I was in Rome last week and I had to catch a bus, but in Italy you can’t buy a ticket on the bus. You have to buy the ticket before you get on the bus. Only I didn’t have time to buy a ticket, and I didn’t have time to wait for the next bus. So I just got on. I looked around to see if there was an inspector on the bus, there wasn’t. At each stop my heart rate increased, wondering would an inspector get on.
The bus ride lasted only ten minutes, but the anxiety completely drained me of my energy. It got me thinking about all the times and places I have traveled without a ticket in my life. Do you ever feel like you are traveling without a ticket?
The people at Enron were traveling without a ticket. The people at Arthur Andersen were traveling without a ticket. In what ways are you traveling without a ticket? Maybe you jump on the subway without a ticket, maybe you drive at ten or fifteen miles over the speed limit, perhaps it is telling a lie, or maybe you don’t let the IRS know about a couple of dollars you earned on the side.
Whatever form it takes, traveling without a ticket fills our lives with fear and anxiety. You are worried that the ticket inspector is going to catch you, you are anxious about the possibility of the police pulling you over, you are afraid of your lie being found out, you are concerned that the IRS will audit you. So why do we do it? Well, in most cases, probably just to get what we want or to get there quicker. But what is the cost? Fear and anxiety. A high price to pay.
These twin imposters can rob us of the peace and joy of life faster and more effectively than anything else. Is it really worth it? We don’t speak much about it anymore, but there is something wonderfully liberating about “a clear conscience.” A clear conscience is a luxury item in our modern culture, and yet, one that is accessible to us all.
My favorite prayer in the Mass is during the Communion Rite, immediately after the Our Father, when the priest prays, “Deliver us, Lord, from every evil, and grant us peace in our day. In your mercy keep us free from sin and protect us from all anxiety as we wait in joyful hope for the coming of our Savior, Jesus Christ.” My whole being responds to this plea. This prayer resonates with every desire within me that is good, true, noble, or beautiful.
You see, I want to be delivered from every evil. I want to live with the peace of a clear conscience. I don’t want to be burdened by fear and plagued by worries. I want God in his mercy to free me from my sin. I want to be protected from all anxiety… and I want to wait in joyful hope. I don’t want to travel without a ticket anymore… or ever again.