Sunday, March 29, 2009
of culture and charity which have always been at the heart of the church's
mission," he said. This holy year will commence about the time the holy year of St. Paul will end, and will be a great transition for vocational ministry. Thank you, Holy Father! St. John Vianney, pray for us!
Sometimes life changes in an instant, unexpectedly. As I was driving guys to Conception Seminary College yesterday during the worst of the snowstorm, I saw people going off the road and spinning and crashing. Talk about an adrenaline rush. For me who was watching this, adrenaline turned into a quick Hail Mary for their safety. For them, some other choice words may have come out before they screamed or yelled 'O my God!' I had coffee this morning with a young man who has been told he needs brain surgery to correct a tumor. Life is changing for him rapidly. Too fast, actually. Sometimes life changes in an instant, unexpectedly.
Other times, life meanders on. We get depressed with our normal routine. We long for something extreme, even as we are afraid of such things. At the very least, we long for meaning in our lives, and for the chance to give our lives to something beyond us. We want to live lives that matter, and we want to matter to someone. We want to live lives that bear fruit that will last longer than we will. We want to find something worth dying for, and if we don't, we depress ourselves by settling for small pleasure after small pleasure that never finally satisfy.
Jesus names this desire of the human person to give perfectly of Himself. To love perfectly. Without an opportunity to love perfectly, to die to self, to find something worth dying for, the human person collapses in on himself. He remains adolescent, complaining when things do not go his way or when his comfort is compromised. We see this unhappiness in ourselves and in others. We experience many great things in life. We pursue many things. Yet none of it adds up to perfect satisfaction. Our greatest desire is exactly what Jesus says it is. We want to die to ourselves. That is the only way to be free. We can spend a lifetime trying to satisfy as many of the millions of desires that we have as we can. Yet there still remains that deepest desire. We want to make a perfect gift of ourselves to something. We want to love perfectly. Unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains just a grain of wheat. Yet if it dies, it bears much fruit.
When the Greeks who had come to worship at the Passover asked to see Jesus, it was the sign He was waiting for. I do not know why this was the sign that Jesus needed, I only know that it was. He says, 'The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified.' We can be sure that Jesus had been preparing for this hour for many years, and He was still troubled. We can never know how we will react when our hour comes. We can be sure that we will be troubled, for God who loves us and calls us to love, will ask us to make a perfect gift of ourselves, and this will not be easy. It will take perfect trust in God, and this is the hardest thing any of us has to do. It is hard to trust God, because He asks in faith to give more than we can ever be ready to give.
There are billboards running on buses in Canada that say, 'There probably isn't a God. So quit worrying and get on with your life.' Clever billboards. They remind us not to believe in a God of mythology or to be adolescent in our faith. They remind us not to serve God simply because we are His slaves, who fear punishment from our master. But as far as getting on with our lives, what can these billboards mean? Certainly the billboards are promising a life free of worry. But they are not promising anything close to what Jesus is promising. Jesus promises that whoever finds something worth dying for, and whoever gives his life perfectly, will bear abundant fruit. This is obviously a much greater promise that don't worry, be happy!
Next Sunday we will enter into Holy Week. We will gather to announce that the most important hour in the history of the world, the hour of Jesus passion, death and resurrection, is an hour that can come forward and encompass the present hour. We can insert our lives within the paschal mystery of Jesus Christ, and in so doing, our lives can once again be filled with that adrenaline rush of believing that now is the time when we are called to die to ourselves, and to love perfectly, as Christ has first loved us!
Friday, March 20, 2009
Thursday marked the much anticipated pilgrimage to the most visited (or second most visited) holy site in all of Christianity, the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe. We began around 9am with doughnuts in the park outside our hotel in Queretaro. Then we went went via city bus to the central bus station of Queretaro, a city of about 1,000,000 and the capital city of Queretaro state. We all felt badly for the locals, for as you can see, with our luggage we took over one of these small city buses, and made the locals quite uncomfortable. We were right on time for our 10am 3 hour bus ride back to Mexico City. Again, it was a pretty comfortable ride. Nice buses here, all made by Mercedes or Volvo. And better service than you get on an airline. If buses were like this in the US, more people would take them I am sure. What am I saying? I don't even know how buses are in the United States. I've never taken MegaBus or Greyhound or anything else.
