Lent is going. Hopefully your Lenten practices are going well. If not, if you have failed, don’t give up. Change is hard; especially sudden changes. If you have failed, stop, resolve to do them from here on out, and begin again.
Speaking of new beginnings…This coming Wednesday at 7 PM, we are having our Lenten Communal Reconciliation Service. (The religious education kids will begin in their regular classes at 6:30.)
This weekend we have an initiative called Safe Haven Sunday. In this first annual Safe Haven Sunday, the theme is, “Equipping the Family, Safeguarding our Children.” I know in some people’s eyes, the Catholic Church does not have much of a leg to stand on. However, no matter what horrible things members of the Church have done, the Truth about morality remains the same. The analogy I’ve been using is a math teacher. If the math teacher does something immoral, that doesn’t change the truth of what they taught. Five plus three still equals eight. The Catholic Church, especially the Diocese of Winona-Rochester, since the early 2000’s, has tried very hard to make life safe for our children and vulnerable adults.
It is not the only cause, but pornography certainly doesn’t help the situation. I was reading the excerpts from a rape case. The man said he had a right to the woman’s body. They also found pornography on his computer. With the internet one does not have to secretly obtain a “dirty” magazine. Pornography can come to us where ever we have an internet connection. So it is easy to say that it doesn’t do any harm. It is just me. Some people even use pornography to learn how to bring more pleasure to their lives, even to their marriages. Pornography is also used in in-vitro-fertilization. Pornography also contributes to the forces and urges that push for sexual human trafficking. If there was no demand for sexual human trafficking, the supply would not exist. Most of us aren’t going to rape someone, let alone think we have a right to someone else’s body. However, repeated pornography changes the way we see and interact with each other. We start to treat people more and more as objects and less and less as persons. Pope John Paul II says in his book Love and Responsibility in the positive, a human person is a being who deserves to be treated with love. In the negative, a human person is a being who never deserves to be used as a means to an end. Pornography never considers the person as a being to love, but always as an object to be used for self pleasure. We need to do all we can to be people of virtue not just for our own sakes, but also for those around us, especially our families, especially our children.
Sorry to dump so much on you, but next weekend (March 30-31) the Catholic Church is have another initiative called “The Light is On.” (Most other churches did the Safe Haven Sunday several Sundays ago, but since I was gone in the Holy Land, we waited.) The Light is On initiative is about inviting people to Church, to a deeper relationship with Jesus. I have found that most people who quit going to Mass do so not because of some difference in doctrine, but because of something personal that happened. Sometimes it was a priest who said something insensitive. Sometimes it is because other priorities took precedent. Sometimes it is because we feel like we are beyond the hope of God. To the first group, I would say, “Sorry.” The Catholic Church, being close to the graces of the Sacraments is so much bigger than one lousy priest or bishop. To the second group, I would just say that Jesus loves you. So much so that He died the Cross so you could be with Him forever in Heaven. In the end, our greatest desire is to be loved unconditionally, to be loved for who we truly are, good and bad. God loves us this way more than we can imagine. To the third group, I would remind them that there is no sin too great that God can’t forgive you. Often, it is not that God can’t forgive us, but we have a hard time forgiving ourselves. I know it can be scary to come back, especially to the Sacrament of Reconciliation. Now that I’m a priest, I have a different perspective on the Sacrament of Reconciliation. Yes, the Sacrament of Reconciliation is about our sins, but even more so it is about God’s mercy. I used to get caught up in the penance that the priest would give me. I would think why did the priest just give me three Hail Marys as my penance. Didn’t he hear what I did? I practically almost killed someone. (I didn’t, but that’s how I felt about my sins.) I felt like my penance should be climbing Mount Everest on my hands and knees until they bled or something like that. Certainly not three Hail Marys. But that’s just it. As a priest, you realize that the Sacrament of Reconciliation is so much more about God’s mercy than it is about our sins. So in light of inviting people to Mass, to the Sacrament of Reconciliation, to a greater relationship with Christ, we are offering extra times of Reconciliation. Again, we have the Communal Reconciliation service on Wednesday at 7 PM, but we also going to have Confessions from 3:30-4:50 at St. Jospeh’s on Saturday, March 30. On Sunday, March 31, we will have Confessions at St. Teresa’s from 8-8:50 AM and from 2-3 PM at St. Matthew’s. Jesus is the Light. He shines brightly for us. Let’s invite ourselves and others to the Light of Christ.
May God bless and keep you,