“I Am A Sinner”


A photographer we have featured in the past writes:

I have spent the last three years photographing addicts in the South Bronx. Before that I worked on Wall Street. The first addict I met in Hunts Point was Takeesha. She was standing near the long and high wall of the Corpus Christi Monastery. We talked for close to an hour before I took her picture. When we finished I asked her how she wanted to be described.

She said without any pause, “As who I am. A prostitute, a mother of six, and a child of God.” After spending close to twenty years on Wall Street it was jarring to hear someone so self-aware.

Talking in front of the monastery evoked memories. I grew up Catholic and for much of my early life nuns taught me. In my teens I walked away from the church and into science. Until my work in Hunts Point I thought little about the church or the bible or God. If I did, it was with a degree of cynicism. I heard little of what the nuns taught me coming from church leaders.

In the last three years, I have been reminded daily of what the nuns taught me: That we are all sinners who fall short. Most addicts understand that viscerally. Many successful people don’t, their sense of entitlement having numbed their compassion.

Yesterday, I read the interview with Pope Francis. It got headlines for his discussion about homosexuality, abortion, and contraception. I was more struck by his answer to the first question, “Who is Pope Francis?” “I am a sinner.”

Takeesha, me – every human is fallible. In that we are all the same, and as such, we should pause before judging another.

I immediately think of Mary Magdalen, a Takeesha of her time, who was there at the very end as Jesus writhed in agony on the cross. And of this passage from Luke:

Then he turned toward the [prostitute] and said to Simon, “Do you see this woman? I came into your house. You did not give me any water for my feet, but she wet my feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair. You did not give me a kiss, but this woman, from the time I entered, has not stopped kissing my feet. You did not put oil on my head, but she has poured perfume on my feet. Therefore, I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven — as her great love has shown.

But whoever has been forgiven little loves little.”