Once back in Mexico City we put ourselves on high security alert. For some reason, the bus ride, as nice as it was, hit people the wrong way. Maybe there was something in our morning pastries, but almost everyone was feeling sick when we got off the bus, myself excluded. So we took a 30 minute break before attempting a subway ride, leaving our luggage under the protection of Our Lady of Guadalupe, since her statue was in the middle of the bus station. We finally got everyone feeling well enough to hit the subways with our luggage in tow. We didn't get a security escort this time, but we tried our best to be safe.
It only took about 20 minutes to arrive at the metro stop for the Basilica, and when we got off the subway we saw what we were in for. The vendors around the Basilica dominate the entire neighborhood. There are thousands of vendors - completely overdone. If Jesus wanted to overturn all the table in front of this temple, it would have taken him about 10 years. We thought our hotel was very close to the Basilica, but after walking in the neighborhood a little bit, we learned that the hotel was actually right next to the bus station. Can you believe it? We hauled our luggage unnecessarily through the subway, on top of our not feeling too well. Well, at this point we had a choice to make, either we could go into the Basilica with our luggage in tow, and make a short visit the first day, knowing that we would be able to return Friday, or we could go to the hotel and just call it a day, since it would be getting late by the time we got everyone checked in. Well, despite the sickness pervading our group, we decided to move forward. Our Lady would have wanted us to.
After everyone had had a chance to see the miraculous image of Our Lady via the moving walkway underneath the image, I was able to secure a chapel on the upper level of the Basilica for our private Mass in English. There are about 12 private chapels arranged in a semicircle as a balcony overlooking the main Basilica. There was plenty of room for our group and for our luggage. Apparently, the sound from the upper chapels does not reach the floor of the Basilica, but let me tell you, the sounds from the Basilica reaches the upper chapels quite nicely. The booming voice of the celebrant down below comes upstairs and makes it very difficult to have Mass. There is no sound barrier. But we did the best that we could. We celebrated the Feast of St. Joseph, spent some time in prayer, and then it was the consensus of the group that we would be able to pray much better tomorrow, so we headed to find our hotel.
It was just five minutes from the bus station. A short walk. We check in by 5 or so, then met downstairs to go out together for tortas and tacos in the surrounding neighborhood. Once again, even in Mexico City, things are so cheap because the dollar is strong here. We had to watch our backs somewhat as the neighborhood of the hotel has a few sketchy characters in it, but we stayed together and stayed safe. Mexico City, unfortunately, is dangerous. You have to be careful. We were inside the hotel by 7:30pm. Most people nursed their travel sickness, got caught up on journaling, and had some good conversation over some cold drinks. The big accomplishment of this day was getting 30 people settled in Mexico City once again and ready for a great day of prayer at the Basilica.
Wednesday was our last morning at the mission. We got up early to have breakfast with the guys, and unfortunately, they had already poured milk on the raisin bran long before we arrived. A minor disappointment. They came and poured fruit loops over the raisin bran, though, so that was fun, and at least those were not soggy. We learned a lot of Spanish from the jovenes at table throughout the week, and they learned at least a little bit of English. Whenever I make these trips, I always promise myself that I will find a tutor and learn the language, but still my Spanish is inadequate. I can get by speaking, but I really don't understand enough when listening. I can't really force myself to watch Univision at home - the programming is too bad! At the end of breakfast, since we couldn't think of a song to sing other than 'you've lost that lovin' feelin'' - which definitely would have run contrary to the operative 'machismo' of the jovenes, we just sang the alma mater and did the Rock Chalk Chant for them. They like it, especially the yells in between each of the chants! Then we said our final goodbyes and the gentlemen went off to school.
Led by Fr. Mike, who wanted to help us return the vans in Queretaro, we went to Colon and picked up our KU women, who were having their own difficulties saying good bye at the Casa. Then we drove an hour and a half into downtown Queretaro, a place which unbeknownst to me, was the site of so much Mexican history. We checked into our hotel, and after having to wait a couple of hours for the guy to come and get the vans, there was time for a short nap, getting caught up on news from home via the free internet available throughout town, and then exploring the beautiful courtyards and churches of Queretaro. It is a city of about a million people but we found a beautiful hostel right downtown which was inexpensive for us.
