrets to your Father. All of them! And be assured that He will give treasures out of the darkness and riches that have been hidden away especially for you!”