Then he took us to the spot, the convent of Santa Cruz, where the Spaniards fought and won many battles against the Aztecs in 1521. The Franciscans came soon thereafter and began a mission. Santa Cruz convent reflects many of the symbols of the early conversion of the Aztecs to Christianity, including a large stone cross in the church that the was built in imitation of the cross the Aztecs saw in the sky when fighting against the Spaniards.
At Santa Cruz, we were also able to see the tree that produces thorns in exact imitation of the cross of Christ, showing points where his wounds would have been. Legend is that this tree began growing in the convent after a great missionary left his walking stick in the courtyard of the convent. The tree really is impressive and it does not really grow in many places
We were able to see as well, led by Brother Jesus, the parts of the convent that would have been used by the early missionaries, including those who were trained at Queretaro and brought the faith to the United States, like Junipero Serra. I had no idea there was so much history in Queretaro.
Then, after some negotiating with the local Franciscan, they let us have a Mass at Santa Cruz in English by ourselves. We attracted a crowd when they saw Mass was going to take place, but a lot of them left when they realized the Mass would be completely in English!
Tuesday morning we were lazy. I was staying at the rectory with five other SOLT priests and some seminarians and other guests. I slept until probably 7:30 or so and then got up and did some prayers. When I went to get our guys they were mostly still sleeping at 8:30, so we didn't get breakfast until 9:15 or so. Apparently, the jovenes had knocked on the doors of our men around 6am, but couldn't stir them. The jovenes had breakfast at 6:30am. Some of the young men who work around Santa Maria but don't go to school prepared breakfast for us at 9:15am - very kind of them! They really went out of their way to make us feel welcome all week. As you see in the picture, they were already busy making 'rabbit' for lunch that day. We didn't get to stay for that!
After breakfast we headed to la escuela. We were told by Fr. Mike that we were most welcome, but we were a little tentative going over there, not wanting to disrupt their day. Once we arrived at the courtyard, however, we were invited in some classrooms and started having some great interactions with the kids. Late in the morning, tortas were served and recess began, which gave us a chance to interact with the kids a little more informally. Of course, there was a soccer game - los estados unidos contra mexico. We won again! It was hard to tell how good the education is here in central Mexico, but it seemed like the school had everything it needed.
We left the ninos to go and celebrate the Misa con los pobres (Mass for the Poor) celebrated every Tuesday afternoon at the Case de Jovenes. I met some great people before Mass, which of course started an hour late and lasted over and hour and a half. The poor are so affectionate towards priests. They came up and kissed my hands before and after Mass and during the sign fo peace. Very embarrassing and humbling. We had the chance to help serve the meal to the poor after Mass briefly, but then they were gone. We had a chance to meet Fr. Antonio Norman, the founder of the mission in Colon, who is revered as a saint there. Fr. Norman was very eccentric in the way he celebrated Mass and talked to the people, yet there were no objections. He came to Colon from Colorado almost 30 years ago and a great mission has been built here. His work will go on for many years to come now that SOLT is taking over the mission. Fr. Norman is usually in very poor health but was fired up the days we were around the mission. Fr. Mike Sanchez, SOLT takes care of all of the details of the mission, but Fr. Norman's presence still looms large there.
After Mass we made the mistake (not exactly) of stopping by the casa de ninas, the house of the little girls who are part of the mission. We were of course encouraged to do so, but reminded that the girls latched on to visitors very quickly and that if we stopped, we were on our own as far as finding a way to leave. Well, it all turned out to be true. We had a tremendous visit with the girls and played with them in the park for about an hour, but then when it was time to return to Santa Maria for dinner, we couldn't get away. Some of the guys had to leave gifts just to distract the girls enough so we could run for our lives. It was great to see them and they made a big impact on us in just a short time. They were quite a beautiful bunch of girls!
Around 6pm, we returned to Santa Maria for a last night of games with the guys and to share dinner with them. They sang a song for us at dinner and we had some talks describing how much the interactions of the week had changed everyone. It is always hard to explain to the jovenes why we came to see them for just a few days. It doesn't really make sense to them to travel so far and to make such a short visit. Most thought we would just be gone a few days and then come back for a longer stay. Some final games of soccer and yes, finally, basketball broke out. The jovenes here really have to inclination to liking anything but soccer, but we did get 6 or 7 of them to join us for basketball on the last night.
We went in to Colon one last time to celebrate St. Patrick's Day and to have the famous Tacos al pastor! The group got me a birthday cake and sang happy birthday as they dove into the great tacos one last time. It was fun to latch onto this place for a few days and make it a little home. The family that runs the taco stand was sure glad to have us, but had to jump around to keep up with all of our orders. Perhaps I was the only one who felt guilty for eating for less than $3.
When we arrive back at Santa Maria for our last night, a great surprise awaited me. Fr. Mike was waiting in the courtyard for us and directed us where to park the 15 passenger van. After we got out a lot of jovenes sprang out from the bushes to sing mananitas to me, and they did it well. Then, since I had told Fr. Mike earlier in the week that I had never really ridden a horse, a caballo was produced and I was able to ride around the courtyard a little bit to the cheers of everyone. It was really fun and I was embarrassed that the jovenes had stayed up so late and the Fr. Mike had gone to so much trouble! It was a great birthday!
Thursday, March 19, 2009
Wednesday, March 18, 2009
The hostel provided a light breakfast of bananas and toast, and then we headed back onto the metro, making three stops before arriving at a nice bus terminal. I couldn’t tell you what part of Mexico City we were in at this point. Zeke is one of the guys on the trip and he studied Spanish in Mexico City for a year, so we just follow him. With 30 folks on the subway, however, it was hard for us to communicate all the way across the car when everyone was to get off the train. The trains are terribly crowded so we have to stretch out a long way for all of us to get on the train, and it is hard to make eye contact and to communicate. At one stop, half of us got off and the other half didn’t, but thankfully, someone running the train noticed and they opened the doors four more times until we could all get off. The train was so crowded it was almost impossible to get off, but eventually, we all did. A minor miracle. Disaster avoided, although I was one of the ones left on the train and I yelled to Zeke that we would turn around at the next stop and come back if we had to. Thankfully we did not. This having to open the doors four more times did not make us popular at all with the locals. Smiling and waving only gets you so far.
The bus terminal was pretty nice and the coaches that go throughout Mexico are cheap and very nice. It was about $10 for a 2 hour ride to Queretaro, and this included a sandwich, cookies and a coke. The seats were very comfortable and far enough apart that they reclined all the way back without bothering the person behind you. Unfortunately, they showed four reruns of ‘Friends’ during the trip. Made me wish I had earplugs. Our white rental vans were waiting for us when we arrived at Queretaro. We had lunch at the bus stations, listened to a few instructions from Fr. Mike Sanchez, SOLT, our host, a very patient and joyful priest, and then followed Fr. Mike to the Casa de Jovenes where the teenage girl orphans stay. Right before the Casa we passed by the Basilica of Our Lady of Sorrows, the basilica for the town of Colon, a town of only about 4,000 people. It is a gorgeous Church, and was just raised by the Holy See to the status of a minor basilica. There were papal flags still adorning all the streets from the February celebrations.
We arrived at the Casa and went inside for introductions to the SOLT sisters and the teenage girls. Fr. Mike made us and the girls introduce ourselves, one American and one Mexican at a time. The orphan girls had to introduce themselves in English and vice versa for us! It was really funny and there was excessive giggling whenever one of the teenage girls had to introduce herself to one of our young men. A lot of laughing was had and this broke the ice nicely. The women from out St. Lawrence group then settled into their rooms while the guys headed to Santa Maria, where the orphan teenage boys stay. Well, the guys hit the jackpot. Santa Maria sits back in the hills/mountains and is a gorgeous colonial hacienda, that while having experienced a lot of deterioration, is still a really neat place. Fr. Mike showed us the place where at least one priest was shot during the persecution of the Mexican Church, so it was neat to say that we were staying at a place made holy by the blood of martyrs. After settling into our rooms (mine is a nicer one since I am staying with the SOLT priests) and meeting a few of the young men, a soccer match predictably broke out. The gringos did well, although I didn’t play since I was meeting the priests I would be staying with. The won two matches by a goal each time. The boys at Santa Maria have a concrete soccer court on which they play, and it works pretty well. Nothing too nice about it, to be sure, but it works! After the soccer match we headed back into Colon to have dinner with the ladies from KU, then hung out and did some Saturday night dancing with the girls from the Casa, and then headed back to Santa Maria to hit the sack! A full day, and a blessed one, to be sure!
Saturday, March 14, 2009
Friday, March 13, 2009
In Joseph and Jesus, we see two 'stones rejected by the builders, which later become the cornerstone.' In today's story from Genesis, we see Joseph betrayed by his brothers and sold into the hands of sinners, only later to be resurrected in the land of Egypt and to become the source of salvation to the very brothers who betrayed him. Just so, Jesus is betrayed by those he loves yet after His resurrection, He becomes the source of eternal life for all, even for His enemies who betrayed Him. As Fr. Robert Barron says often in His homilies, if you want to find the kingdom of God, you should not look towards celebrities or people in power. We should look for stones rejected by the builders, who later become the cornerstones on which God builds His everlasting kingdom. God chooses the weak and foolish always to confound those who consider themselves powerful and wise. This is how the story of our salvation reads. It is how the story of redemption proceeds today. Jesus thus promised to His disciples, that if we wish to build God's kingdom, we will become weak in the eyes of the world, and be willing to be rejected and to share in the cup of suffering that Jesus drank (Mk 10:38-39).
Wednesday, March 11, 2009
Mary Queen of Vocations, pray for us! 'Do whatever He tells you' (Jn 2:5).
Interested in the priesthood?
In the end, John Paul II, our late Pope, was loved by all the world because he reached out to so many people. He reached out to the young especially, starting the World Youth Days that have forever changed my life and had a major impact on my vocation to the priesthood. He traveled to all corners of the world and gave a new face to the Catholic Church, and what a beautiful face it was! Over 1 billion people watched his funeral! John Paul II became amazingly popular even though many people who admired him did not agree with his moral teaching in the areas of abortion and contraception. He was criticized often as being too conservative in areas of Church tradition and doctrine.
John Paul II did a beautiful job of continuing the prophetic tradition of announcing the Word of God without compromise. John Paul II became popular because he traveled to the ends of the earth in order to proclaim God's words of love and life. He reached out to world religions in an unprecedented way. Yet he never watered down God's word. He did not attain a cheap popularity, but earned respect by consistently saying things that many people did not want to hear, but needed to hear. He taught us how to preach the truth with love. John Paul II was a champion of life, until his last moments with us!
Our own Archbishop, Joseph Naumann, is making tons of headlines these days for standing up for life, and against Catholics who do not use all means available to them to protect the fundamental human right to life. If you know our Archbishop, he is not a man who dreams of being in the Washington Post or on the Laura Ingraham show. Yet he is becoming more famous while at the same time becoming both more popular and less popular, depending on where one stands regarding the right to life. This is what he gets for faithfully presenting the Church's teaching on life, which is his duty as a bishop, without forgetting his role in pastorally calling all to conversion.
Jeremiah experienced the pain of being famous when he preached God's word faithfully. The more he preached the worse things got for him. Jesus promises the same to James and John, that they will drink the chalice of persecution that Jesus Himself was preparing to drink. This persecution is part of accepting a share in the apostolic ministry. It is Jesus' gift to his priests. Of course the mother of Jesus was looking for a different reward for her sons. It doesn't hurt to ask, anyway. She was hoping that the selection of her sons as apostles would entitle them to a special place in the kingdom of God. Jesus instead says that the gift James and John will receive is a chance to participate most intimately in his passion. Blessed are you when the insult you and persecute you, and utter every kind of evil against you falsely because of me. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward will be great in heaven! (Mt 5:11). Jesus promises that those who share most directly in his passion will also be the first ones to recognize His resurrection and receive the fruits of it - entrance into eternal life. It is Jesus' role to love everyone without distinction, and to invite them to join Him on the via crucis. It is the Father's role to arrange the chairs in heaven! +m
Tuesday, March 10, 2009
Mary, Queen of Vocations, pray for us!
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Does following God's commands really add to one's life? Isaiah prophesies good things for those who obey, and the sword for those who don't. Yet we know as Jesus teaches us that God gives blessings to both the just and the unjust (Mt 5:45). So we can't necessarily tell, in the short term, who is being obedient to God and who is not, at least not by telling who has the most health. Isaiah prophesies however, that doing evil always catches up to us, sooner or later. Disobeying God, the author of life, leads to a loss of life.
A few people today, however, object that science can help us to live longer and better more than religion ever could. First of all, you do not have to be religious to be naturally good. We would all agree with that. Sometimes atheists are kinder and more generous than churchgoers. Second of all, it does not take a religious person to see that love is more conducive to human happiness than hate. Even animals show some capacity for compassion. It can be proven scientifically, say a few, that living a moral life of doing good and avoiding evil is more conducive to preserving and enhancing human life. This is true for individuals and for the common good of all. In other words, being moral is critical to self-preservation, without appeal to any revealed religion with its divine commandments. Third of all, there are a few who consider religion to be more destructive of human life than atheism, for they see a tendency for religion to serve itself rather than human persons.
Jesus would not agree that religion inherently serves itself. He sees in the commands of Moses divine revelation that points man toward a morality that goes beyond science, while at the same time purifying human reason of potential distortions of the moral law. In Jesus' view, man without religion tends to have too narrow a view of what makes a good life, a view that can be broadened through faith in God. He does agree, however, that religion is in constant need of purification, since there can be instances where religion serves individuals instead of the common good. We see this in human history. Religions are constantly invaded and used by prideful people seeking gain for themselves. The purification Jesus suggests is always making sure that worship is reserved for God alone, and not for persons. Jesus tells us to beware of any religious person seeking gain for himself instead of living a life of humble service.
In the end, however, one can never accuse Jesus of being more 'spiritual' than religious, as sometimes people do. Jesus wanted to purify institutional religion, the law of Moses in particular, but He is all about preserving that law, not discarding it. Although distorted religion can and does use human persons from time to time rather than serving them, religion by its nature exalts the human dignity of persons by defining a human person as one loved by God. A human person loved by God has an inviolable, transcendent value that cannot be quantified by science. Thus, religion has an inherent advantage of protecting and promoting the dignity of human life over and against science, which has no jurisdiction over something that cannot be measured, the value of a human life. The commands of God, ascertained by faith, thus serve as a light to expose the ways that science chooses to serve itself rather than to serve the common good. Religion, then, plays an indispensable role in serving human persons. Religion serves as the guarantor and guardian of the right to have life, and to have it in abundance (Jn 10:10). +m
Interested in the priesthood?
Monday, March 9, 2009
Sunday, March 8, 2009
Saturday, March 7, 2009
Sunday, March 1, 2009
Lead us not into temptation, This is a good prayer, obviously. It is the prayer our Lord taught us to pray. It is a prayer that saves us from the near occasion of sin. It is a prayer that saves us from overconfidence. It is a prayer that saves us from thinking we have power over sin when in fact the opposite is true. Sin has power over us. We can learn a lesson from the story of Noah. A little rain can really lead to a flood. Satan always wants us to think we can play with fire without getting burned. He only needs an inch to take a mile. Jesus knows how dangerous sin really is. He knows how quickly sin gains momentum. Sin avalanches. Once we begin to sin, it is hard to stop. Lying is the perfect example. One lie begets seven others. This applies to all other sins as well. Once we begin to sin, as we all know, it can take years of work, sometimes decades, to stop. To protect us from all of this, Jesus taught us to pray that Our Father would keep us far from temptation. Prevention really is the best medicine.
Yet what if we are already deeply infected with sin? What if we have already reached the point where our sins have more control over us than we have over them? What if the damage is already done? When faced with this reality, we sometimes give in too easily. We can listen to the morality that does not come from the Church but from our culture, a morality that encourages us to lie to ourselves and to pretend that we are not really sick. We might intentionally dull our conciences to that we are not aware of our sins. We go to confession less so that we are able to ignore and forget most of our sins. We pretend that our sins have not deeply separated us from ourselves, from God and from one another. We pretend that we never promised God we would be holy, that on the day of our baptism we promised not to be mastered by sin. We settle for being relatively good compared to somebody else, rather than being absolutely good. We presume upon God's mercy instead of actually becoming more reliant upon it. Worst of all, we pretend to a friend of Jesus without remembering that we are only His friends if we do what He commands us.
If we are already deeply infected with sin, pretending that we are not sick only makes things worse. Ignoring our sins does not make them go away. As much as we try to hide our sins from ourselves and from one another, we know that we cannot hide them from God. Pretending that our sins do not damage our friendship with God only makes that friendship grow even colder. Lent is a time for us to let go of pride and dishonesty. It is a time for courage, humility, honesty and faith.
Our sins do indeed separate us from God. Pretending otherwise gets us nowhere. Yet this is not the end of the story. Just because we made the mistake of playing with sins that have gotten the better of us doesn't mean the story is over. No, we cannot pretend that our sins do not separate us from God. Nor can we pretend that we can heal ourselves of our addiction to sin by our own power. Once infected, we do not have the power to cure ourselves. St. Peter tells us, however, that the chasm between us and God caused by sin has been bridged by the suffering of Jesus Himself. Sin causes the most intense kind of loneliness imaginable, but still there is hope. Jesus' decision to suffer for the unrighteous means that no matter how far sin has separated us from God, Jesus has descended even farther in order that we might never be alone. St. Peter says that Jesus even went to preach to the spirits in prison, a reference to His decision to descend to the depths of hell so that no sinner would be able to say that he is unloved and forgotten by God.
Jesus' decision to suffer and to die for us is not a 'get out of jail' free card. It is not a cheap grace. It is not Jesus' decision to save us even though we give no evidence of wanting to be saved. It is a way forward, however, for one who has been infected by sin. The story of the Lord's temptation in the desert shows that even though we do not have power of sin, He does. Even though Jesus' advice to us is to pray to be led away from temptation, we see that His love never changes even when we ignore this advice. If anything, the Lord seeks us lost sinners all the more, that He might be able to deliver us from evil. Yet we know He will not save us without ourselves. When we pray that the Lord might deliver us from evil, we know that we have a part to play. The way forward for us is a decision on our part to remain closely united to the one who can lead us out of hell. Our part is to stay with the one who has the power over temptation and evil.
Sin at its root is not a choosing to be an evil person. It is a failure remain close to God. It is a failure to trust God. It is a failure to trust that what God has promised, He will deliver. Sin is a decision to go through the drive-through and to grab something easy when we know that we were made for something better. The gifts of God take patience and faith to harvest. The treasures of heaven are expensive, and it takes a long time to save enough spiritual capital to purchase them. The vocation to which God has called us can seem mysterious and remote. We get tired of waiting for it with faith. We want something easier, something now. Sin is a failure to wait for what God has in mind for us.
Sin results from believing the great illusion that God is farther away that He really is. It is believing the great illusion that God is so far away, that maybe He doesn't care. Maybe He doesn't see. Maybe He doesn't exist at all. Jesus came to be as close to us as we are to ourselves by taking on our humanity. He was born to be God-with-us! He came to save us from this illusion that ultimately we are alone. Still, it is hard to trust Him.
When we do not trust God, our tendency to give into illusions grows. Damaged by sin, our faith does not see as far into the future. Our hope dims. Our love grows cold. St. Peter tells us however, that God is still there. Even if we decide to move away from God, if God decides to be with us, we can't get any farther away. We can ignore how close He is, but we cannot move Him away from us. Even a mustard's seed of faith can tell us what is true. Even a tiny bit of faith tells us what our senses fail to perceive, that God is still there. Jesus who descended into the depths of hell is still there. Deciding to acknowledge His presence and His help is the way forward.
In Jesus there is no sin. None of us could make it more than five minutes with the devil in the desert. Jesus made it for forty days. He made it through the final agony in the garden. He is there to help us at our weakest point, to begin loving us there. If we acknowledge His presence, we have a way forward no matter how sick we have become.
Being delivered from evil is a decision to be with Jesus who alone has the power over temptation and evil. Jesus is right next to us, and if we acknowledge His presence, sin has no more power over us. If we really want Him to, He will deliver us from evil. Yet He will not take back one ounce of the freedom that He gave us. Jesus has made His decision to be with us no matter what. Yet we must still make our decision +m